HC Deb 28 April 1893 vol 11 cc1447-64

Order for Second Reading read.

*MR. LAWRENCE (Liverpool, Abercromby), in moving the Second Reading of the Bill, said, it was a matter of considerable interest and importance to Liverpool, and, the Bill having gone through the House of Lords, they asked the House of Commons to endorse that action, and pass the Bill. The object of the Bill was to commute the payments which the parish of Liverpool and the Corporation of that city had been accustomed to make for nearly 200 years to a series of churches within that area. The sums to be commuted were £2,600 from the Corporation, and £1,800 a year from the parish; and the way in which the proposed commutation had come about was as follows:— Last summer the Corporation, on its own initiative, approached the Bishop and Ecclesiastical Authorities, who, in turn, took the advice of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, with a view to the commutation of the sum due from the Corporation to the various city churches. After some discussion, the sum agreed upon between the Ecclesiastical Authorities and the Corporation amounted to £95,000, and within that sum was included two most important sites in the very heart of the city, which would be transferred from the Ecclesiastical Authorities to the Corporation, to be held by them as open spaces. Directly the churchwardens of the parish heard that this motion was on foot, they thought the opportunity a good one to commute the payments they were liable to make in respect of the rectory of Liverpool, and, he believed, in respect of some other churches, amounting to £1,800 a year. They especially fell in with this purpose because, by combining; the two purposes in one Bill, they would save a large amount of money, and the matter might be the more easily carried through. The Bishop, the Corporation, and the parish came to the terms included in the Bill. The Bishop was advised by a Committee of Churchmen, who, while they held different political views, combined with the City Authorities to value the commutation at the figure of £95,000 for the Corporation and £48,000 for the parish. A specially summoned meeting of the Vestry entirely and unanimously approved of the proposal. This Vestry was composed of 23 gentlemen who differed, not merely in politics, but in creed. As to the part which pertained to the Corporation, it was known that in November there was a Municipal Election, and the question after that election was whether this Bill, initiated by the Corporation in the summer, was to be endorsed by the newly-elected Corporation. He was glad to say that the Corporation in December thoroughly endorsed the action of the old Council in the summer, and by a vote of 31 to 5 ordered the Bill to be put forward by their Clerk. A question arose who was to pay the expenses of this Bill. In the summer the Corporation undertook to pay the expenses; but in December, when it was necessary to get a two-thirds vote of the Council to summon a meeting under the Borough Funds Act, only 29 voted for it, owing, he might almost say, to fortuitous circumstances; but, although they did not get the necessary two-thirds majority to promote the actual payment of the expenses of the Bill, that very meeting, by 31 to 5, entirely endorsed the provisions of the Bill, and authorised it being proceeded with. Having thus got the imprimatur of every public body in the 'city, be did not need to detain the House long with the actual merits of the transaction. For 200 years there had been 15 Private Acts, dating from 1698 to 1839, approving and ordering the payment of these sums, which included the salaries of the clergy. In 1835, after the Municipal Corporations Act, the Corporation had to sell the 18 advowsons belonging to it, 10 of these realising something like £10,000, which had gone into the exchequer of the Corporation; but the very Act which compelled this sale specially confirmed everything contained in the Private Acts, so that the liabilities of the Corporation in every respect remained intact. Therefore, there was clearly a vested and thoroughly legal and continuing right which the Corporation were under an obligation to maintain, and he and his colleagues were prepared to affirm that the City of Liverpool desired to carry out its legal obligations. In addition to commuting those obligations there was a very material quid pro quo given, because two very valuable sites in the heart of the city would become public property. The figures had received the entire approval of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. It was thought this Bill would have been carried nem. con. through the House; but suddenly the hon. Member for Hey wood (Mr. Snape) thought he had better get up an opposition to it. It would be rather interesting to know whom the hon. Member represented besides himself? The Bill had been on the tapis ever since last November. The hon. Member and his friends were masters in the heart of petitioning. Why, they had not got a single Petition against this measure. Surely, if ever there was anything required in support of his statement that the Bill clearly represented the desire of the mass of the electors of Liverpool the fact that the hon. Member could show no Petition in his favour would suffice. The select Vestry included in its membership two gentlemen who were Members of the House, and he hoped that as they were present they would support its unanimous resolution in favour of the commutation. He could assure the House that the figures in the Bill had been carefully checked by competent authorities and by gentlemen who did not entirely agree in their political opinions, and had been found by them to be fair to all parties. He begged to move that the Bill be read a second time.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. Lawrence.)

*MR. SNAPE (Lancashire, S. E., Heywood)

, who rose to move the rejection of the Bill, said, that probably the reason why the hon. Member for the Abercromby Division had said so little about the merits of the Bill was that the merits were few and the demerits many. Although, as had been said, be (Mr. Snape) did not represent one of the divisions of Liverpool, he could claim a much closer connection with Liverpool than the hon. Member for the Abercromby Division; for whilst that hon. Member was not a resident, a citizen, or a ratepayer, he himself happened to have been for more than a quarter of a century a resident, a ratepayer, and a citizen of Liverpool, and he thought he had a right to speak when it was sought to impose upon him the obligation which this Bill involved. The Bill came down from another place as a Private Bill, but it was a Public Bill in its objects and in the principles involved. It proposed to commute certain statutory obligations that had been incurred by Liverpool in years gone by under several Acts of Parliament with reference to 10 city churches and two parish churches. The provisions in reference to the parish churches did not form the most objectionable feature of the Bill. The parish churches were much older than the city churches. Allusion had been made to the fact that, "with reference to the two parish churches, the churchwardens and those present at the Vestry meeting had approved of this proposal for commutation. He could only say with reference to such Vestry meetings that the attendance at them was very small, the fact of their being held was little known, and had the ratepayers been aware of what was going on at the Vestry meetings there would have been considerable opposition to the proposals. The rate for these two churches, being levied under Local Acts, survived the general Act of 1868 abolishing the compulsory church rate. But the 10 city churches occupied a very different position. The land on which they stood was given in some cases by the Corporation. Some of them had to be maintained by the Corporation under Acts passed about a century and a half ago, and that body had also to pay the stipends of the clergy, in many instances, either partially or wholly, and in other instances the salaries of the clerks, sextons, organists, and other officials. These Acts were passed by the Corporation in its unreformed state, when its members were more or less associated with the Slave Trade and with the traffic in slave produce, when it was elected by a limited number of freemen, who were in large degree of the most corrupt character, and every one of whose votes had a price. One of the City Councillors had described the transactions with regard to the establishment of these churches as— A most flagrant act of injustice, done with the desire not to supply spiritual aid, but comfortable positions for the friends of Councillors. There was, at least, this to be said in favour of that view—that the original incumbents bore the same name as many of the City Council, and were probably relatives. But very few of the ratepayers had any voice in the matter. So late as 1834, when a poll was taken in reference to these churches, only 63 voted for and 30 against, so that out of 165,000 persons, a mere fraction expressed their opinion on this question. It was obvious, therefore, that the churches were built not by the will of the town or the voice of the ratepayers, but by a small section under the system which prevailed at that time. They were told sometimes about the pious ancestor; where was he in this case? The churches were built not out of the pockets of the pious ancestor, but out of the City Funds. This had involved the city in a cost of £117,000 for the buildings, and about £250,000 for the stipends of the clergy and officials. In return for that the Corporation had received by selling the advowsons £20,000. That was the whole return for this large expenditure. During the last five years the average payment out of the Corporate Funds had amounted to £2,667 per annum. This waste of public money had become a scandal. In spite of the large amount of money thus paid most of the churches were entirely empty. The exception was St. Luke's, which had an able, energetic, and attractive clergyman. Many of the other churches were in populous districts. What was their position according to a Census taken in 1887, also in l889,and again by friends of his own on two Sunday mornings within the last three weeks. St. Luke's, as he had said, had a large congregation. St. Thomas' had only 139, most of them children; St. Michael's, 200, including children; St. John's, 101; St. George's, with sittings for 2,000, had a congregation of only 76; St. Paul's, with sittings for 1,800, had only 16 of a congregation, most of whom were children. St. Martin's, surrounded by a large working class population, with sittings for 1,900, had a congregation of only 32; St. Ann's, 16 adults and 15 children; and Trinity, 14 adults and 47 children. There was another church, St. David's, which deserved special mention. It was in a unique position as a church in England with. a Welsh service. This Bill asked them to give a large sum of money to be paid out of the Corporate Funds to a church with a Welsh service attended by some 39 persons. Originally the sum asked to commute the obligations for the 10 city churches was £100,000. Then it came down to £97,000, and now, after a considerable amount of huckstering, it was reduced to £95,000. That represented more than 35 years' purchase. It was monstrous and scandalous to ask the House to sanction such an exorbitant and exacting arrangement. The Bill offered to demolish two of the churches, and make the sites open spaces. The site where St. George's was built was originally granted by the Duchy of Lancaster for a ground rent of £6 13s. 4d. The church of St. John's was built and the site given by the Corporation, and now the clergy asked Liverpool to pay a large sum of money for sites of churches which had been given to them free of cost, because the churches were empty, and of no use. The contention of the Bill was that the money for these churches might he used to build and endow churches in Liverpool or the neighbourhood. That was to say, the Liverpool ratepayers were to be asked to pay out of the Corporate Fluids to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners a large sum of money in order that churches might be built not in Liverpool, but the wealthy suburbs, places well able to provide churches for themselves. It was said that the Corporation was a party to the Bill; but he denied that the Corporation of Liverpool initiated the negotiations which had led to the Bill. The Corporation was in no sense a party to it. It was the Parliamentary Committee of the Corporation, a small body, whose action was not endorsed by the Corporation by a proper statutory majority. The Council had refused to pay any of the coats or raise any money to carry the Bill into effect. In consequence, the opinion of the town had not been declared on this matter in a town's meeting, as the Borough Funds Act required. For the purpose of the Act it was necessary, and the Bill proposed that the Corporation should be empowered to borrow further money. Surely the Corporation was capable of asking for that power without the aid of the Bishop and clergy? He asked the House to reject the Bill, because it made an exorbitant and monstrous demand upon the ratepayers without obtaining their assent. It was a distinct attempt to get behind an Act of Parliament—a most salutary law, the Borough Funds Act—and the Bill was derogatory to Christianity, whose interests it professed to have in view, by manifesting a grasping and rapacious policy, which could only tend to keep the masses of the people further away from the influence of the Church and of religious life.

MR. J. A. PICTON (Leicester)

said, he rose to second the Amendment. He had no desire to lessen the prosperity of the Church, and he quite agreed that no ecclesiastical property ought to be taken away without due and just consideration of all the rights involved. He thought the Bill made an utterly unreasonable and most extravagant demand upon the ratepayers, and was, in many of its clauses, totally unjustifiable in principle. The Mover of the Bill said that it represented the opinion of Liverpool; but how did he know that? There had never been a ratepayers' meeting on the question, and he believed that if it had been possible to take a popular vote, the result would have been adverse to the proposals of the Bill. Although this was nominally a Private Bill, it involved some most important general principles. For instance, it involved the principle that if they took away these churches they were bound to compensate not merely the incumbents and the other officials connected with the churches who were personally interested, but also a number of anomalous and nondescript people who had no vested interest and who had no personal claims whatever upon the funds which were concerned. He knew the principle had been recognised in previous Acts; but he maintained that it was totally contrary to the spirit of the age and to the ideas that were taking hold upon public opinion. He was sure the time was coming—and he hoped it had come already—when the House would refuse to allow any further application of that unreasonable mode of levying ecclesiastical compensation. A considerable part of this church accommodation was now unnecessary, and the Ecclesiastical Authorities said to the Corporation — "You must buy it." There was no reason why the incumbents should not be justly and even generously compensated, and he would not say that the owners of advowsons should not be paid whatever compensation might be regarded as just; but he objected to the compensation of the church, which might and probably would be removed to some wealthy neighbourhood, so that the compensation for removal would be given to rich merchants, cotton brokers, and people of property, who could well afford to provide their own church accommodation. He protested against compensation of this kind, and strongly objected to swelling the great fund already in the hands of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, and, therefore, he hoped the House would reject the Bill.

Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months."—(Mr. Snape.)

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

MR. J. A. WILLOX (Liverpool, Everton)

said he did not propose to travel over the wide and discursive topics referred to by the hon. Member for the Heywood Division, and the still larger field which had been suggested by the hon. Member for Leicester. He thought he might say that while many of these comments were decidedly irrelevant they were no less decidedly in conflict with local history and also with historic fact. When the hon. Member for Heywood referred to the fact that an offer was made to compromise a very difficult and vexed question soon after the passing of the Municipal Reform Act, he did not mention that the failure of these negotiations had been from then till now a matter of most sincere regret. He thought it would not be inappropriate if he should quote against the hon. Member for Leicester the authority of his venerated father, who certainly had a greater local knowledge, and not less sympathy with the cause than the present Member for Leicester. He found that when the compromise was rejected by the Corporation in 1838 it became the subject of discussion, and he might say that on a comparatively late occasion the late Sir James Pieton said that— The defeat of that expedient was considered a great triumph by the Liberals at that time. What had been the consequence? If the lump sum of money had been paid, it would have been the very best expenditure on the part of the Corporation. Far more than the interest of the money had been lavished on the churches, and so matters would go on from generation to generation unless some method were fixed upon: and that method should be to revert back to the principle laid down by the Conservative Corporation of 1835. There was there a significant illustration of the wisdom of settling this discord and irritation at a time when they "were in the way." The hon. Member for the Heywood Division (Mr. Snape) had referred, somewhat ungraciously, to the constitution of the Liverpool Corporation at the time these obligations were undertaken; but he might, at least have given credit to them that when early in the 18th century the town was growing with remarkable rapidity, and the population was outstripping the spiritual accommodation, it was at the prompting of the community that the Corporation assumed the responsibility of providing more accommodation. In every successive Act there had been evidence to show that the policy of the Corporation met with public approval. Of course, it might now be said that the Corporation 180 years ago had not attained to the enlightenment and wisdom that were possessed by this later generation; but at any rate they acted according to their views, and their wisdom had been justified by more recent experience. The House was not dealing with the question of the principle of religious endowments, or with an isolated act of injustice or unwisdom; but they were required to pass judgment upon a long series of acts done by the Corporation extending over 100 years, and coming up time after time to the House and meeting with its approval. So that, whether the Corporation were wise or unwise, whether the expenditure was judicious or injudicious, it was, at any rate, approved by the House, and the House was responsible for the present position of affairs. The first question, then, that would suggest itself was how the measure came now before the House. Somewhat in conflict with the statement of the hon. Member for Heywood, he would mention that negotiations between the Ecclesiastical Authorities and the Corporation had proceeded from time to time, and the result was that the compromise included in the Bill was adjusted some time ago. Having begun with the round sum of £100,000, it was reduced to £85,000. Then the Corporation proposed to embody the terms of the compromise in a Bill; but that Bill could not be promoted by them except with a statutory majority of two-thirds of its members. The hon. Member for Heywood had referred in somewhat disparaging terms to the fact that only 29 voted for the Bill and 11 against it; but it would have been instructive to the House to know how the majority and minority were constituted. He would like to call the attention of Liberal Members to the fact that of the majority in favour of the Bill 13 were Conservatives and 16 were Liberals. So that of the majority, the Liberal Members of the Council formed the majority. The composition of the minority against the Bill was still more striking and significant. Nine out of the 11 Members in the minority were Irish Nationalist Members, and only two English Members of the Liberal Party. He did not know that the Irish Nationalist Members had any special interest in the subject; but he might mention that all the Irish Nationalists who voted against the Bill belonged to the Roman Catholic denomination. He would, however, rather come to the question as to whether the bargain was in itself equitable. They would have very little difficulty in arriving at a judgment on that point if they took the figures as accepted on both sides. The annual Corporation payments, all obligatory by Statute, came to £2,930; the commutation to the sum of £95,000 at 3 per cent. was equal to £2,850, so that the Corporation would actually gain by the transaction. There was another aspect of the case so far as the Corporation was concerned, for, besides giving no more than a fair and equitable compensation for fixed charges, the Corporation acquired two sites of churches and churchyards which were of very great value. One of the churches was on the highway to the river, and the clearing of the site would be a great public improvement. The other site was in the immediate rear of St. George's Hall, and had an area of fully three acres, and when that was opened out an improvement would be made which would beautify the town and make it more healthy. Then, as regarded the parish, Its legal obligations involved a sum of £1,630 a year, to which £170 a year had to be added for the cost of collection, making altogether £1,800 a year. That commuted at 3 per cent. into £48,000 meant, not 35 years' purchase, as the Member for the Heywood Division had said, but 27 years' purchase, which was no more than good ground rents would realise. Another advantage which would be derived was that the Corporation was relieved from all charges for the maintenance of the fabrics, and that was a very serious and growing annual charge. He should like, in refutation of the inaccurate historical statements made by hon. Gentlemen on the other side, to explain how the present state of things originated. It was originated by express Acts of Parliament extending from 1704 to 1839. When the hon. Member for Leicester said that the Corporation should act in a straightforward way, and that the Ecclesiastical Commissioners should not be entrusted with further and extravagant sums of money, he evidently knew little of the history of the arrangements by which the state of things was created. He would know that in the heart of Liverpool was situated the castle surrounded by a ditch. After the Corporation had decided to make Liverpool a parish of itself distinct from Walton, and to erect a parish church, the site of the castle and ditch was granted on lease to the Corporation The better to enable the said mayor, bailiffs, and burgesses to maintain and provide for the rectors of the parish church of Liverpool, and the parochial chapel within the said town. So that there had been a substantial advantage in that respect to the Corporation, for the area thus given was 6,270 yards in extent, and it now constituted a property worth, at any rate, £500,000. That property was given on the condition that it was to be Set apart and appropriated towards providing the maintenance of the rectors of the said new church and parochial chapel and their successors, and to be applied to no other uses whatsoever to the prejudice thereof. The sale of the advowsons in 1835 realised to the Corporation not £10,000, as stated by the hon. Member opposite, but £20,500, so that to put it in a very brief and compendious form, the Church had not obtained any advantage not imposed upon it. First of all there was the Act of Parliament and then the Castle site. If the income derived from that was set against the cost of the Church, there would be a distinct gain to the advantage of the Corporation. Apart altogether from those considerations, it would be exceedingly desirable that a source which caused great local irritation and public disputation should be avoided and if possible healed. This was an opportunity by which that amelioration might be reached; and for that reason, if for no other, it seemed exceedingly wise that this measure, based on equity and approved by the people, should be carried into effect. He therefore strongly urged the hon. Member to withdraw his Amendment, for he was sure it would be a matter of extreme regret to the community to which the hon. Member belonged if this compromise should not be allowed to be carried out.

MR. RATHBONE (Carnarvonshire, Arfon)

said, he wished to give the reasons why he thought the House should pass a Bill which had been agreed upon by the representatives of the people both in the City Council and in the Vestry of Liverpool. The hon. Member who had moved the rejection of the Bill had confused two issues. He said that the Bill had not obtained the assent of the Corporation of Liverpool by a statutory majority before it was brought before the House. It was perfectly true that it had not obtained the necessary majority to authorise the Corporation to go to the expense of promoting the Bill, and therefore, very rightly, the Bill was being promoted by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. But on every occasion when the Bill had been brought before the Corporation that body had by a large majority affirmed its assent to the principle—in one case by 28 to 11, and in another case by 31 to 5. He conceived, therefore, that they had clear proof that the Bill had the consent of the people of Liverpool by their authorised representatives, both in the Corporation and in the Vestry. He believed, so far as he had been able to make out, that the bargain initiated by the Corporation was good for the people of Liverpool, and he did not see that it in any way took the property with which the Bill dealt out of the power of Parliament in the event of disendowment. The question was whether a Bill which had been affirmed by the Corporation, both when that body consisted of a majority of Conservatives and when it consisted of a majority of Liberals, should be sent to a Committee or be rejected on the Second Reading.

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

did not think the question was so simple as the hon. Gentleman regarded it. He honestly stated that if he thought the bargain a good bargain for to-day, he should not be inclined to postpone its settlement because of any vast changes in the composition of the Church which might take place in the future. But very important principles lay behind the proposal. He w did this charge come upon the city? By Acts which dated as far back as 1714. He was glad to hear the hon. Member for Leicester (Mr. Picton) say that incumbents and others who had vested interests in these churches should be fully compensated. That was a wise principle which he hoped would never be departed from, because it was no fault of the individual that he was put into that position, and he ought to be cempensated if by any great or unexpected reform his opinion was damnified. But he could not admit the principle—and he did not think it was wise even for Conservatives to admit it—that because a public body more than a century ago devoted certain public funds for public purposes they were bound to continue the allotment of these funds to that purpose for all time. The hon. Member for the Everton Division (Mr. Willox) had pointed out that under the Bill two churches would be abolished and two valuable public sites would go to the Corporation. But this money was now not wanted for these two particular churches, because they had ceased to have any congregations. That was admitted by a clause in the Bill. The question he wished to put was—What was this money voted for? Was it not voted for the congregations themselves? and if the congregations had disappeared he contended that the money should return to the city. He thought it would be wise on the part of the dignitaries of the Church in Liverpool to meet the Corporation by giving these particular churches which had ceased to have congregations to the city as a gift for public purposes. The money, he held, should not be diverted from the congregations to the Church at large, and to the rich churches of Liverpool. He was sure that when, the Corporation, even as far back as 1714, gave this money for these churches, they did so not with the view of helping the rich congregations, but for the purpose of assisting the poor congregations. Great stress was laid on the fact that the Bill was carried by a majority of the Corporation. Those who were in favour of the spirit of local government to its fullest extent should, he admitted, be slow to interfere with the action of Municipal Bodies, and still slower when that action had been the same both when the majority had been Liberal and when it had been Conservative. But it must be remembered that this Bill was not carried by such a majority as would enable the Corporation to pay the expenses of promoting it. That meant that the ratepayers of Liverpool had not an opportunity under the Borough Funds Act of expressing their opinion the Bill. He thought he might urge that on a question involving such large issues the ratepayers of Liverpool had a right to be heard. Therefore the House would exercise a wise discretion in sending the Bill back to the ratepayers in order that they might decide whether they were prepared to enter upon so large a bargain.

MR. ILLLNG WORTH (Bradford, W.)

said, admittedly the principle of the Bill had much wider application than in so far as it referred to Liverpool. It was not denied that the continuance of this charge upon the Liverpool Common Fund was a serious grievance and an injustice to a great portion of the inhabitants of Liverpool. The Act referred to was carried more than a century ago, when people had very little to say in these matters. He admitted it was desirable the present condition of things should terminate; but there was no reason why Parliament should be bound for all time to onerous and unjust conditions under which the original Act laid the city. He was inclined to think, if the question was presented in that light, the House would not be willing to affirm the view put forward on the opposite side. In his judgment the compromise which was spoken of was all on one side. It had been pointed out by those who supported the Bill that the fund would remain in the hands of a public authority which was responsible to Parliament— namely, the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. But that would be a very small consolation to the people of Liverpool who had to part with the money. If Disestablishment took place, the fund would be treated as a national fund, and Liverpool would lose her special interest in it. It would, in his opinion, be a scandal on the part of Parliament to fix upon any community such a charge as this in favour of the Established Church. This was really a proposal to make the people of Liverpool hand over a sum of money of which Disestablishment would before long relieve them. He regarded the scheme as entirely one-sided and unjust, and he should oppose the Second Reading of the Bill.


I must address a few words to the House on this matter, because I happen to be one of the Representatives —I fear a very unworthy Representative— of that body which the hon. Member for Leicester (Mr. Picton) has been good enough to describe as a bloated Corporation—I mean the Ecclesiastical Commission. I cannot understand the opposition to this Bill. The object of the measure is merely to authorise the carrying out of an arrangement between the Church Authorities of Liverpool on the one hand and the Corporation and the Parish Vestry on the other. That arrangement has been assented to as far as the Parish Vestry is concerned by the inhabitants in Vestry assembled. Nothing could be more complete than that assent. As far as the Corporation is concerned, I do not think the House will accept the argument of the hon. Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) that they have not also given full assent to the proposal. Their assent was, on the second occasion, one of 29 voting on one side and 11 on the other. That was surely amply sufficient as a token of the assent of the Corporation to the principle of the Bill—namely, the commutation of an annual payment imposed on it by Parliament. The Borough Funds Act does not bear upon the question. That Act simply requires the consent of two-thirds of the Corporation to the promotion of a Bill by the Corporation, and has nothing to do with a bargain that has been arrived at as in this case. An hon. Member opposite seemed to think it a very unjust thing that the people of Liverpool should be saddled with an annual payment by the Private Acts which have been referred to. That may or may not be so, but the opinion that the payment is unjust will not relieve the inhabitants of Liverpool of the liability to make it. Can the hon. Member suppose that Parliament will ever relieve them of that liability? What must necessarily happen if the Church of England be disestablished and disendowed is that this money must be dealt with by Parliament as part of the property of the Church. Liverpool would certainly never be relieved of the liability to make the payment in return for nothing at all. If the representatives of the inhabitants of Liverpool have voluntarily agreed to give,£95,000 with the object of discharging that liability, is it not an extraordinary thing for the advocates of local self-government in this House to decline to give a Second Reading to a Bill which simply carries out that agreement? Large issues have been raised in this Debate, I think quite unnecessarily and wrongly raised, and there has really been something like a waste of the time of the House in that respect. [Cries of "Oh!"] Well, I think the way in which the speech of the hon. Member who moved the rejection of the Bill was received showed that a large majority of Members thought he was travelling very wide of the real issue. As, however, these large issues have been raised, I think I am entitled to ask the Home Secretary, or my hon. Friend (Mr. Leveson Gower) who sits with me on the Ecclesiastical Commission, to give the House some indication of the course Her Majesty's Government intend to take with regard to the Second Reading of this Bill. Of course, if it is considered wrong to devote part of the money to a church outside the boundaries of Liverpool, or if in any detail the Bill requires amendment, that might be a matter for consideration.


In answer to the words which have just fallen from my right hon. Colleague, I beg to say, speaking not in any way on behalf of the Government, but merely as a Member of the Ecclesiastical Commission, that I certainly hope this Bill may be allowed to go to the Committee. One of the chief points which has been under discussion to-night is the rate of commutation adopted. I would ask the House to remember that, as my right hon. Friend (Sir M. Hicks-Beach) has pointed out, unless and until the Local Acts are repealed the Corporation of Liverpool has got to pay this money, and that they fully recognise and accept the burden which is thus laid upon them. I would submit that if the question of the rate of commutation is to be considered it can be considered with more fullness and with greater advantage in the Committee. That being so, personally I shall vote in favour of the Bill, though, of course, I am merely expressing my private opinion as a Representative of the Ecclesiastical Commission.


said, he wished to correct a statement he had made earlier in the afternoon. He had spoken of a select Vestry. He had not meant to use that term, but to say an open Vestry.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 180; Noes 189.—(Div. List, No. 62.)

Words added.

Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to.

Second Reading put off for six months.