§ (3) "On the date of Disestablishment there shall, save as by this Act provided, be transferred 1744 to the Welsh Commissioners hereinafter mentioned: (a) All property vested in the Ecclesiastical Commissioners or Queen Anne's Bounty, which is ascertained as hereinafter mentioned to be Welsh Ecclesiastical property; and (b) all property not so vested which, at the passing of this Act, belongs to, or is appropriated to, the use of any ecclesiastical office or cathedral corporation in or connected with the Church in Wales or the holder of any such office; subject, in the case of all such property, to all charges and incumbrances affecting the property, and in the case of all such property, except tithe rent-charge, to the existing interests of all persons who at the passing of this Act hold such offices as aforesaid, and in the case of tithe rent-charge, to the obligation to make such provision as is hereinafter mentioned in lieu of their existing interests."
§ SIR JOHN GORST (Cambridge University)
said, he had two Amendments on the Paper intended to limit the operation of Sub-section (b). He proposed to strike out the words "or connected with," because they might apply to property in the Archbishopric of Canterbury or the Bishopric of Chester. The full intention of the Bill would be carried out by leaving in the words "belongs to or is appropriated to."
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. H. H. ASQUITH,) Fife, E.
said, the words had been transferred to this clause to make it read with the first clause, which adopted the same phraseology; but in this case the words might be dispensed with.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ SIR J. GORST
moved to omit the words "or the holder of any such office."
§ MR. R. W. HANBURY (Preston)
suggested the addition of the words "as such."
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. HANBURY
moved the addition of the words "as such," and the
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ *MR. W. E. M. TOMLINSON (Preston)
moved the following Amendment:—Clause 3, page 2, line 14, after "office," insert—except organs, bells, fonts, communion tables, and other fixed or movable furniture, plate, books, or other chattels belonging to any cathedral or other church, chapel, or building 1745 affected by this Act or used in connection with the Divine worship of the Church, which said excepted property shall remain and be the property of the ecclesiastical corporations or persons or other officers to whom they shall belong at the date of Disestablishment, and of the corporations, persons, or officers on whom such of the duties of such ecclesiastical or other persons or corporations as shall subsist after Disestablishment shall devolve, or by whom they shall be duly and legally performed.He said that the clause as it stood swept all these articles into the maw of the Commissioners.
§ MR. ASQUITH
said, the clause began with the words "save as by this Act provided," and by Clause 8 these chattels did not go to the Welsh Commissioners, but they were vested in the representative body.
§ *MR. TOMLINSON
said, that the representative body would not be formed at once and so these things must go into the hands of the Welsh Commissioners on the dissolution of the existing corporations. These goods and chattels were provided for, and belonged to, each individual Church, and there was not the slightest reason for dispossessing the parishioners of them. His contention was, that the representative body should have nothing to do with them, as they were the property of each individual Church.
§ MR. ASQUITH
said, the clause precluded these articles being vested in the Commissioners, but there might be a lucana between the dissolution of the corporations and the incorporation of the representative body. Perhaps Clause 8 ought to be amended so as to provide in the interval that the property should be held in trust for the purposes for which it was used; and it would be convenient to defer the matter till they came to Clause 8. He did not understand that anyone wished that these chattels should go into the hands of the Commissioners, and as the Bill stood they would not do so. The further question was raised whether, in the future, they should be vested in the representative body or in some ecclesiastical corporation in lieu of those which it had been agreed should be dissolved. That was a matter on which he should be disposed to consult the opinions of Churchmen. The Bill followed the Irish precedent in vesting this local property in the representative body, which might be trusted to see that it 1746 was used for the benefit of the localities to which it was attached; and he should not have thought there could have been any apprehension that it would be diverted from any of the objects to which it was devoted. If he found that it ought to to be attached to localities in some more definite way, and if convenient machinery could be provided for the custody of the property, he should be happy to consult with Churchmen as to the manner of effecting these objects. In the interval the Amendment was not necessary, because the Commissioners would not have to deal with the property.
§ SIR RICHARD WEBSTER (Isle of Wight)
could not help thinking that what the Home Secretary had said would lead him to consider, with reference to the ultimate form of the Bill, whether it was necessary that the local corporations should disappear. The right hon. Gentleman appeared to think it might be desirable that there should be some permanent representative body in connection with each Church; and he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would reconsider whether it was of the essence of this scheme that the existing corporations should be destroyed. He agreed with the Home Secretary that it would be well to defer the matter until they came to Clause 8; and he hoped his hon. Friend would be satisfied with having called attention to it.
§ *SIR F. S. POWELL (Wigan)
argued that by Clause 30 of the Irish Church Act the Incumbent was to have a life interest as long he remained Incumbent.
§ MR. ASQUITH
§ *SIR M. HICKS-BEACH (Bristol, W.)
thought that the representative church body might be trusted to do its duty, but it should be made clear that it held this property in trust for the several parishes, so as to show what the intention of Parliament was.
§ MR. ASQUITH
said that was an admirable suggestion, which he would adopt.
§ *MR. TOMLINSON
withdrew his Amendment.
§ MR. G. C. T. BARTLEY (Islington, N.)
moved to add at the end of line 14 the following:—Provided always that in the case of any rural parish the parish council, or, where there is no parish council, the parish meeting, and 1747 in any other case the council of any county borough or urban district composing the parish, may determine that the property appropriated to the use of any ecclesiastical office in the parish shall not be so transferred, and such a decision shall not be reversed during the occupancy of the holder of the office at the time of such decision.The hon. Member said that according to the scope of the Bill the whole of the property of every parish was to be handed over for certain purposes specially to the parish in which the endowments existed. This Amendment simply meant that if in any parish or district the wish was expressed through the representative body that ecclesiastical property in the parish should continue to be applied to its present purposes and instead of being used for the secular purposes of providing museums, etc., should be retained for the services of the Church to which it had been devoted so long, the parish council should have the right to leave it as it was. It was a "local option" amendment which one might fairly think would be accepted by the Government. It could inflict no hardship on anybody. It presupposed that in a village or parish where the Bill would come into force, if a reasonable majority of the district wished that instead of appropriating ecclesiastical endowments for other purposes, they should be kept for the services of the Church, they should have the power of carrying that out. The Government said the Bill was to carry out the wishes of the Welsh people. Then if a parish, by a strictly representative body—which did not represent class distinction, but represented the whole parish, in which everybody had an equal voice—decided that the money now appropriated for Church purposes should continue to be devoted to them, they should have the the right to say so and leave the property as it was, as long as the person lived in whom they were vested. The Government boasted that they were always anxious to let the people settle everything; they said they had absolute "trust in the people." Then let them trust the people in this matter. Where property belonged to a particular parish, and did not concern any other parish, and it was desired that it should continue to be applied to its present purposes, would the Government allow the people to have their way? The Government were prepared to give the 1748 people "Local Option" as to the drink traffic, and if a district was to have a right to say whether or not it should have public-houses, surely it was reasonable that the same district should have the right to say that money, which had been appropriated to teach a particular religion for 1,500 years, should not be altered in its application. If the Government really desired that the Welsh people should have what they wished, here was an opportunity. If the Welsh people were desirous of getting rid of the Established Church and, as far as they could, any endowments of the Church, and applying them to other purposes, this Clause would not act, and the parish council would oppose it and not allow it to be adopted. The Government could not logically oppose it or the "Local Optioners," and it seemed to be one in which he hoped they would all be able to agree.
*THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. GEORGE RUSSELL,), North Beds.
intimated that the Government could not accept the Amendment. No one appreciated parish councils more than himself, nor had a keener sense of the value of their functions. Yet he could hardly conceive that the parish councils, in the eyes of the most devoted believer in their merits, would be regarded as the best authority to decide the great question of ecclesiastical endowment. Local option as to the drink traffic might be very well, but the question of Disendowment was a different matter, and too important to depend upon casual majorities in parish councils.
§ MR. VICARY GIBBS (Herts, St. Albans)
said, that the Government had selected an integral portion of the Church of England for Disestablishment and Disendowment on the ground that the majority of the people in that part of the United Kingdom desired that that course should be adopted, and yet they now refused to allow the majority of the inhabitants of any particular parish to say whether that principle should be carried out in their locality or not. The hon. Member who had spoken on behalf of the Government had said that he could not consent to leave a matter of this importance to be determined by what might, after all, be merely a small, miserable, and dwindling majority.
*MR. GEORGE RUSSELL
said, that he was unwilling that a small majority of a parish council elected for one year should be able to decide such a question for a period of perhaps 40 years.
§ MR. VICARY GIBBS
said, that the hon. Gentleman appeared to have no objection to such a majority in that House deciding such a question, not for 40 years, but for ever. After the speech of the hon. Gentleman opposite he should have no hesitation in voting for the Amendment.
§ MR. STANLEY LEIGHTON (Shropshire, Oswestry)
pointed out that, in many parts of Wales, the Members of the Church of England numbered more than all those of the other denominations put together, and yet the Government refused to allow them to have a voice in deciding whether Disestablishment and Disendowment should be carried out in their districts or not. All that the hon. Mover of the Amendment asked for was—that it should be left to the Churchmen and the Nonconformists of any particular district, together to determine whether this Bill should at once take effect in their localities, or whether its operation should be postponed for a time.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR (Manchester, E.)
said, that the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary had not been in his place when the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary for the Home Department had, in the most emphatic manner, objected to allowing what he termed a small and casual majority to decide a question in such a way that the effect of that decision might long outlive the body giving the decision. He had no wish to go into that most interesting topic, which had been raised by the line of defence which the hon. Member had adopted; but he wished to point out that all that the Amendment proposed, was to allow the locality to determine whether the existing religious ministrations in a parish should be allowed to continue for some few years longer in cases where those ministrations were altogether in harmony with the general views of the parishioners. Inasmuch as the Bill proceeded upon the assumption that the endowments in a particular parish were the property of that parish, was it not reasonable that the inhabitants of that parish should have a voice in determining 1750 whether that property should be expended in providing museums and washhouses for the locality, or whether it should be retained—not for ever, but for a time—for the uses for which it was originally designed? He had no desire to recapitulate the arguments that had been repeatedly brought forward in the course of these Debates, to the effect that the funds at present used for the purposes of the Church in a particular parish should not be taken away unless it could be shown that some other religious services were administered in that parish; but it had been shown in the clearest manner that there were a large number of parishes in Wales in which there would be no religious services whatever if those of the Church were withdrawn. In such cases why were not the inhabitants of such parishes to have the right of deferring for a certain time the diversion of their Church funds from religious to secular purposes? Such a course would be in perfect harmony with the principles put forward by hon. Members from Wales, below the Gangway. He hoped that, in the circumstances the Government would give their assent to this Amendment, which, if accepted, would greatly improve the working of the Bill, and would have the collateral advantage of diminishing the feeling of hostility to the measure that was now entertained by a large number of Her Majesty's subjects.
§ *MR. R.L. EVERETT (Suffolk, Woodbridge)
said, that he could not help having some sympathy with the Amendment, as he desired to keep the tithes for use in the parishes where they originated, but he thought that the question would be more appropriately raised on some of the subsequent clauses of the Bill.
MR. GRANT LAWSON (York, N. R., Thirsk and Malton)
said, that this was the clause which collected all the spoil into the robbers' cave, and therefore it was fitting that the question raised by the Amendment should be dealt with whilst that clause was under discussion. A stamp duty had to be paid on each of these transfers also. He hoped, therefore, that the hon. Member who had just spoken would support those Members who were in favour of preserving to the parishes parochial rights.
§ Mr. WHARTON
said, that such an important question as this was one not 1751 for the decision of the Parish Council, but of the parish meeting. That meeting would represent the views of every parishioner, and he could not imagine a better way of obtaining the feeling of the parish than by calling a parish meeting.
*Mr. GEORGE RUSSELL
submitted that he had not said that the parish council was not an adequate representation of the sentiment of the parish, but he did not think that a council which was elected annually should continue ecclesiastical endowment for 40 years.
§ Mr. WHARTON
said, that was the reason why he contended that these matters should be submitted to the parish meeting.
§ Mr. BARTLEY
said, he only wanted by this Amendment to make it clear that the parish wanted the transfer of property.
§ Mr. A. GRIFFITH-BOSCAWEN (Kent, Tunbridge)
said, the discussion illustrated the absurd position of the Government. The Bill was brought in because the Government said they had a local majority for Wales; if they were to act up to their principles they should apply the same argument to the parish. They were told that they must appeal to the people; he would urge the Government to appeal to the representatives of the whole Church in England and Wales, and then they would find an enormous majority against this Bill.
§ Mr. T.W. RUSSELL (Tyrone, S.)
said, he was totally at a loss to see why either the Welsh Members or the Government opposed this Amendment. In the case of the Irish Church the whole of the funds were lumped for national purposes, but he understood the Government followed exactly the opposite course in regard to the Welsh Bill. If they were going to give these funds to localities, why should they decide for the localities and deny them the right of deciding for themselves? They were prepared to trust the people with public houses, and so forth, and their action, therefore, was not consistent. He should give a vote in favour of trusting the people to do what they liked with their own money.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 226; Noes 244.—(Division List, No. 94.)1752
*SIR M. HICKS-BEACH moved an Amendment providing that the property transferred to the Commissioners should be subject to—
the obligation to pay to the holder of any office in the Church in Wales at the passing of this Act, so long as he lives and continues to discharge such duties in respect of his office as he was accustomed to discharge, or would, if this Act had not passed, been liable to discharge, or any other duties in Wales or Monmouthshire which may be substituted for them, with his own consent and with the consent of the representative body of the Church in Wales hereinafter mentioned, or if not discharging such duties shall be disabled from so doing by age, sickness, or permanent infirmity, or by any other cause other than his own wilful default, an annuity equal to the annual value of the emoluments of such office, after deducting rates, taxes, and other outgoings to which the holder is liable by law.
The Amendment, he explained, dealt with an important part of the machinery of the Bill. While the Bill laid down that the property of the Church was to vest in the Commissioners, they were only to act as a sort of conduit in the matter, and the property was to be transferred as speedily as possible to the several parties who were ultimately to hold it. That was absolutely contrary to the scheme of the Irish Act, which provided that the Commissioners were to hold the property and to apply it first in meeting all necessary calls upon it, and were ultimately to convert it into personalty with a view to its future application by Parliament. The intention of this Amendment was to suggest to the Government that it would be better in the interests of their own scheme to adopt something like the Irish machinery rather than the machinery proposed in the Bill. There was in the Bill no definition of "existing interests" with which the property was to remain charged, and it did not lay down what deduction was to be allowed in estimating the nett amount of them from their gross amount, or whether the performance of any duties by the persons holding these existing interests should be essential to their receipt of any income whatever. The scheme of the Government left the matter in this position—the property was to be handed over to the parish council in the case of glebes, or to the County Council in the case of tithes, charged with certain indefinite existing interests
which were to be met in some way or other pending their duration. Take the glebes, for instance. The Incumbent would, under the Bill, retain a life interest, but the reversion would be in the hands of the parish council, and there would be continual disputes between them as to the manner in which the glebe should be dealt with. The tithes, again, were to be charged with a, life interest, to be paid to the incumbent by the Commissioners; but it was nowhere laid down precisely what the amount of that life interest was to be, and there was room for considerable friction. The Welsh Commissioners would have to get the tithe from the County Council, and possibly would have to sue the County Council for payment out of the rates if the tithe was not collected. Now the Irish scheme obviated all these disadvantages. It vested permanently the property in the Commissioners. It entrusted them with the collection of the tithe and with the management of the land, and the whole matter was completely in their power. That, certainly, removed all causes of friction which were obvious in the present scheme. Again, he did not see how it would be possible for the Commissioners, who would not retain possession of this property, to raise money on the property in the way proposed by the Bill for their expenses or the payments which they might have to make. If they adopted the Irish scheme, it would enable the Commissioners to make arrangements with the persons holding life interests for the commutation of those interests on whatever terms might seem to be fair. As it is, it would be absolutely impossible for life interests to be commuted. And, finally, he did not understand how, under the scheme of the Government, it would be possible for the Church body to provide for anything like a transfer of incumbents from one living to another, or for an exchange of livings, or for promotion in the Church without considerable apparent injustice
to individual parishes. Under the provisions of the Irish Church Act that was a very easy matter. There was no provision in this Bill by which it was rendered essential that an incumbent having a life interest should discharge any duties at all. He was absolutely entitled under Clause 17 to draw a certain pension out of a living, to take it away to the other end of the world, and cease to have any connection with the Welsh Church at all, if only he could get the consent of the representative body to his absence. The subject he felt was a technical one, but it was one of considerable importance to the working of the scheme of the Government. He had raised the question mainly with these objects—first, that they might have some kind of definition of what existing interests were, which was precisely and admirably afforded by the words of the Irish Church Act which he had quoted in his amendment; secondly, that there should be some practicable means of securing promotion in the Welsh Church after disestablishment; and thirdly, that the Government might consider whether, by some such scheme as he suggested, they might not really carry out their own objects more to the advantage of the people of Wales as a whole, than by the plan provided in the Bill. He begged to move the Amendment.
§ MR. ASQUITH
said, this was a matter which had seriously engaged the attention of the Government and upon which their opinion was matured and deliberate, because they felt that by departing from the precedent of the Irish Act, in so important a matter, they would be subjected to strong criticism, which, if possible, they would gladly avoid. The grounds on which they resolved to deal with the matter on a different system from that adopted in the case of the Irish Church were briefly summarised there: They thought that with the growth and development of opinion during 25 years it had come more and more to be recognised that ecclesiastical 1755 property of this kind was property in which primarily the locality was interested and from which, therefore, in the event of Disendowment, the locality ought to derive benefit; and that, as a matter of administration, the fact that we had in this country what in those days did not exist in England at all—namely, a well-organised system of representative local government—provided the machinery by which these funds might be administered on principles laid down by Parliament. This, the Government thought, would prove a less wasteful method of administration than that adopted in the case of the Irish Church, and would rescue a comparatively small fund from the demands which had pressed so constantly upon the Irish Church surplus. These considerations, however, must be subordinate to the rules of justice. He had always laid it down as a fundamental principle that no person should be placed in a worse pecuniary position by reasons of the provisions of this Bill; that principle had been recognised and would have effect given to it by this clause and subsequent clauses. He observed that the right hon. Gentleman in his Amendment transformed the Government's scheme by imposing on the Commissioners the obligation to pay to the various persons who have existing interests their existing emoluments. That was not the scheme of the Bill. Under the scheme of the Bill the only payment which would be made by the Commissioners to existing incumbents would be the payment in lieu of and as tae equivalent of that from which the main part of their income was derived—the tithe rent-charge. Quoad tithe rent-charge the existing incumbent would remain exactly as now. As regarded the glebe, the existing incumbent would remain a life tenant. The right hon. Gentleman had raised a question, the importance of which he quite recognized—namely, whether it was desirable to make the Parish Council the immediate reversioner. 1756 Without pronouncing any final opinion upon the point, he admitted that the question of the time when the glebes should be vested in the parish councils was one well worthy of consideration. As regarded tithes, which were the main source of the incomes of Welsh clergymen, the interests of the Clergy would not be prejudiced by this Bill. At present the tithe-owner had to collect the tithe, and this had been found to be a somewhat thankless and difficult task. Under this Bill—and he believed this to be one of its most valuable provisions—the duty of collecting the tithe would be transferred to the county council, and it would not matter to the incumbent whether the county council performed that duty or neglected it, because if it did not collect the tithe the Commissioners would have the right to resort to the county fund, and to compel the levying of a rate for the purposes to which the tithe should be devoted. In his opinion the incumbent was abundantly protected by the interposition of the Commissioners between himself and the county council and by the provision which placed the whole county fund at the Commissioners' disposal in case of default. Therefore, in respect of the glebe the incumbent would remain in the same position as he was now in, and in respect of the collection of tithe he would be in a more favourable position. The right hon. Gentleman had criticised the expression "existing interests," and he admitted that it was important that they should realise clearly what were existing interests. There could be no doubt as to the interpretation that a court of law would put upon the expression. A year ago he had quoted the definition of the expression given by the right hon. Member for Midlothian, when he introduced the Irish Church Act in 1869, and as he considered that definition the best that could be given, he would venture to quote it again:—The vested interest of the incumbent is quite distinct from his expectation of promotion. It 1757 is a title to receive a certain net income from the property of the Church. The vested interest with which we have to deal is the right of the incumbent to be secured in the receipt of a certain annual income from the property of the Church in consideration of the discharge of certain duties which he is bound to perform, as the equivalent which he gives for that income, and subject to the laws, by which he is bound, of the religious body to which he belongs.He believed that to be a perfectly accurate definition of the interests of every incumbent. An incumbent was a freeholder who was entitled to receive the emoluments of his office as long as he continued to perform its duties. In providing for the transference of this property to the Welsh Commissioners, subject to the existing interests of all persons who held ecclesiastical offices, the Government believed that they had chosen apt words and had clearly safeguarded the interests of incumbents. But the right hon. Gentleman wished to go further by preserving to the holders of existing interests the right to receive their present emoluments, even though they should cease to hold their present offices and were removed to other positions with their own consent. The words in the Irish Church Act, to which the right hon. Gentleman had called attention, were not in the original Bill, but were introduced in the course of the discussions on the measure at the suggestion of the late Lord Selborne. They were inserted to meet the difficulty that in the absence of such a provision promotion would be penalised. It was argued that if a clergyman could only continue to receive his emoluments on the condition that he remained in his existing office, he might either be tied down to an incumbency for which he was no longer fitted, or be prevented from going to a parish where greater advantage would accrue from his work. But although the Irish Church Act allowed a clergyman to remove to another parish, he could not admit that the clergyman had any vested legal right to receive compensation in such a case. His only legal interest was the 1758 right to receive his existing emoluments as long as he continued to discharge the duties of his existing office. The Government thought that they had met the difficulty which was present to the right hon. Gentleman's mind by providing, in the 17th Clause, that any person who held an ecelesiastical office might, if he could obtain the consent of the representative body, arrange with the Commissioners to change his existing interest for an annuity on a lower scale. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to think that the interests of the Church might suffer if clergymen were permitted to do this, because they might be encouraged to leave their incumbencies, and the Church in Wales might thus lose their services. He thought, however, that the Bill guarded against that by requiring the consent of the representative body. That body might be trusted to take precautions to prevent any abuse of the right conferred. He hoped that the Committee would consider the scheme adopted in the Bill preferable to that proposed by the right hon. Gentleman.
§ MR. GRIFFITH-BOSCAWEN
said, that they all recognised on his side of the House the very fair and conciliatory spirit of the right hon. Gentleman's speech in this Amendment. The right hon. Gentleman had said that he did not wish to see any person placed in a worse pecuniary position by this Bill than he was in now. He thanked the right hon. Gentleman for that statement, but wished he would go a little further. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian, speaking on the Irish Church Bill, declared that that Church ought not to start in its new course with imperfect or damaged machinery. The right hon. Gentleman meant that provisions ought to be inserted in the Bill which would enable a clergyman to move from one parish to another with the consent of the representative body without prejudice to his interests Section 14 of the Irish Act did three 1759 things—first of all, it safeguarded the vested interests of existing clergymen; secondly, it specified that a clergyman was only to receive his emolument so long as he performed the duties of his office; and thirdly, it gave him an absolute right to move from one parish to another and to draw his annuity all the time, provided that what he did had the consent of the representative body. These three conditions ought to find a place in the present Bill unless it was intended to start the Church in Wales after Disestablishment with damaged and insufficient machinery. As to the vested interests of the Clergy, he believed they were sufficiently guarded, but he could not find words in the Bill that said that as long as a clergyman received his compensation annuity he must discharge the duties of his office.
§ MR. ASQUITH
explained that the words "existing interests" implied that. A clergyman's only interest now was that he was entitled to his emolument as long as he continued to discharge the duties of his office.
§ MR. GRIFFITH-BOSCAWEN
thought that it ought to be stated specifically that a clergyman was only to receive his compensation annuity as long as he did the work. There remained the third point. Under the Irish Act a clergyman could move from parish to parish without losing his annuity, but there was no similar provision in that Bill. It would be very unfair to the Church if a rising man, who was the incumbent of a small living when the Bill became law, could not be transferred to a more important living unless he was willing to forfeit his annuity. The Home Secretary said that the clause in the Irish Church Act was not in the original Bill. It was perfectly true that the words were introduced into the Irish Bill on the motion of the late Lord Selborne (then Mr. Roundell Palmer), but they were accepted by the then Attorney General for Ireland, who said that the Government agreed that the income of a clergyman should not be forfeited in the event of a change of living. As the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary had followed the Irish Act very carefully in many things, he might have also followed 1760 it in this matter, which would secure that a clergyman should not suffer in his pocket by his promotion, and at the same time would mean the loss of only a small amount of money. The right hon. Gentleman referred to Clause 17 to show that he did not wish to penalise promotion. He would ask the right hon. Gentleman to consider whether he did not really penalise promotion by Clause 17. And why? Because, if a clergyman were promoted, he must commute his annuity, and if he commuted it, say at the age of 45, he would lose at least 39 per cent, of the existing capitalised value of the annuity. Therefore, the terms of the Schedule were so severe that the Government had really penalised promotion. He thought that a clergyman should be allowed to go from parish to parish without losing his annuity, and if he himself desired to commute it, he should be able to get its full value. It had been said, on the First Reading of the Bill last year, that difficulties might arise if a clergyman lived long in a parish enjoying glebe and enjoying tithe, and standing in the way of the application of the money to the various parochial purposes to which it was proposed to apply it after his death. The hon. Member for Carnarvon had said:—If the Bill were to pass in its present shape, instead of removing the causes of disturbance, it would increase and intensify them, because the people would have an inducement to create disturbance in order to get rid of the clergyman.But if the Amendment were adopted, that difficulty would not arise. For, instead of the clergyman holding property which the people desired to get possession of, he would have an annuity guaranteed by the Commissioners, and this apprehended trouble would be avoided. The Amendment did not strike at the root of the Bill. Indeed, it would greatly improve the Bill if carried. He, therefore, hoped the Home Secretary would reconsider it, and adopt it at least in some modified form.
§ *MR. TOMLINSON
regarded the Amendment as one of the most important that had been moved since the Bill got into Committee. Under the Bill, as framed, any clergyman promoted to another living or benefice, would be deprived of not less than one-third, and, in some cases, of one-half of his income. 1761 Therefore, they made it beneficial for the Church to delay the promotion of deserving clergymen in Wales. He would point out, also, that the Irish Church Act was so framed as to encourage a system of commutation which contributed to the rapid reconstruction of the Disestablished Church on a sound financial basis. Under this Bill, no commutation could take place except at a serious loss of income to the clergyman. The only fair mode of dealing with compensation and commutation was that proposed by the Amendment. Anything short of that must be detrimental to the Church, and must lead, in many cases, to undue suffering for the clergyman.
§ Committee divided:—Ayes 136; Noes 164.—(Division List No. 95.)
§ *SIR F. S. POWELL (Wigan)
moved to omit the words "except tithe rent-charge," which occurred in line 17. He congratulated the Welsh Members upon the failure of their action some years ago to destroy tithe rent-charge in Wales. The result of that action had been to improve the collection of Welsh tithe rent-charge, and make the property safer and sounder than before. He believed it would be very much better that the tithe rent-charge should be kept in the same hands as glebe, but by Clause 3 of the Bill tithe rent-charge was vested in the Commissioners. By Clause 6 it was transferred from the Welsh Commissioners to the County Council, while by Clause 16 it passed from the County Council to the Welsh Commissioners. The County Council were to pay to the Welsh Commissioners the annual amount after deducting the sum allowed for the cost of collection, rates, and other outgoings other than Income Tax. Under the second sub-section of Clause 16 it was to be paid over to the incumbent for the time being, and eventually it was to be made the subject of a scheme under the Act, and the scheme could not take effect without the approval of Parliament. Such a process was not only cumbrous but very wasteful. He believed much of the tithe rent-charge would be whittled away. The persons who claimed interest from it would not be administrators, and there would be a great reduction in the amount received. There was a great contrast between the 1762 words of this Bill and those of the Irish Act. Clause 14 of the Irish Act enacted that payments were to be made "after deducting all rates and taxes, and other outgoings to which the holder is liable in law," but the proposal in this Bill was for more tax, for the words were:—The annual amount, after deducting the sum allowed by the Commissioners for cost of collection, rates, and other outgoings other than Income Tax.He could not see in that provision sufficient security that the tithe rent-charge would be duly and fully collected. He did not think the County Council had any motive which would induce them to make, the collection complete. The collection would be imperfect, the charges and costs of collection would be unnecessarily large, and the incumbents would suffer. It might be the interest of the County Council to maintain tithe rent-charge for the good of Wales eventually, but there might be great laxity of administration meanwhile, and the reductions in their incomes would press most severely and hardly upon the incumbents. He knew it was the opinion of many hon. Members that this should be a local rather than a national fund. The Irish system of appropriation had not been wasteful. One million of the money went to intermediate collection, and £600,000 was devoted to the Royal University of Ireland; indeed the appropriations were for the benefit of Ireland, and far more likely to be advantageous than the proposals now made by the Government. There was a great contrast between the policy of the Government in 1869 and that adopted now. In 1869, there was a general enactment that the proceeds were to be appropriated mainly for the relief of unavoidable calamity and suffering, yet so as not to ignore the obligations now attached to property under the Act for the relief of the poor. Then came the words—"Such proceeds shall be applied accordingly in the manner Parliament shall hereafter direct." That left the whole management and disposition of the fund in the hands of Parliament. But in the Welsh scheme the purposes to which the fund was to be devoted were given in general form, and then came the remarkable words—"the purposes are to be purposes of general utility not sanctioned 1763 by Parliament." He thought the Irish system was much more calculated to produce a valuable result, and he therefore greatly regretted that the Government had departed from it. It would be much wiser to keep the money together. He believed the system he suggested would greatly favour computation on one system or another, and he believed also that commutation would be greatly to the advantage of the Church in Wales. He had great doubt as to the real intention and aim of the Government. Sometimes they heard Gentlemen sitting on the Front Government Bench say they desired the restoration of the Church in Wales, that they desired she might in the course of a few years, by the liberality of her friends and the wise arrangements made by the Bill, improve upon her present position. On the other hand, he found many desired to humiliate and degrade the Church of Wales, and therefore do, he was quite sure, injury to the people. By this Amendment he gave those who desired to see the survival and increasing efficiency of the Church in Wales an opportunity of giving expression to their desires.
§ MR. ASQUITH
said, that the words in the clause could not be understood without reference to the provisions of Clause 16, which regulated the collection of the tithe. The County Council would be charged with the collection of tithe, and would thus interfere between the incumbent and the tithepayer; and they paid the amount collected to the Welsh Commissioners, who thus came between the County Council and the incumbents. The County Council had the strongest possible interest in maintaining the corpus of the tithe, because it had the whole of the reversionary interest; and the Government had endeavoured to supply a strong inducement to the prompt collection of the tithe during the period in which the vested interest had to be satisfied by providing that any deficiency should be made good out of the county funds. A deficiency would accordingly fall on all the ratepayers of the county. The Government believed that no machinery could be better calculated to preserve the tithe rent-charge and to protect existing interests.
§ SIR EDWARD CLARKE (Plymouth)
said, that on the Second Reading the right hon. Gentleman had pointed out that under the provisions of the Bill the glebe would remain absolutely with its present owner, and would not be affected during the term of his life. He stated then, in answer to the right hon. Gentleman, that he thought the same provision ought to apply to the tithe rent-charge; and that he could not see any reason for establishing this cumbrous process of at once vesting the tithe rent-charge in the County Council, then making the County Council pay the Welsh Commissioners, and then making the Commissioners pay the holder of the office. The natural course of proceeding would be to leave the tithe rent-charge in the holder of the ecclesiastical office undisturbed during the currency of his life, and to allow him to collect the funds. He appreciated the intention of the right hon. Gentleman, which was one of kindliness to the owner of the office. This elaborate and artificial machinery was set up because there might be difficulty in the way of the incumbent obtaining payment of the tithe rent-charge, judging from what had already occurred in many parts of Wales, particularly in Cardiganshire and Glamorganshire. The idea was that the holder of the office would be in a much better position because ho would get an annual payment from the Welsh Commissioners, while the Commissioners would draw an annual sum from the County Council, and the County Council would be held to their duty of collecting the tithe by the prospect of having to face difficult and costly law suits with the Commissioners. If that procedure really had the effect which was intended, those who were interested in the welfare of the Church would be glad to accept it. But he doubted whether the position of the holders of ecclesiastical office would be improved. The insertion of tithe rent-charge in Clause 3 was very curious. It was said that all ecclesiastical property was to be transferred to the Welsh Commissioners, subject, in the case of all such property, except tithe rent-charge, to the existing interests of the persons at present holding office. That was rather a serious matter. Why should tithe rent-charge be excepted in 1765 this clause, if the Government wished to retain and satisfy existing interests?
§ MR. ASQUITH
The words are explained by what follows.
§ SIR E. CLARKE
said, that the words of the clause would be correct without that exception. In Clause 16 there was a very serious ambiguity. The County Council was to have the tithe rent-charge vested in it, and was to pay to the Welsh Commissioners an annual amount, according to the septennial average, after deducting the sum allowed by the Commissioners for the cost of collection, rates, and other outgoings. This deduction must be fixed from time to time, so that the patriotic persons who now registered the collection of tithe and made the collection very expensive, would have the satisfaction of knowing that in future all the expenses to which the County Council was put in collecting the charge would fall upon the unhappy incumbent and not upon the County Council at all. In a case where the incumbent was particularly objectionable to the people, either through his own fault, or, as was more likely, through theirs, they would only have to make the collection of tithe extremely costly in order to actually eat up the tithe.
§ MR. ASQUITH
The County Council will only be able to deduct the sum allowed by the Commissioners.
§ SIR E. CLARKE
said, that the County Council could fairly urge that it was not their fault if the cost of collection had been 30 or 40 per cent.
§ MR. ASQUITH
The incumbent has now to pay the cost of collection himself.
§ SIR E. CLARKE
said, that that was true; but the incumbent had a personal control over the collection, and he had the right to appeal to the assistance of the law. The incumbents in these disturbed parishes in Wales would much rather be left to collect the tithe themselves, so long as they held office, than stand aside and allow it to be collected by the County Councils in face of all the difficulty and disturbance which might be thereby occasioned. There would be much greater popular feeling aroused by the discussion in the County Council on the collection of the tithe, than by the proceedings which now took place between the incumbent and the persons who had to pay the charge. It was the 1766 most dangerous thing in the world to make the County Councils collectors of tithe rent-charge in view of what had occurred in Wales. At every election of the County Council the question would come up of what was called "this obnoxious and hateful tax." Clause 16 contained words which required some explanation. The County Councils were to pay an annual amount as tithe rent-charge, or "such less amount as may be required by the Welsh Commissioners for the payments to be made by them." As long as the incumbent lived he was entitled to the total tithe rent-charge. What would be the smaller amount which might have to be paid by the Welsh Commissioners?
§ MR. ASQUITH
The County Council collects the total amount, and, so long as every incumbency in the county is filled by existing incumbents, the County Council will have to pay over the whole to the Commissioners of Distribution. But suppose that half-a-dozen incumbencies fall in. Then the County Council will no longer have to pay over the whole amount, but only the amount necessary to satisfy the still remaining interests. Therefore we have provided that they will pay such less amount as may be required by the Welsh Commissioners for the payments to be made by them to the incumbents.
§ SIR EDWARD CLARKE
said, that clearly explained the point, but it seemed to him to open up a matter of some difficulty for the County Council. They would have a large amount of tithe rent-charge in the county to collect, not specifically located to particular incumbents. The general amount, however, would have to be collected, and they would have to pay it. If they were to treat the collection of the whole of the tithe rent-charge as being a matter with respect to which the Commissioners were to make an allowance for collection, an incumbent who might be in the position of collecting the tithe rent-charge, from its peculiar character and situation, with ease, and without any cost for collection, would be affected by the general allowance made by the County Council for the cost of collection, which might include many places where there was a large cost. Words might be inserted in the clause to carry that intention out.
§ *MR. TOMLINSON
said, that till the Home Secretary had explained his views he did not think hon. Members were quite in a position to understand the reasons which had influenced him in inserting these words. It would appear, from the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman that evening, that he had partly in view the object of easing the incumbent from what would be, under some circumstances, a disagreeable position, and that he sought to simplify the general administration in Wales by placing the tithe rent-charge in the hands of the County Council. Something might be said for this proposal of the right hon. Gentleman if the whole of the tithe rent-charge in Wales could be disposed of in the way proposed in this clause. But that was not the case; it did not apply to appropriated tithes, and to put the collection in the hands of the County Council would not solve the difficulties in that class of tithe rent-charge. A more important point still was, that the proposed system of dealing with tithe rent-charge did nothing with that portion of it which belonged to private benefactions. It might be that the Home Secretary had not realised the large amount of property consisting of tithes, and property in other shapes, that would have to be dealt with under Clause 5. The right hon. Gentleman, he thought, had been misled by the Return which was issued from the Home Office in July 1894, which treated almost the whole of the tithe rent-charge as ancient endowment. But, as showing the amount of accretion which had taken place, he might mention that he had figures before him showing that, in the cases of 23 benefices in Wales, the agregate incomes had increased from £91 16s. 8d. in 1703, to £3,162 at the present time. A great proportion of this property really properly came from sources which were strictly within the very limited terms of Clause 5, and he desired that the fact should be noted that, in many instances, private benefactors found that tithe was the most convenient form of property to be given to the Church. In the case of Bonvilstone, in the county of Glamorgan, for instance, in 1764, the 1768 Rev. Miles Basset (Patron and Impropriator) gave a benefaction of tithes amounting to £12 per year and a rent-charge of £3 per annum. And there was a very remarkable instance mentioned by his right hon. Friend the Member for Bristol in the Second Reading of the Bill, which, however, occurred before 1703. He had, he thought, said enough to show that, if this Bill were passed, there would be a considerable portion of the tithes which ought not to be handed over to the County Councils, but which would belong to the Church as private benefactions and would be handed over to the representative Church body. The benefits which were supposed to be secured to the Church, by separating tithe rent-charge from other property were of a very shadowy character, and he would rather let all the property go to the Commissioners to be dealt with together. It seemed to him that that would be a better system as a whole; and, therefore, he thought the Amendment now before the Committee ought to be supported.
§ SIR RICHARD TEMPLE
said, that the effect of the arguments used concerning the various holders of benefices in Wales came to this, that those holders of benefices were to be secured in their private benefactions. How were they to be secured? They were not to collect and receive their tithes as they did now, but they were to depend for them on the county councils. Why should not they be left in the position they were now in, to collect their tithes and receive them as they had done heretofore? That was apparently what they themselves would desire; but instead of that they were in future to receive them from the county councils. Suppose the holders of these benefices preferred to collect their tithes themselves. Suppose they said:—We are on good terms with our parishioners and we have no trouble in collecting our tithes.Why should they not be allowed to do so? In many instances in Wales the county councils were elected by ratepayers who were adverse to the whole system of tithes, and were great opponents of the Church, and if the collection of tithes was left in their hands the case of the 1769 holders of benefices would be a very hard one. Suppose the latter were to say:—We would rather bear those ills we have, Than fly to others that we know not of.Why, in the name of common sense, should they not be left to collect their tithes? The idea of the Bill seemed to be, instead of allowing people to go on in the old way as much as possible, to enforce on them a system of general alterations. The Government must not be surprised if those on his side of the House regarded this change with great apprehension and fear. They believed that the county councils would not be a satisfactory body for the purpose of collecting tithes or distributing the receipt thereof. Therefore, he was one of those who considered that good service had been done in putting this matter prominently before the House. They ought to guard with the greatest care everything connected with tithe rent-charge, and, therefore, he hoped the Amendment would be pressed to a Division.
§ MR. R. W. HANBURY
said, his main reason for objecting to the retention of the words was—that it would prejudice the consideration of the question which would arise later on as to the purposes to which tithe rent-charge should be devoted. If these words were left in the Bill, that would practically pledge them to the view that tithe rent-charge was to go to the County Councils. He for one would much rather that it went to the parish; he did not want to see all this parish property leaving the parish; he wanted to keep it there rather than allow it to go to some central fund. If it were not to go to the County Councils there was no reason why the clause should contain this exception; and it would be much better not to tie their hands at all, but to leave the matter open for future discussion. After the death of an existing incumbent the tithe ought to pass into the hands of the Parish Council. He claimed for the Amendment the support of some hon. Members on the other side, including the hon. Member for the Woodbridge Division of Suffolk, who was strongly in favour of keeping this property for the parish.
§ *MR. STANLEY LEIGHTON
said, this was a most difficult clause to understand. Tithe rent-charge was simply 1770 property, like any other kind of property, belonging in some cases to the Church, in some cases to the Nonconformists, in some cases to individuals and in some cases to lay corporations; it had nothing to do with anything ecclesiastical; and he, therefore, asked why it should be dealt with differently from other property. It would be a disappointment to the constituents of many Welsh Members if this money were devoted to purposes of public utility instead of going into their own pockets. Why should other property be made subject to existing interests and tithe rent-charge be made subject "to the obligation to make provision in lieu of existing interests"? If there were no difference in the nature of the property, or in the charges which were to be placed upon it, why in the name of common sense should these different forms be used? He was certain there was some mischief lurking in this difference of phraseology. He suggested that, instead of saying "all such property except tithe rent-charge," they should merely say "all property." That would get rid of a large part of the clause which did not affect the position of the Government in regard to the Bill, which was to sweep into their hands all the property they could which formed the endowment of the Church. They would do that equally well by taking out this particular portion of the clause. To hand over to the County Councils tithe rent-charge would be to put a stopper on the commutation or redemption of tithe rent-charge.
§ *SIR MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH
said, he gathered there was nothing in the present Amendment which really touched the question, who were to be owners of the tithe rent-charge. That was a matter which would have to be discussed later. But he would wish to make a few observations on the clause from an entirely different point of view to that taken by his hon. Friends behind. He understood that the objection taken by his hon. Friends was this—they objected to the insertion in the clause of two different modes of dealing with the property of the Church, one mode of dealing with the glebe and another of dealing with the tithe. He entirely agreed in this. But he did not agree in the reason for their objection as he gathered it from the Debate. He 1771 gathered from the Debate that his hon. Friends objected to the proposals of the Government in a later clause of the Bill by which the collection of tithe would be entrusted to a public body instead of being left, as at present, to the tithe, owner. He thought the Home Secretary made a fair case upon that point. He must confess he believed—assuming this Bill to become law—that it would be a great boon to a clergyman to be relieved of the duty of collecting his tithe and have it collected for him by a public body. And, looking to the names of the Commissioners who had been selected, he believed they would fairly and impartially do their duty and take care that the County Councils collected as much tithe as they could, and honourably hand over the tithe so collected to those whose life interests were concerned. He thought the Government would be well advised to meet the objections raised as to the possibility of too large an allowance for the costs of collection by putting into the clause a maximum allowance which should not be exceeded by the Commissioners. He did not himself believe that the Commissioners would be likely to exceed a reasonable allowance. But it must be remembered that incumbents would be absolutely dependent on the Commissioners, and it would not be unreasonable to insert in the clause that the allowance should not exceed five per cent. Then it would be clear what the intention of the Government was, and it would be incumbent on the Commissioners to carry it out. But that did not affect the proposal of the Government as to the collection of tithe. They desired to improve the present position of the incumbents by imposing a difficult and unpleasant duty on a public body instead of leaving it where it was now. That was a valuable proposal. But would not the Home Secretary consider whether it would not be better for all parties to extend this proposal to the whole property of the incumbents. Why should they be left to collect the rents of and manage their glebes—which, in the case of large glebes, they were utterly unable to do—when they were relieved of this burden with regard to tithe. He had previously endeavoured to explain the difficulty in which, after the passing of the Bill, incumbents would be placed who had a life 1772 interest in the glebe, the reversion of which would vest in the Parish Council. The Home Secretary admitted the force of his objection, and promised he would endeavour to meet it at a later stage of the Bill, by allowing the freehold of the glebe to remain in the incumbent during his life, and only transferring it on his death to the Parish Council. He was afraid the Home Secretary would find great difficulty in doing this consistently with proper security for the interests of the reversioner, because only recently a case had come under his personal notice in which the incumbent and the patron of the living, being members of the same family, had conspired—he did not think the word was too strong—to sell the glebe of the living to a member of the family for a price which certainly did not appear to be adequate in value. The transaction was carried out in spite of the check which the Legislature had imposed on such transactions of requiring the assent of the Board of Agriculture. This showed the temptation that existed even under the present law, where one took care to guard the reversion to the living. There was a strong reason why the Home Secretary should extend—what he himself considered—the boon given to the owners of tithe to the owner of glebe, and treat the two in the same way. He could not impose, by any proposal he could conceive, proper restriction upon improper dealing by incumbents with their glebes, unless there was some reversioner whose interest it was to look after the reversion. Therefore he would suggest that the Home Secretary should give up the idea of treating tithe and glebe in a different way; allow glebe as well as tithe to be vested in the Commissioners, to be utilised as well as possible by them—at any rate, during the life interest of the incumbent; that they should pay to the incumbent the proceeds of the glebe, precisely as he proposed they should pay the proceeds of the tithe, and that then, anything necessary either for the protection of the reversioner in the glebe or its proper management during the life of the incumbent, should be carried out by the Commissioners rather than left with the incumbent. He agreed with the hon. Mover of the Amendment that it was necessary that the words in question should be omitted, as otherwise a difference would be made 1773 between the treatment of the glebe and that of the tithe. He hoped that the right hon. Gentleman, the Home Secretary, would be able to see his way to the Amendment of the clause in this respect.
§ MR. ASQUITH
said that he entirely sympathised with the object which the right hon. Baronet (Sir M. HICKS-BEACH, Bristol) had in view, and he thought that the case might be fairly met without his giving any express pledge on the subject. He was quite ready, if a sufficient case were made out to consider whether it might not be desirable to postpone the vesting of the glebe in the Parish Council until the present interest fell in. When Clause 6 was reached he would see whether it might be possible to carry out the intention of the right hon. Baronet, so as to secure the incumbents the enjoyment of the profits of their interests, whatever they might be, and to prevent them from being harassed by the Parish Council.
§ SIR EDWARD CLARKE
desired to express the satisfaction with which he had heard the concession which the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary had made in reference to this matter. He was glad to hear that a certain uniformity was to be secured in the treatment of both the glebe and the tithe in the scheme of the Bill. He could have wished that the right hon. Gentleman had been able to assure the Committee that a limit would be placed upon the cost of the collection of the tithe.
§ MR. ASQUITH
said that his own opinion was that the cost of collection would be less when the tithe rent-charge was vested in the County Councils than it was under existing circumstances, and he would see if it were possible to deal with the question later on, if necessary, on the Report.
§ *MR. TOMLINSON
desired to repeat that no inconsiderable part of the benefactions in Wales had taken the form of tithe rent-charge, and that under that head they would be handed back to the representative body.
§ SIR MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH
said that it would simplify the matter if the right hon. Gentleman would accept the Amendment.
§ MR. ASQUITH
was afraid that he could not consent to the right hon. 1774 Gentleman's proposal. As he had said, if necessary, the clause could be remodelled on the Report.
§ SIR RICHARD WEBSTER
wished to point out that, in his opinion, the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary had not exactly appreciated the contention of his right hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, with reference to the effect these words would have if they were left in the clause. The object of his right hon. Friend was that both the glebe and the tithe rent-charge should be placed upon precisely the same footing. As the right hon. Gentleman, the Home Secretary had expressed his concurrence in the view of the matter which was taken by his right hon. Friend, doubtless the whole difficulty in their way was simply one of drafting. The suggestion that had been made by his right hon. Friend certainly had not been put forward with the view of embarrassing the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary. If the words in question were left in it would then appear on the face of the clause that a difference was drawn between the tithe and the other class of property. It was exceedingly difficult for them to say whether, if these words were left in, the Committee would be entitled to deal with the question on any subsequent clause and then to provide schemes to enable the glebe and the tithe rent-charge to be dealt with in the same way. If the words were retained therefore the Committee would be practically committed to dealing with these different classes of property in different ways. As, however, he believed that the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary did intend to deal with this question at a subsequent period in accordance with the suggestion of his right hon. Friend, he earnestly hoped that the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary would consent to accept the Amendment and would agree to omit the words referred to. They had heard from hon. Members below the Gangway the customary chorus of disapproval of any suggestion coming from the Opposition side of the House, but he desired to point out to those hon. Members, many of whom had only lately returned to the House, and who consequently had not heard the greater part of the Debate or the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary, that it was the opinion of those who 1775 were in charge of the Bill that the suggestion of his right hon. Friend the Member for Bristol was really one of substance. He hoped that the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary would consent to the omission of these words, which if retained might be found to be embarrassing to both the right hon. Gentleman himself and the Committee when they came to discuss the question again on subsequent clauses.
§ MR. ASQUITH
said, that he was rather sorry that the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite (Sir R. Webster, Isle of Wight) should have adopted the tone he had in the remarks he had just made. He must ask the Committee to assent to the clause as it stood, and to except tithe rent-charge, as to which he thought they were really now all agreed. He thought the collection of the tithe rent-charge should be vested in the hands of some other authority, be it County Council or Commissioners. The only point outstanding between them was, whether that condition ought not to be further extended; the other question could be raised on Clause 6.
§ *SIR F. S. POWELL
said, he felt bound to divide on the Amendment, as he wished to take the sense of the Committee on the inconvenience of separating tithe rent-charge from the other property.
§ The Committee divided:—Noes, 141; Ayes, 174.—(Division List, No. 96.)
§ VISCOUNT CRANBORNE moved an Amendment with the object of defining "existing interests." According to the Home Secretary's view, the existing interests of an Incumbent depended upon the performance by him of certain duties. But what duties? And who was to decide whether the Incumbent performed his duties, and upon what principles would that decision be given? After the date of Disestablishment, the Ecclesiastical Courts would come to an end, and the only method of enforcing the law would be by the Temporal Courts. How were the temporal Courts going to interpret Ecclesiastical Law? It was very complicated, and very often out of sympathy with the methods of the Temporal Courts. For instance, under the Clergy Discipline Act, an Incumbent was subject to its provisions, not only if he had 1776 committed an offence, but if there was grave scandal or grave suspicion that he had committed an offence. How was a Temporal Court, which only acted upon definite proof, to interpret that Statute? Then there were a number of minor provisions, which were entirely out of date nowadays, and which, by a long succession of decisions and by the practice of the Ecclesiastical Courts were not put in operation now. If these provisions were put in the hands of the Temporal Courts, and were interpreted according to the ideas of jurisdiction and procedure which prevailed under the ordinary Common Law of the country, a most extraordinary result would be produced.
§ SIR RICHARD WEBSTER
would like to endorse what had been said by the noble Lord. He had himself intended, on the first fitting opportunity, following the announcement made earlier in the evening by the Home Secretary, to have raised this matter with the view of obtaining a definite statement from the right hon. Gentleman. He had told them that he considered the existing interests carried with them the existing obligations to perform duties. At the present time a certain number of small duties had to be performed on Sunday by Incumbents. Suppose after the date of Disestablishment some question should arise as to a different standard of the duties which should be established by the representative body, were the "existing interests" of the Clergy of the Disestablished Church, who were holding their livings and receiving their emoluments as possessors of vested interests, to have put upon them a new standard of ecclesiastical duties? He desired to know whether existing duties were to be interpreted by the Temporal Courts according to the same rules of construction and definition of those duties previously laid down by the Ecclesiastical Courts? The moment he heard the pronouncement of the right hon. Gentleman—though he was sure he spoke advisedly—it at once occurred to his mind that a difficult question was opened to them, and that they must put down some Amendments to have the matter clearly and definitely defined. If the right hon. Gentleman would undertake to consider the matter, and insert a definition of existing interests or duties, which should solve the difficulty for 1777 them, they should be perfectly satisfied, but it was absolutely impossible to leave it at large if all he was giving them by the definition "existing" meant existing at the passing of this Act. He thought it meant that a man who had a freehold interest should continue to have a freehold interest. So far as this clause was concerned, speaking of it in the true and strict sense, as to what duties were to be performed, he never imagined the right hon. Gentleman could have intended that the only guide that should be given was under these words. He thought, as soon as the right hon. Gentleman's announcement was made, that it was their duty to raise this question because otherwise they must have put down a definition of what the words carried with them. They would see what definition the right hon. Gentleman intended to insert, and if not satisfactory, it would be the duty of hon. Members on that side of the House to put down some Amendments.
§ MR. ASQUITH
considered this was not a matter which ought to occasion much controversy. The "existing interests" referred to were defined in the Interpretation Clause to be those existing at the date of the passing of this Act. The only question that would arise was, what was the interest of a clergyman in his benefice, having regard to the statutes and the law which regulated such matters, at the date of the passing of this Act? In his view it was quite true that, primâ facie, a clergyman appointed to a living had a life interest in that living, but it was qualified by, and subject to, some service and conditions, some of them imposed by statute and some of them by ecclesiastical law and the Courts, the neglect or violation of which would expose him to deprivation of his benefice. The Temporal Courts were capable of ascertaining what those conditions were, and whether or not a particular person had violated them, just as they were, in cases which concerned public companies, competent to decide whether a director had violated the conditions relating to his tenure of office. Supposing they were dissolving a purely trading corporation, and provided in an Act of Parliament that all the existing interests of the directors should be safeguarded, and the question 1778 subsequently arose as to whether a particular person had such interest or had forfeited it. No one knew better than his hon. and learned Friend the Member for the Isle of Wight that a court of law would look to the constitution of the company, its memorandum of association, would take evidence, if there were other stipulations not embodied in this document, as to them, and, having ascertained what were the conditions of office, would proceed to consider whether or not a particular person had violated them. The question presented in this case was no more difficult. Everything that would now be considered upon the question raised there as to whether A B had or had not forfeited his ecclesiastical office—everything now relevant to the consideration of that question would be relevant when the question arose before a Temporal Court after the passing of this Act. The noble Lord said, Temporal Courts knew very little about ecclesiastical law, and were not, therefore, very good judges of such matters. But the question was one of ascertaining what was the ecclesiastical law at the time of the passing of this Act, and having ascertained it they could apply it to a particular case and say whether the conditions of the law had or had not been complied with. The documents and facts material to the matter being laid before them, he did not think there was any more difficulty in the Judges of the land deciding what were the conditions upon which ecclesiastical benefices were held at the present moment, than in the same question being decided by the Ecclesiastical Courts. It was not a matter of importance one way or the other. While he should rather deprecate the insertion in the Definition Clause of an exhaustive definition of "existing interests," he would point out that the noble Lord's Amendment would be more appropriately moved on the Definition Clause. If necessary, such a definition could be inserted in that clause, without the need of any alteration in the clause now before the Committee.
§ MR. VICARY GIBBS
asked whether or not the right hon. Gentleman included in the words "ecclesiastical office," the lay holder of a rectory?
§ MR. ASQUITH
§ MR. VICARY GIBBS
said, that the obligations of the holders of such office 1779 were serious and important, and it seemed to him that if the Bill were passed in its present form they would be able to get rid of those obligations.
§ MR. ASQUITH
I would point out to the hon. Gentleman that that is not an "existing interest." It is an "existing liability." When we come to Clause 5, which deals with the transference of the churches, the hon. Gentleman will find that the transference is subject to all existing public and private rights.
§ *SIR F. S. POWELL
thought that the obligation of office-bearers to faithfully discharge the duties of their offices should be clearly laid down, and not left a matter of inference from the doubtful words of the Bill. Section 14 of the Irish Church Act made it clear that clergymen were liable, after the passing of the Act, to the same obligations and the same penalties in regard to the discharge of their duties as before the passing of the Act. That was an example from the Irish Act which ought to be followed.
§ MR. W. R. BOUSFIELD (Hackney, N.)
said, that the question as to how far "existing interests" might be affected by breaches of discipline was not a matter that should be dealt with in the perfunctory manner in which the Home Secretary had thought fit to deal with it. The right hon. Gentleman had suggested that the Temporal Courts were perfectly competent, and as competent as the Ecclesiastical Courts, to deal with the matter. He thought that Temporal Courts in dealing with those cases would be in the same position as Temporal Courts in deciding cases of foreign law. The right hon. Gentleman was aware that, in trial of those cases, foreign law experts were often called to give evidence as to what the foreign law on the subject might be. Was it, then, the view of the right hon. Gentleman that in the hearing of those ecclesiastical cases by the Temporal Courts experts on ecclesiastical law were to give evidence as to whether there had been a breach of the ecclesiastical law, and whether existing rights had been forfeited? He ventured to think that the right hon. Gentleman had not given sufficient thought to this question, which affected the whole future of the discipline of the Welsh Church.
§ *SIR M. HICKS-BEACH
said, he had raised the point as to "existing interests" 1780 in moving an Amendment earlier in the evening. The Home Secretary then quoted the definition of "existing interests" given by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian in the debates on the Irish Church Act, which was that the "existing interests" of an incumbent were dependent on the due performance by him of the duties of his office. But the Home Secretary had forgotten that, although the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian had given that definition, with which everyone would agree, the right hon. Gentleman had thought it necessary to insert in the Irish Church Act the Section to which the hon. Member for Wigan had alluded, making it clear that a clergyman was liable to be deprived of his "existing interests" in the event of his failure to perform the duties of his office. He thought it would be necessary to insert some such words in the Bill when they came to the Definition Clause. He suggested that the Amendment should be withdrawn until the Definition Clause was reached.
§ VISCOUNT CRANBORNE,
in asking leave to withdraw the Amendment, expressed the hope that before the Definition Clause was reached, the Home Secretary would have learned a little ecclesiastical law, because at present the right hon. Gentleman could not appreciate the point raised in the Amendment.
§ MR. BARTLEY
hoped that some means would be provided in the Bill by which the due performance of their duties by the various officers of a church would be secured in the interest of the parishioners.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. VICARY GIBBS
proposed to insert after "aforesaid," in line 18, the words "and of all cathedral corporations as aforesaid." The Bill as it stood transferred the property of persons who held ecclesiastical offices subject to existing interests. He desired to extend the protection to members of corporations. He could not understand on what principle canons, for instance, should be protected and cathedral corporations should not.
§ MR. ASQUITH
said, he had stated several times that the intention of the Government was that no individual 1781 should suffer pecuniarily by the passing of the Act, and he confessed he did not quite comprehend what was the case the hon. Gentleman had in mind. A cathedral corporation consisted of a Dean, a certain number of Canons, minor Canons, and subordinate officers, and every one of those individuals would, under the words of the clause as it stood, continue, as long as he lived and performed the duties of his office, to receive exactly the same emoluments as now. What was there left to compensate? He agreed they were taking away from the Church the ultimate revenues of every one of these corporations, but they were taking away those revenues on the terms that no individual who had any beneficial right should suffer by the change. What additional interest was there, consistent with the provisions of the Bill, that they had not provided for?
§ MR. VICARY GIBBS
said, that suppose they took the corporation of any cathedral they liked, and suppose that that corporation owned land which it did not appropriate to the use of any single ecclesiastical office, but collected the revenues and divided them amongst its members. The right hon. Gentleman, desired that those members should not suffer, but it seemed to him that as the Bill now stood they would suffer, because those revenues were not appropriated to the use of any ecclesiastical office at all.
§ MR. ASQUITH
assured the hon. Gentleman that the only difference between them was as to the effect of the clause as it stood. Every member of a corporation would be, for the purposes of the clause, deemed to be the holder of an office, and in that capacity would be entitled to receive exactly the same revenue after the Act passed as he now received.
§ MR. ARTHUR J. BALFOUR
said that his hon. Friend seemed to think there might be cases in which the property of a corporation should be analogous to that held by colleges at Oxford or Cambridge, in which, in addition to the money given to the Master and Dean, and so forth, there was a certain amount of money derived from the estates of the college divided amongst the Fellows as dividends. That money was clearly not in payment for any office. The amount of salary depended upon the accidental 1782 amount, the casual amount, brought in by the estates of the college. The dividend might be £300 one year, but the next year, owing to agricultural depression, it might be £250 or £200. His hon. Friend desired to secure that if there be such divisible money apart from the definite salaries of the offices, those who had hitherto obtained it should not be debarred from receiving it. The question was whether the words of the clause carried out that object.
§ MR. ASQUITH
said, he could speak with some experience, because he was a Fellow of his college for many years, and he received very variable dividends owing to the varying conditions of agriculture. He would have been much surprised if he had been told he did not hold an office. What they proposed by the clause was that, whatever might be ascertained to be the interest at the time of the passing of the Act of any member of an ecclesiastical corporation—say of a cathedral chapter—that interest should be secured to him.
§ VISCOUNT CRANBORNE
pointed out that there was a distinction made by Sub-section (b) between the property which was appropriated to the use of any ecclesiastical office and the property which was appropriated to a cathedral corporation. The only thing which was protected was the interest of the persons holding office. Therefore, they were only protected with respect to one part of the property which was the subject of the clause; and there was another part, belonging to the cathedral corporation, in which their interests would not be protected. If the right hon. Gentleman made a distinction between one class of property and another in line 12, he must also make the distinction in line 16.
§ MR. ASQUITH
said, he did not think there would be any ambiguity; but there was some point in the noble Lord's criticism, and to make the matter perfectly clear, he would propose to insert, after the words "holding such offices," the words "or are members of such corporations."
The Amendment proposed by Mr. VICARY GIBBS was, by leave, withdrawn, and the insertion of the words proposed by Mr. ASQUITH agreed to.
§ On the question that Clause 3, as amended, stand part of the Bill,1783
§ MR. GRIFFITH-BOSCAWEN
moved the rejection of the clause. He said that the Committee had reached the stage when they could consider Disendowment apart from Disestablishment. On going into Committee he moved an Instruction that the Bill should be divided into two parts, to be discussed separately. The House did not consent to the Instruction, but the Government being determined that Disendowment must go with Disestablishment, tore from them the mask that what they were seeking was religious equality. It had been made clear that the real object was to get hold of the revenues of the Church and apply them to secular purposes. Whatever case there might be for Disestablishment, Disendowment stood upon a different footing. The fact was that hon. Members from Wales did not really care for Disestablishment except as a means to Disendowment; and the Government were not really the authors of this Bill. The authors were the extreme party in Wales who wished, not religious equality, but the chance to strike a fatal blow at the Church in Wales, now that she was advancing, and before she became too strong. He would quote the words used by the hon. Member for Carnarvon when the Bill was introduced by the Home Secretary last year. Referring to a statement of his that a large number of Nonconformists had applied to ministers of the Church of England, the hon. Member said—This proselytism in Wales was the strongest possible argument for Disestablishment and Disendowment.''In other words, because the Church was making converts and doing her work well, a fatal blow must be struck before she became too powerful, and Disestablishment became impossible. Was that a reasonable ground for the House of Commons to act upon? What would be the result if Disendowment were coupled with Disestablishment? In the first place, a new and monstrous inequality would be created. The question of Nonconformist endowments had been ruled outside the Bill, and so they could not be referred to. But the Government was proposing to take away from the Church every single penny of her endowments, except those granted since 1703, and not a single penny of the 1784 Nonconformist endowments was touched. Yet the property of the Church was given by pious Churchmen for the use of the Church just as much as the Nonconformist endowments were given by Nonconformists for the use of the Nonconformist bodies. As a proof of this, what happened last night? A proposal was made to limit the Bill only to grants.
The hon. Member must confine himself to the question that the clause stand part of the Bill, and must take the clause as it is.
§ MR. GRIFFITH-BOSCAWEN
said, that the Bill took away all the property of the Church, whether given by individuals or the State; and if the Amendment to which he was about to refer had been carried there would have been the simple declaration that only the property given by the State could be taken away by the State. This was a case of gross inequality. He was glad to know that the Nonconformists had endowments, and no one wished to take them away; but he denied the right of the Government, of the Welsh Members, or of the Nonconformists to take away the endowments of the Church in the name of religious equality. Another result of this endowment clause, as had been shown by those who knew the Church in Wales, was that there were parishes where it would be impossible to maintain a resident clergy. The other day, when that question was being discussed, the hon. Member for Mid Glamorgan made a statement to the effect that there was not, to his knowledge, a single parish in the whole of Wales which had not a regular minister, a chapel, and regular services. The South Wales Daily Star, which was published in Newport, commented on this statement, and gave a list of 60 parishes in Monmouthshire where there was no minister, chapel, or place of worship which was not in connection with the Church. He submitted that this was a very serious matter. In Monmouthshire alone there were 60 parishes, on the evidence of this newspaper, in which there was a regular service given by the Nonconformists. In a great many of those parishes it would be impossible through poverty to maintain a resident clergy. All hon. members were aware of the appeals that were being made at this time in London and elsewhere for more money to aid religious 1785 effort, to spread the light of the Gospel among the poor in the East End of London and in the coal-fields of South Wales; and yet now was the moment chosen by the Government, at the bidding of their Welsh masters, to bring a proposal forward to take away from the Church in Wales the miserable pittance it possessed and devote it to secular purposes. Who could pretend to say that, opposed to the case of the Irish Church, there was a Surplus fund? The funds of the Church were £4,000,000 less than the Irish Church after Disendownment; the number of clergy had doubled in Wales and their incomes had been decreased. The average stipend was under £200 a year. The Home Secretary had said that strong language had been used about this Bill, and especially about the disendowment part of of it. He admitted that strong language had been used; but at the same time it should be remembered that their feelings with regard to the subject were strong. The Government by this Bill were striking, for merely party purposes, at the tenderest part of poor Churchmen, and of those who knew and loved Wales. Churchmen had however established in the country a very strong organisation in defence of the Church, which was working in every parish, and which was spreading the truth about the iniquity of this Bill—an organisation which had been already brought into play, and which had done notable work at several recent by-elections. Whatever might happen in that House or elsewhere he would continue to call this portion of the Bill plunder and sacrilege.
§ MR. ELLIOTT LEES (Birkenhead)
thought that this clause was so important that it ought to be considered apart from the question of Disestablishment. Was there any man who hoped to benefit the Church by Disendowment? The Nonconformist bodies claimed that they were more fitted to exercise their spiritual functions because they were not connected with the State; but was there a representative of any Nonconformist body who would dare to get up to say that the body he represented would have been more potent and more spiritually efficient if it had been deprived of its funds? Was the property the property of the Church or of the State? It would be contended, of course, that it was the 1786 joint property of Church and State, and that when the partnership was dissolved, the State had a right to take the money which was given to the Church when Church and State were one. But could that argument hold good for one moment? When this money was given, it was not contemplated that Church and State would be divided, and it would be as reasonable to contend that money settled by a father upon the marriage of his daughter should become the property of the husband on the dissolution of the marriage without issue, as to suggest that this money should revert to the State when the union between Church and State should be dissolved. Many of them felt very strongly that these properties ought not to be devoted to secular uses. Whose image and superscription did these coins bear? They were quite ready to hand over to Cæsar's the things that were Cæsar's; but they thought that these coins were stamped with a far higher and nobler superscription. The whole force and power of this cry for Disestablishment came from a few earnest, sincere, religious men, who really believed that by dissolving the union between Church and State, they were benefiting the cause of religion. It was, of course, no use appealing to the enemies of the Church, but he did appeal to those men to vote against this clause, and he would ask them to pause and consider the grave and terrible responsibility that would lie upon them if they transferred ecclesiastical property to secular uses.
§ *MR. KENYON (Denbigh District)
said, that in his experience there were two classes of people who could not be converted—the one, ladies; the other, Welsh Radicals. The latter appeared to him to be in the position of the young man who, when his banns were being called at the parish church had to answer to the question whether there were, any just cause or impediment, "What else am I here for?'' That was what hon. Gentlemen from Wales, who sat opposite, were there for. They were compelled by their constituents to support the Disendowment of the Welsh Church. He, therefore, had no cause to complain of them. But he protested, as a Welshman who knew Wales and who loved her even better than he knew her, that this measure was not one which 1787 commended itself to the people of Wales. In saying this, he made all possible allowances to hon. Gentlemen sitting below the Gangway on the other side of the House. But, to show what he meant, he ventured to remind hon. Members that he had presented against this Bill that day two Petitions which were fairly typical. Both those places, one of which was a manufacturing town, and the other a portion of a rural district, were in his own constituency, which contained many Welsh-speaking Welshmen. The signatures attached to these Petitions amounted to upwards of 3,500, and the largest poll in the constituency was when he polled 1760 votes, and was returned by a majority of 360, so that showed that in that constituency there was a very strong feeling against the Bill, and that the people of Wales were not so entirely on one side upon this question as hon. Gentlemen opposite represented. For himself he would say that he believed Disestablishment to be the greater evil of the two that were to be inflicted on Wales by the Bill. For Disendowment, comparatively speaking, he cared little, because he knew there were plenty of good Churchmen in Wales who would be ready to come forward, if necessary, as their ancestors had done before them, to fill up the gap in the interests of the Church they loved and honoured. As he had said, he personally looked at Disestablishment as the greater evil, but if he were asked his opinion about Disendowment he must conscientiously say that if there was one species of property which ought to have been secure among the law-abiding people of Wales, whose virtues he knew and whose consistency he honoured, it should have been the property of the Church, because he was free to acknowledge that in no other part of the United Kingdom had religion so deep a seat as it had among Welshmen. He would only say further that even if the Bill was carried Welsh Churchmen and Welsh Conservatives would not despair of the future.
§ MR. C. E. TRITTON (Lambeth, Norwood)
said, that in the arrangement of the clauses of the Bill on the first page the clause under discussion was entitled "Transfer of Property." Some of them on that side of the House thought that another and a more 1788 expressive title might have been given to the clause. He ventured to think that the transfer was of the wrong kind, that it was in a down-grade direction. It was a transfer of property from religious to secular objects, but what was wanted in the conditions of the present day, with all its sins and its sorrows, was rather a transfer of property from secular to religious uses. Personally he would prefer to see the endowments of every Nonconformist body considerably augmented rather than that the endowments of the Church of England, or of any other religious body, should be decreased by a single shilling. He was convinced that there was hardly a parish in any of our great towns in which the lives of the people would not be made much happier, and their prospects rendered brighter, if only more funds were forthcoming for the enlargement of Church organisation in the parish, and for the increase of every kind of religious agency, lay and otherwise. There was no greater problem among the social problems with which we had to deal than the fact of the ever-increasing masses of people in our great cities, and never was there a time when a greater demand was made on the resources of the Church for its work among the people than at present. Yet this was the time, of all times, when the Government had thought fit to bring in a Bill to hinder and cripple the good work the Church was doing in one of the weakest parts of the United Kingdom. His reasons for supporting the Amendment of the hon. Member for the Tunbridge Division to omit Clause 3 were first, because he could not see, in spite of what the legal luminaries had said, that Parliament had any moral right whatever to alienate for secular purposes money which had been given in bygone ages for the service of the Church and the glory of God. Secondly, he supported the Amendment because he was perfectly certain that if they could take the view of the country upon this clause alone there would be a very large majority in favour of omitting it from the Bill. He had the honour and acquaintance of a very large number of Nonconformists of one denomination or another who wished to see the Church what they called separated from the trammels of the State, but he believed there were only a very small proportion 1789 who wished to see the Church Disendowed as well. They admired the work she was doing; they knew what her missions of mercy were; they recognised that she and they were comrades in one common good work; and they did not want to see her crippled or hindered in that work. He was talking to the wife of an ex-Radical Member, a most intelligent lady, as he was sure the wife of an ex-Radical Member must necessarily be. Poor thing; she had suffered from a transfer of property which was not altogether agreeable to her; in other words, on her way home in the omnibus she had had her pocket picked and her purse removed. In order to turn her mind from her sad plight, he asked her what she thought of the Bill for the Disendowment of the Church in Wales. She spoke in the most fervid way, with a torrent of words, and finished by saying that this House of Parliament had no more right to take away the property of the Church than the expert had to relieve her of her property on her way home in the omnibus. He ventured to think there were a large number of earnest, pious Nonconformists who agreed entirely with the views of the wife of the ex-Radical Member of Parliament.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
This clause isolates in a convenient manner one of the most important aspects of the Bill which we have now been discussing for four or five nights. I confess that the practical aspects of Disendowment have always impressed me even more powerfully than the practical aspects of Disestablishment. In that impression I believe I differ from many gentlemen who agree with me upon the general views I hold with regard to this Bill, but the view I take upon that subject is so strong that I should not be candid if I did not give it on this occasion full expression. We have suffered in all the previous discussions we have had upon this measure from the fact that the question of Disendowment has been mixed up with every kind of historical and antiquarian investigation. We have been asked by one speaker after another to look into the origin of tithes and into the precise effect which the changes which took place at the Reformation have upon the tenure of ecclesiastical property, and upon the 1790 title by which the Church holds the property which she does hold. It is a consolation to me to reflect that all these questions may be dismissed in discussing this clause, Nor is it necessary or relevant, or even in order, to discuss what is the precise character of the advantages which the State derives from its connection with the Church, or which the Church derives from its connection with the State. The simple and solitary question which we have to determine to-night is, whether it is consistent with our public duty to deprive a Christian denomination of four millions of money. I do not think I lack sympathy for opinions that differ from mine. I think I am able in most cases to put myself in the position of those who differ from me, even when the differences that divide us are very great; but I have never been able, and I cannot now put myself in the position of either a Churchman or a Nonconformist who believes that the truths which the Church teaches are great truths, necessary truths, truths which it is of the utmost importance to teach—I cannot, I say, put myself in the position of a man who holds those views and, at the same time, holds the opinion that the great body on which the duty of impressing those doctrines on the people rests ought to be deprived of the funds by which, among other secular instruments, it carries on the great work which has been confided to it. The men who with good, though mistaken, motives are attempting to carry this out are men who believe as strongly as I do that the Christianity which the Church teaches is a Christianity which ought to be taught. They are men who must hold as strongly as I do that you cannot carry on any work, religious or secular, in these days without that necessary machinery which Nonconformists themselves are as much obliged to employ as Churchmen are, How, in these circumstances, Nonconformists can reconcile it to their consciences to deprive the Church of its funds I have never been able to understand. The Member for the Denbigh Boroughs has told us that the money which this Bill will take away from the Church will be replaced by the loyalty and public spirit of Churchmen. I hope it may be as he says; but it is not easy, as those who have been engaged in charitable work 1791 know full well, to find four millions. Wales is not a rich country. How are you going to find that sum there? You will have to go far beyond the borders of Wales if you are going to obtain anything like the sum required, and the money which, from the loyalty of Churchmen outside Wales, you may be able to get to carry on the work of the Church must, necessarily, will almost certainly, be withdrawn from other works almost as necessary, almost as desirable, and having almost as great claims upon the attention of Christian men. Let any Nonconformist put to his conscience this question. If he admits, as I think he will, that the work done by the Church in Wales is Christian work, if he will put out of his mind all this controversy about the origin of tithes, all the metaphysics of Disestablishment, and if he will ask himself the simple question whether he would like to deprive a Christian body of the means of carrying out its Christian work, means which, by the admission of every human being, are being used for the best purposes, then I think he will realise exactly what it is he is voting for when he goes into the Lobby in support of the clause we are now discussing. For that is the plain and simple issue before us. My own mind is so clear upon the subject that I find it difficult to persuade, myself that there can be any Nonconformist, whatever may be his views on Disestablishment, which is a far more difficult question, admitting of far greater differences of opinion—I find it difficult to understand how, holding the views which he does about religion and about the religious work done at this moment by the Church in Wales, he can reconcile it to his conscience to vote for this clause. To all those who are now determining deliberately—I will not say to commit sacrilege, I will not say to rob the Church, I will use no word implying criminality in the slightest degree—but who, I will say, are determining to deprive the Church of means which she is using well for an avowedly great object—an object which the great mass of Members in this House believe to be an object that ought to be effected—to all those I leave it to reconcile it to their consciences how they can vote with the "Ayes" when you, Sir, put this question from the Chair. 1792 I, for my part, have never given a vote in this House with more absolute confidence that I was speaking in favour of the right, that I was speaking in favour of the highest public morality and of the cause of the public good—I have never given a vote with more confidence than I shall give my vote to-night to preserve to the Church that 4,000,000 of money which she has used well, which she is using well, and which I am confident she will every day use for better and for higher purposes.
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF TRADE (Mr. J. BRYCE,) Aberdeen, S.
said, it would be hardly respectful to the right hon. Gentleman if what he had said was allowed to pass without a few words from his side of the House, though he thought that a very few words might be enough. He was glad that the right hon. Gentleman had refrained from any reflection on the motives of those who were going to vote for this clause. He would admit for a moment that the historical question was an indifferent question, and he would not tread again the well-worn path they trod on the Second Reading of the Bill. It was quite impossible for those on his side of the House, holding the views they did as to the origin of these Endowments, to deal with them on the same footing as they were prepared to deal with private benefactions given to the Church; but he wished rather to say a word on the more general question. The right hon. Gentleman asked them why they deprived the Church of these endowments. They could not consistently with the principles they held continue to leave the Church of England in the possession of endowments which they believed were property originally given by and still and always under the control of the nation. But he would meet the right hon. Gentleman on the ground he had taken up. He had put it to the House that it was an injury to the religious work the Church of England was doing to deprive her of these endowments, and he put it as if Churches could not live without such endowments. Surely there must be many within whose knowledge it was that many of the most successful and most useful Churches, in which there beat the strongest pulse of living spiritual life, had no endowments whatever.
§ MR. BALFOUR
I did not say that the Church could not live without these endowments. I said that this Bill deprives the Church of £4,000,000 which was being well spent on the purposes of religion.
§ MR. BRYCE
Yes; but surely part of the right hon. Gentleman's argument was that the Church would be less strong when she was deprived of these endowments. He entirely dissented from this proposition. There was some great misconception on this point. Many of the largest and most successful Churches did not possess anything at all in the way of parochial endowments. He could speak for one of the most successful Dissenting communities in this country, the Congregationalists, and he could say that they had very little in the way of parochial endowments. He could say the same of one of the greatest and most efficient and vigorous Churches, the Unestablished Church of Scotland, and he knew that that was true of the voluntary Churches of the United States and the British Colonies. What endowments they had were almost entirely endowments for the education of clergymen; but no endowments directed to parochial purposes had superseded the duty discharged by the members of those denominations of contributing out of their weekly, monthly, or yearly incomes to the support of the ordinances of religion, and he was prepared to say that a Church was not the less likely to be energetic and active and useful in her spiritual work when she existed on the free-will offerings given by her worshippers. He was inclined to believe that that was the most healthy condition for a Church, that she succeeded more fully when her life depended on the contributions of her worshippers than when she was living on gifts and benefactions. Whether he looked at the principle or at the experience of the unendowed Churches of this and other countries in which religion flourished, he came to the conclusion that no such bad results as the right hon. Gentleman and many hon. Members on the other side of the House, he had no doubt with perfect sincerity, anticipated would follow from taking these endowments from the Church of England. And he was confirmed in that opinion by what had happened in the case of 1794 the Disestablished Church in Ireland. He believed that the stimulus given to spiritual life in the Protestant Episcopalian Church of Ireland had more than compensated for anything it had lost by Disestablishment and Disendowment; and he should be much deceived if the anticipations which were now formed as to the Church in Wales were not realised, and if it did not turn out that its life and energy was greater in the future than they had ever been in the past, and that she would have no cause to regret the vote the House was about to give.
§ MR. SAMUEL HOARE (Norwich)
said, he had not spoken on this Bill, as he had been engaged on other important duties, but he desired at this moment to say a few words on this, which was one of the most serious questions raised by the Bill. They were going to decide perhaps the most important point in the Bill; and he desired to speak, not simply as a member of the Opposition, not simply as a Churchman, but as one who earnestly desired to see Christianity flourishing in this country. He had heard no argument adduced which could satisfy the conscience that they were right in voting away money which had been given for the service of the Church and of God to other purposes than those for which it had been given. He implored the House to hesitate before it transferred money given for a specific object, and that the greatest object to which money could be given, and handed it over to any other object that could be devised by man. Last Sunday they were asked in the churches to contribute to support the work of the Church in the vast diocese of London. What would they think if it were proposed that the money collected last Sunday should be devoted to baths and washhouses, or handed over to the tender mercies of the London County Council? And why should they treat money given by those who had gone before with more indifference than they would treat that given last Sunday? They must have regard not only to the work which as Churchmen they were endeavouring to do in this country, but also to the great tide of evil and wickedness which rested with us as in all other countries. How would the common work against that 1795 evil be strengthened if this money were taken away from that portion of the Church which existed in Wales? It was like removing the best equipped ship from a fleet in the face of a common enemy. Why was this attack directed against the Church in Wales? Was it because it was the weakest part of the Church of England? If the attack was to be made at all, it should have been made against the Church in England, whose members resented an attack upon the the weakest portion in Wales. Churchmen earnestly desired to work in harmony with Nonconformists, whom they met, sometimes as opponents, but more often as friends in efforts to spread the influences of Christianity. He would ask hon. Members opposite, some members of the Church and some not, did they think they would be promoting the cause they had at heart if by their vote they weakened the greatest power for good which we had in this country? This was a serious night for the House, because we in this country professed an earnest desire to do all we could to promote the good of the people and to elevate the social condition of the working classes. It was acknowledged that, although the Church might have its shortcomings, yet it had been a great power for good. The House were asked at a critical, anxious time for all who loved their country, and were anxious for the welfare of their poor, to deprive one of their strongest and greatest powers of a vast amount of that influence which it might have for good. The Church would be a vast influence for good whatever might be done, but for the House to deprive such a power of any influence or strength it might have must be, indeed, a serious matter for the House, for the State, and for the country. Before they went into the Division Lobby he asked hon. Gentlemen opposite, whether they were Churchmen or not, to hesitate before they became parties to voting away money given for the use of the Church and no other purposes whatever. Let the House take as its motto, when dealing with money given to religious bodies for the good of religion, for the highest interests of the people, what occurred in 1796 the Lesson for the Day last Sunday and—Render unto Cæsar the things that are Cæsar's, and unto God the things that are God's.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 192; Noes 174.—(Division List, No. 97.)
§ It being Midnight, the Chairman left the Chair to make his report to the House.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again on Monday next.