HC Deb 10 June 1896 vol 41 cc781-810

(1.) No transfer of a right of patronage shall be valid which does not transfer the whole right of the transferor.

(2.) (a.) In the event of a transfer or transmission of a right of patronage of a benefice after the passing of this Act, the right of presentation thereto shall not (except as hereinafter provided) be exercised for one year after such transfer or transmission by the person to whom such right of patronage has been transferred or transmitted, and (except as hereinafter provided) any presentation made by any such person within that period, and any institution in pursuance thereof shall be void.

(b.) A transfer of a right of patronage made within one year after the institution of an incumbent to the benefice to which the right of patronage relate shall be void.

(c.) The right of presentation to a benefice which becomes vacant within one year after a transfer or transmission of the right of patronage thereof shall (subject as next hereinafter provided) be exercised by Her Majesty.

(d.) Provided that, if within three months after a benefice has become vacant under the circumstances aforesaid, the bishop of the diocese in which the benefice is situated shall, on the application (to be made in the prescribed manner) of the person to whom, but for this sub-section, the right of patronage of the said benefice would belong, and after having considered the circumstances of the case, certify in the prescribed form that the said right of patronage may be properly exercised by the said person, it shall be lawful for such person to present to the said benefice, and institution in pursuance of such presentation shall be valid.

(e.) Provided also that this sub-section shall not apply in the case of a transmission by devise or on death or of a transfer to a public patron.

(3.) When on a transfer or agreement for transfer of any right of patronage provision is made directly or indirectly for the postponement of the payment of the consideration, or any part thereof, until a vacancy, or for more than three calendar months after such transfer or agreement, or for payment of interest until a vacancy, or for more than three calendar months after such transfer or agreement, or for payment of compensation, or for any pecuniary or valuable allowance in respect of the date at which a vacancy shall occur, the transfer or agreement, and any transfer in pursuance of such agreement, shall be void, and any institution and induction in pursuance thereof shall be void if the person instituted or inducted has been party or privy to the transaction. Provided always that this sub-section shall not prejudice the title of a subsequent transferee in good faith and without notice.

(4.) It shall not be lawful hereafter—

  1. (a.) to charge or encumber any right of patronage;
  2. (b.) to transfer any right of patronage by means of a public auction;
and any such charge, incumbrance, or transfer shall be void.

And which Amendment was, in subsection (b), instead of the words "one year," omitted, to insert the words "nine months."—(Viscount Cranborne.)

Question again proposed, "That the words 'nine months' be there inserted."

Debate resumed.


said his hon. Friend the Member for Flint Boroughs (Mr. HERBERT LEWIS), intended, if "nine months" was defeated, to move that "five years" should take the place of 12 months. He admitted that the evil with which the Bill designed to deal was a very serious one. The evil was a mournful and peculiar difficulty in religious life, but he did not think that any Bill of that kind would go to the root of the matter. Their object, and the object of the opposition to this Amendment was to make it clear that in their opinion it would not deal effectively with the evil. Neither did he think that it would be possible to frame a Bill of this kind which would deal effectively with the whole evil. The evil was too deep-seated to be reached by any Bill of this kind. It required something very much more drastic—in fact, the transforming of the whole system of the Church of England—before they could reach the scandal of the sale of livings. So far as they could they should only be too glad to do it. He thought the term of nine months was totally inadequate. It would supply no check on the evils complained of. Undoubtedly underlying this kind of patronage it was natural that a wealthy man interested in it should have views as to the choosing of the clergyman who was to take the care of the spiritual wants of the parish. The necessary condition of that was a man should be there, not for nine months, but for a longer period, so that he might gain a personal knowledge of the wants of a locality and gain its sympathies. What safeguard would nine months be when applied to the state of things existing?

MR. JAMES LOWTHER (Kent, Thanet)

said the hon. Member who had just sat down had opened up a vast subject which he, for one, was scarcely able to discuss. Apparently, not content with the drastic provisions of the Bill, he would press it still further. He was quite aware that there were many who were of opinion that these matters of ecclesiastical benefices should never have been made the subject of private contract. He could not imagine a more valuable boon to the advocates of Disestablishment than to be told that the right of patronage was an article which never should have been allowed to be bought or sold, and that the possessor had no claim to consideration. This would reduce to an absolute nullity rights conferred in past times by Parliament, and confirmed by various statutes. In all attempts hitherto made to deal with the question of ecclesiastical property, he believed it had been universally recognised that this was a legal right, a vested interest, which any reformer was bound to recognise and which he must heed. ["Hear, hear!"] Now, this Amendment would make presentation in a vast number of cases a matter of impossibility on the part of patrons. They would interpose five years before the owner could arrive at an authority which he had purchased. They had no right to do that without adequate compensation. What compensation did the hon. Member propose to attach to his scheme? ["Hear, hear!"] His noble Friend overlooked this important question of compensation likewise in the original draft of the Bill, but this Amendment rendered still more clear the omission of the framers of the Bill, but the hon. Member assumed responsibility for abolishing it altogether, for he imposed conditions which rendered the right valueless for all time to come. What was the proposal to which they were asked to give their assent? They were asked, practically, to abolish a right and privilege which Parliament had hitherto religiously preserved. This right would be seriously interfered with by this Bill. Parliament had on many occasions preserved that right. Those of them who remembered—he did for one—the passage of the Measure for the sale of small livings in the gift of the Lord Chancellor, would recollect that not one syllable was said throughout all those discussions, so far as he recollected, as to the transfer of the right of patronage requiring safeguarding, as the hon. Member now invited them to do. Parliament perpetuated, protected, and enlarged the very practice which his noble Friend now proposed to deal with. That was a proposition to which he could not for a moment make himself a party—that Parliament was unwise, that Parliament was guilty of negligence in recognising and encouraging this system. They were asked to say that the spirit which guided Parliament in former days was, in their opinion, an unwise one; that Parliament had hitherto been moving in the wrong groove, and that vested interests was a thing that ought to go unprotected by law. If funds had been provided he could understand it, but that had not been done. This Bill brought forward by, forsooth, the special guardians of the Church of England, amounted to the deletion of the eighth commandment from the decalogue. He thought it outrageous as well as unusual that they should propose to take away these vested rights in property which had been purchased without any compensation whatever. He could not imagine any hon. Member identifying himself with such a scheme of confiscation as this was. He hoped they would look ahead to where this scheme was leading them. ["Hear, hear!"] It must lead to the Disestablishment of the Church. He must say the Measure under discussion brought them into very dangerous proximity to arguments which might be used with powerful effect in favour of a proposal of that kind. He did not want to go back to the old controversies over the Irish Church, throughout which the justice of compensation was admitted, but this was a new step. They were asked to accept this proposal without any compensation of any kind. In the discussion which took place a week ago, an appeal was made to rush the Bill through. On what grounds did his noble Friend make such an appeal? [Laughter.]


Order, order! The question is whether nine months should be inserted instead of 12 months. ["Hear, hear!"]


said he should confine himself to considering how far the Amendment submitted by the hon. Member would go to render absolutely ridiculous and non-existent proprietary rights.


Order, order! There is no proposal before the House except that nine months be there inserted.


said he would confine himself to the point. He ventured to think that the concession which his noble Friend had made was wholly illusory. He should join his noble Friend in deprecating the granting facilities for dealing in any corrupt practice whatever in Church property. He had had a great many voluminous letters from beneficed clergymen on this subject, and it was on this proposition of 12 months on which great stress was laid in many of the letters, and they almost, one and all, complained of this arbitrary settlement of the number of months in that particular Amendment. His noble Friend was keeping the House entirely in the dark, for he was, according to his own statement, giving the House of Commons no reason whatever for proposing this Amendment. He had made observations on a good many subjects——


Order, order! I hope the hon. Gentleman will confine himself to the Amendment. [Cheers.]


said he should take another opportunity of dealing with that particular matter. In conclusion, the right hon. Gentleman said his point was this—that, according to all information before them, without any valid ground, they were asked to interfere with and hamper rights which had been acknowledged by the State, which had existed for centuries—rights which, on the whole, had been exercised with great advantage to the Church and the nation. ["Hear, hear!"]


, who was received with cries of "Oh!" from those near him, and whom he rebuked, said that he was bound to point out that they were rather in a tangle with regard to this Amendment. In order to show this he should read the clause, as amended by the nine months Amendment. The hon. Member was proceeding to read the clause, when


called him to order. The hon. Member was not justified in taking up the time of the House by reading the whole clause.


said he took it that the object of the clause in avoiding the exercise of the right of patronage for a particular period was clearly to prevent a second transfer of a bogus character—some immoral bargain of a simoniacal kind. That being clearly the object of the clause, he urged that the course proposed was not the way to attain it. ["Hear, hear!"] The period of nine months would not suffice for the voidance of such a bargain—for the voidance to be effectual the period should be longer. If the clause had been proper in itself, he should have been disposed to take a longer period. He could not understand why the period of nine months should have been chosen, but he could conceive the period of six months being fixed upon. Since the Bill had been brought in he had been endeavouring to acquire a little ecclesiastical and sacerdotal knowledge, and on this question of period he had consulted that celebrated book entitled "Doctor and Student." In that book it was shown that six months was an adopted period in the law and usage of the Church in this matter, and had been so for more than 300 years. The period of nine months was wrong in every way. From one point of view it was too short, and, from another point of view it was, in his opinion, too long. But he had a far larger objection to the Amendment than this, which was that it involved an unwarrantable interference with the rights of property, the validity of which had always been acknowledged. To enact a voidance during nine months, as proposed, merely on an assumption that an immoral bargain had been made, and without any facts alleged or stated, was a serious interference with property. If they deprived a man for nine months of the right of disposing of his property, they took something away from that property—["hear, hear!"]—and he must say that he was surprised that in the circumstances such a proposal should have come from the noble Lord the Member for Rochester. He could only repeat that the clause was altogether mischievous, and even if the clause were good in itself, he thought the Amendment of the noble Lord would undo part of the work the clause was intended to do. Moreover, he submitted that on the whole the clause involved an interference with property such as the House ought not to permit. ["Hear, hear!"]

* MR. HARRY FOSTER (Suffolk, Lowestoft)

said he should not have risen to speak but for the fact that the Amendment had been moved by the noble Lord as a concession on the point of period to a number of hon. Members who were deeply interested in the Bill, and it was only fair to the promoters of the Bill to say that the concession was regarded as very important. One result of the concession would be that the whole of Subsection (a) of the clause (Clause 1) would disappear, as he had himself proposed earlier. In these circumstances he should feel bound to support the noble Lord in the Division Lobby. He might remind the House that when the matter in its original form was before the Standing Committee, the Members were evenly divided in opinion as between the periods of six months and 12 months, and it was only by the casting vote of the Chairman that the longer period of 12 months, and not the shorter one of six months was decided upon. The effect of the Amendment, as he understood it, would be that in case of voidance, the transferor would have to hand back the money, the right of patronage reverting to him as the owner of the advowson.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes, 112; Noes, 55.—(Division List, No. 228.)


moved, in Sub-section (b), after the word "relates," to insert "such transfer or transmission."

MR. J. CALDWELL (Lanark, Mid)

thought the point had arrived when they might ask whether the clause was competent or not. It seemed to him that as it stood it was an absurdity.


said that if they could understand how the clause would really read now, it might relieve their difficulty.


thought the Amendment was clear enough, though it was, perhaps, rather clumsily expressed.

Amendment agreed to.


moved to leave out Sub-section (c)

Amendment agreed to.


moved to leave out Subsection (d). The Amendment, he said, was purely consequential.

MR. HERBERT ROBERTS (Denbighshire, W.)

did not see that Sub-section (d) had anything to do with Sub-section (a), and he proposed to move the omission of Sub-section (d) in order to substitute another sub-section.


said that if Sub-section (d) was struck out, the hon. Member's Amendment would then be in order.


pointed out that Sub-section (d) referred to "circumstances aforesaid" in Sub-section (a), which had been struck out, and therefore Sub-section (d) was meaningless.


did not think that was quite correct; but all this only showed that the further they got into the Bill the less they understood it. If an incumbent died, there would be a vacancy not provided for.


said there might be a vacancy in the patronage, but not in the incumbency. Sub-section (a) forbade appointment within a year after transfer.


said, as matters stood, the transfer would be void, and their desire to prevent collusion would be defeated. The patronage would revert to the original owner, who would exercise it by making another appointment.

MR. SAMUEL EVANS (Glamorgan, Mid)

asked if the transferor felt himself in honour bound to adhere to the bargain he had made, although the legal effect of the transmission might be voided, who was to present to the benefice?


ruled that Sub-section (d) must follow the fate of Sub-section (a).

Sub-section (d) accordingly struck out.


moved a proviso to the effect that, if the right of presentation had to be exercised within nine months, the Bishop of the diocese should certify, in prescribed form, that the right could be properly exercised. This would devolve upon the Bishop the duty of making inquiries.


said this matter could be dealt with in Clause 8. There was no longer any limitation on the right of the patron to present, whatever transfer might have taken place.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


moved to amend Sub-section (e) by omitting the words "devise or on." He said the object of the Sub-section was to prevent a person who had the right of patronage transferring or transmitting within nine months after the institution of an incumbent to a benefice. The object of the Amendment was to prevent a patron from selling to a person who had become his incumbent. A similar objection applied to the case of a person in extremis transmitting the right of presentation.

MR. A. C. CRIPPS (Gloucester, Stroud)

said that the effect of the Amend- ment would be to put an intestacy in a more favourable position than a will.


thought the Amendment unnecessary.

Question put: "That the words 'devise or on' stand part of the Bill.

The House divided:—Ayes, 136; Noes, 61.—(Division List, No. 229.)


moved to insert the words "or bankruptcy" after the word "death."

Amendment agreed to.


moved an Amendment extending the application of the provisions relating to the right of presentation in the event of a transfer of a right of patronage to the case of a transfer to a public patron as well as in the case of a transfer to a private patron. He saw no reason why a public patron should be treated exceptionally. A public functionary who was a Roman Catholic was debarred by Statute from exercising the right of presentation to a Church of England living, and consequently the right must devolve upon somebody else who ought not to be relieved from the restrictions imposed by this clause. He did not understand why the same precautions should not be taken against the misuse of patronage by a public patron, as were to be taken against misuse by a private individual.


explained that the public patron had been excepted from the operation of the clause because the promoters of the Bill conceived that a public patron as defined in the Measure would be incapable of making the corrupt bargains which it was desired to prevent. However, he did not think it worth while to oppose the Amendment.

Amendment agreed to.


moved to strike out Sub-section (3). He said that to many of the provisions of the sub-section he had no objection, but there were one or two most unfortunate inclusions in it. In agreements for the sale of advowsons there was ordinarily a clause providing without any corrupt motive for the payment of interest in the event of there being delay after the date named for the completion of the transaction—and delay might arise from complication of title or in consequence of the illness of either the vendor or purchaser. Under Sub-section 3, however, the insertion of this customary and reasonable proviso in an agreement would render the whole transaction void, and he held that that was undesirable. Collusive agreements ought of course to be guarded against, and he had a subsequent Amendment on the Paper dealing with that.


said that the sub-section was absolutely necessary, in order to prevent collusive agreements. To alter the clause materially would be to render it nugatory. People ought not to be able to effect the purpose which the sub-section was intended to prevent them from effecting by simply postponing the completion of a bargain for a sufficiently long time.

MR. COURTENAY WARNER (Stafford, Lichfield)

objected to the requirement of the clause that the payment must be made within three months, for it would prohibit payment by instalments, which was a common practice.


observed that what the sub-section purported to do was to prevent any postponement of the payment of the consideration beyond three months, the object being to do away with illusory bargains. The subsection itself, however, would be illusory. Let them consider the following case: A sold B an advowson. Under the sub-section B must pay the whole of the purchase money within three months, and if he did not do so, the transfer and agreement would be void. But B could go and borrow the money from C, and pay the whole of it directly to A. How, then, would this sub-section do away with illusory or collusive bargains between the vendors and purchasers of advowsons? This clause was an illustration of the difficulty of dealing with this matter, arising as it did from the fact that the right of presentation to advowsons was looked upon as the right of property.


thought that the section was perfectly illusory. The noble Lord opposite was trying to blow hot and cold, to treat the right of patronage as property, while at the same time treating it as a trust. They could not combine the two things.


said that the object of the clause was apparently not understood by the previous speaker. It was desired that they should not have sales of advowsons with a view to a vacancy, the completion of which was to lie in abeyance until a vacancy had been brought about. There would be no objection to the purchaser borrowing money somewhere else in order to enable him to pay. When a man purchased an advowson, it was not a purchase to be completed at once. The earlier words of the section spoke for themselves. Provision was made that the postponement of the consideration of the vacancy for six months should be forbidden. Likewise it was thought that provision should be made prohibiting postponement of the payment consideration for more than three months, because it was plain that the postponement might be used as an engine for delay to get the vacancy arranged. Then the sub-section went on to provide against the provision for the payment of interest until the vacancy, or for more than three months after such transfer or agreement. The purchase money was not paid over at once, but it was lodged in the names of two trustees—one for the vendor and one for the vendee—with the provision that until the vacancy had taken place, the interest should be paid to the purchaser, so that the purchaser retained the use of the money until the vacancy had been brought about. Then the sub-section went on to provide against any provision for payment of compensation or for any pecuniary or valuable allowance in respect of the date of the vacancy. If the House allowed an agreement of this kind, with a provision that there was to be an abatement of price if a vacancy did not take place at an early date, they would render all the enactments of this part of the Bill absolutely nugatory. Unless this sub-section was carried, this portion of the Measure might have to be withdrawn altogether.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

On the return of Mr. SPEAKER after the usual interval,

* MR. CARVELL WILLIAMS (Notts, Mansfield)

rose to move, after "for" to insert the words "any money payment or."

MR. STUART-WORTLEY (Sheffield, Hallam)

rose to order. He understood that the effect of the Amendment of the hon. Gentleman would be to prohibit any money payment in connection with the transfer of the right of patronage. Such a proposal was, he thought inconsistent with the portion of the clause that had been passed, which enacted the transfer of the right of patronage including, as he held, the power of alienation for money's worth.


I do not think the Amendment is out of order. The word "transfer" in the clause as passed does not necessarily mean a transfer by sale. It may mean a transfer for other than a money consideration. I think the hon. Member is in order.


said the Bill as it stood prohibited the deferred payment of a sum of money for the purchase of a right of patronage, but it did not prohibit what he might call, in commercial phraseology, "payment by cash down." The effect of his Amendment was to prohibit all payments whatever in connection with the transfer of patronage rights. The object he had in view was to raise the question whether, by means of the Bill, Parliament should not altogether prohibit the sale of livings in the Church, or whether it was prepared to give a fresh impetus to the traffic by maintaining it under new conditions. He had seen the Bill described in a Church journal as a great measure of reform, which would render the Church impregnable against the assaults of its enemies, or its supposed enemies. There could not be a greater exaggeration. Nothing was gained by prohibiting sales by auction. Such sales were now very rare, being made almost impossible by the changed state of public opinion. He remembered that when the hon. Member for North Islington brought in the Church Patronage Bill of 1894, he expressed himself as greatly disgusted by the appearance of advertisements in public journals descriptive of the advantages accruing to the purchasers of certain livings; but if Members looked down the columns of The Times they would see such advertisements appearing every week in connection, not only with the sale of next presentations, but with the sale of advowsons also. He had taken the trouble to go through that most painfully suggestive publication The Church Patronage Gazette, and in a single number he found the advertisements for the sale of advowsons to be far more numerous than those for the sale of next presentations. That was a fair sample of the mode in which the traffic was carried on, and when the Bill passed, so far as the larger portion of Church livings were concerned, it would continue as heretofore. He did not intend to trouble the House with opinions of his own in condemnation of what he ventured to call this odious system. He would give a single statement—the latest he had met with in relation to the subject. No man in England, he supposed, had had more to do with the preparation of the Bill than Mr. Chancellor Dibden. In his recent charge to the Church wardens of the diocese of Durham, Mr. Dibden invited consideration of the position of a rector or a vicar of a parish, how he was the authority for religious training, how he was God's ambassador to preach the Gospel, to administer the sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion, to visit the sick, to comfort the dying, to teach the young, to set an example to all. It did not need much argument to convince us that for a man to pay hard cash to occupy this position must be wrong. Our moral sense revolts against making a matter of bargain and sale of the cure of men's souls. ["Hear, hear!"] But how did the Chancellor reconcile those views with his advocacy of this Bill, and the part he had taken in the preparation of the Measure? His own vindication was that he drew a distinction, and that there was an obvious and wide distinction between the parson's place and the patron's place; that it was one thing to nominate another man for institution to the cure of souls and another thing for a man to purchase a cure of souls for himself. No doubt that was a true distinction, but where was the true moral distinction between the right to present oneself, and the right acquired by cash payment for the right to present another man? He was quite aware that the promoters of the Bill had sought to put as many obstacles as they could in the way of improper transfers of right; but they had only to look back at the past history of this question, to satisfy themselves that all the provisions that ingenuity could devise would not prevent the carrying on of such traffic so long as the right of presentation to livings in the Church was as much a marketable commodity as lands, houses, ships, or cattle. Lawyers and clerical agents had beaten legislation before, and their artifices would be successful if the Bill passed in its present form. He was greatly surprised last Wednesday to hear a Member from the Benches opposite say that so long as the presentee was not an unfit person, it did not matter who presented him to the benefice. He was quite sure that most pious, thoughtful members of the Church would repudiate that doctrine. The noble Lord, in the previous stage of the Bill, startled the Committee one day by saying that any blackguard in England, if he happened to be a Church patron, could choose the minister of religion for a particular parish. Such a patron would not disappear under the Bill: he would remain, with his right of presentation, and could sell, or transfer, or bequeath it to his son, who might be a greater reprobate than himself. It was said, however, that no person, whatever his personal character, could present anyone who was not a duly ordained minister of the Church, and therefore to be assumed to be a proper person; but it was everyone's experience that within this general qualification there was room for much diversity of opinion as to fitness. A clergyman might be fit for one parish but very unfit for another, and so it happened that often the ecclesiastically square man was thrust into the round hole, and the ecclesiastically round man into the square hole. Members opposite, and he was quite sure sincerely, expressed themselves as anxious to get rid of scandals in connection with private patronage in the Church, and so was he; the only difference between them being as to the means to be adopted to reach that desired end. He was in favour of a more decisive and thorough method of dealing with the subject. The root of all these scandals lay in the fact that these rights were marketable. They might draw subtle, and sometimes sophistical distinctions between the sale of next presentations and the sale of advowsons outright, and such distinctions might serve to convince Members of the House, but they carried no conviction to the mass of men outside. In that charge, to which he had already alluded, Mr. Dibden said he thought it would be a good thing if the sale of patronage were altogether abolished; so he was with this Amendment, or its object. Why not then abolish all sales? He gave some reasons and the reasons were urged in Committee. Mr. Dibden said that half a loaf was better than no bread, but if the bread were poisoned, better have none of it. Again, it was said the abolition must come sooner or later. Then why not sooner? They had waited a whole generation for this Bill—the last of a series of 15 on this subject. Were they to wait for another generation, and another long series of Bills, for what Mr. Dibden admitted to be a desirable consummation? Another objection to the Amendment would probably be that the sale of advowsons was essential to the maintenance of private patronage in the Church of England, and that objection had force with some Churchmen. But what did it mean? It meant that a few comparatively wealthy individuals had the right to nominate clergymen, to the disregard of the wishes of the great mass of the people. The existing system was not worth the sacrifice, and a large number of Churchmen would abolish the traffic to-morrow if they could. He supposed it would be useless for him to attempt to urge on the promoters of the Bill that, having gone so far on the right road, they should take a bold stride and reach the end of the journey. They would then be on firm ground, and be saved much disappointment at the failure of the Bill, if carried in its present form. But, whatever course they might take, the Division on the Amendment would show who in that House dared defend the present system, and who, on the other hand had resolved that they would be no party to a system which had brought back the money changers into the Temple, and had made good men grieve and bad men blaspheme. [''Hear, hear!"]


congratulated the hon. Gentleman on his effort to assist him in passing this Bill. He had watched the hon. Gentleman's course in politics for many years; he had always professed himself to be earnest for reforms, but whenever an effort had been made to secure a reform he had been one of those who had used his voice and high position to arrest the reform and not to assist it. He quite understood the hon. Gentleman's object. He did not try to stop the Bill by sheer argument, but by Parliamentary methods with which they were all familiar. The hon. Gentleman professed, both in the House and in the Grand Committee, that, although he did not think the Bill went far enough, as far as it went it met his views. From that point of view he ought to do his utmost to pass this stage of the Bill and not to arrest it. They had no right whatever to take away the whole property in the right of patronage in this country. The fact was that the distinction to which the hon. Gentleman referred, which was so ably made by Chancellor Dibden, was a real distinction between buying an incumbency and buying the right of patronage. Buying an incumbency had already been considered corrupt, and that was what they intended to stop, but to buy the right of patronage was not corrupt. It was bought for successive presentations, which, to a large extent excluded the idea that it was bought in order to present a particular person. They recognised that a number of persons might be engaged in buying patronage who were in no sense corrupt persons, and who ought not to be deprived of the legitimate rights which by the law of England they were entitled to. Moreover, if they forbade the sale of patronage altogether they would have extreme difficulty in the adjustment of patronage. If a man became hopelessly corrupt or bankrupt or hopelessly poor, it might be most important for the sake of the neighbourhood he should be able to part with his right of patronage. The hon. Member did not go far enough, because, if he forbade the right of patronage, he ought to forbid the alienation of it on any terms. From all points of view the Amendment was impolitic, and he earnestly hoped the House would not accept it.


said he saw no reason why his hon. Friend should be scolded by the noble Lord for proposing a reform which had recommended itself to many Churchmen. By the law of the country the Church of England had to come to Parliament to get reforms of this nature, and he certainly dissociated himself from any persons who put any obstacles in the way of the Church of England getting the reforms she desired. He would never be a party to obstructing the Church, but this was not an obstructive Amendment. The noble Lord struck a distinction with which everybody was familiar, between the sale of advowsons and of next presentations. But the sale of advowsons carried with it the right of next presentation—the greater included the less, and anyone who had any practical experience must know perfectly well that the sale of advowsons were as corrupt as the sale of next presentations. If any distinction was to be struck between the two, it would be necessary to adopt the course which, he believed, had recommended itself to many prelates of the Church of England, and that was that the sale of advowsons should be prohibited unless appended to some large estate of a greater or smaller extent, according as the House might determine. The real difficulty in the matter was where the compensation was to come in. The fact was that this House had the most sacrosanct ideas about property, and considered that even corruption gave a good title. It was supposed that patrons would insist upon being compensated, and that the House would be ready to give it. Reference had been made to the moneychangers who had been turned out of the Temple. He believed there were hon. Gentlemen opposite who would have given those money-changers compensation—[laughter]—for he had little doubt that if an inquiry had been held before the Sanhedrim, it would have been found that all those persons had paid through the nose—through the Jewish nose—[laughter]—for the privilege of having stalls in the Temple. However, Gentlemen opposite need not waste much sympathy on the hard case of the moneychangers, for he had small doubt that they all reappeared the next day and carried on business as merrily as before their eviction. The noble Lord, the Member for Rochester knew perfectly well that in the purer and better days of the Church, the transactions they had in mind were considered corrupt, and that it was only in later and worse times that these sales had received the sanction of the law, whereby people were allowed to sell the right of presentation to a spiritual office for hard cash. It might be hopeless to carry a reform of this sort unless they were prepared to provide compensation, and therefore he was afraid the Amendment was a hopeless one, but his hon. Friend would have been false to his duty if he had not proposed it.


said the hon. Member for West Fife did not say that the money-changers were deprived of their property when they were turned out of the Temple, for he knew that that was not what they were told. He confessed that the arguments which he thought were used by every friend of the Church against this proposal had been very materially weakened by a good deal they had heard this afternoon from some of their own friends. He should have thought it would have been enough to have told the hon. Gentleman for Nottingham that he was proposing to take away without compensation rights which have been consecrated by usage and by Statute law. The hon. Gentleman proposed that the right of every patron to exercise the discretion vested in him by law was to be summarily taken away.


No; only that the rights shall not be sold.


fully understood that. The hon. Gentleman meant to say that property for which an owner or his predecessor in title had paid, should not be sold under any conditions whatever. The noble Lord in charge of the Bill said he would not agree to that. He could only regret that the promoters of the Bill should have lent encouragement to the hon. Gentleman or should have provided him with an opportunity of bringing forward the proposal by arguments of theirs which went a long way in support of the proposition. The adoption of the Amendment would, in his opinion, be injurious to the Church, destructive of the elementary notions of proprietary rights, and injurious to the State.


said the Amendment struck at the root of the real evil, and that was the selling of the cure of souls. A good deal had been said about the scandal the Bill would put an end to. The scandals the Bill would put an end to were not the worst scandals. If they were to have a scandal at all, he preferred it should be a public scandal, for when a scandal became public there was some chance of its being remedied. There were many hon. Gentlemen who would agree with him that the most mischievous of all scandals was that which was hushed up. It seemed to him that the effect of the Bill would be a retrogression instead of an advance, because by it they would give the sanction of the Legislature to that which every religious man abhorred, and that was the sale of the cure of souls.


said that although he had great sympathy with the ultimate object of the Amendment, he was bound to regard it, as it stood, as a wrecking Amendment. The Amendment would have the effect of abolishing the right of private patronage in the Church of England, and yet the hon. Gentleman came to the House with no alternative proposal.

MR. CHARLES MCLAREN (Leicester, Bosworth)

said the position of the Opposition was not at all understood. It was not their desire to maintain the abuses of the Church of England. If they had had their way for the last two centuries, they would have abolished the abuses of the Church of England, and left her an institution capable in the highest degree of promoting the religious principles of the country without any of those scandals which had been alluded to on both sides of the House. They felt those scandals still existed, and they desired to assist the reformers of the Church in doing away with them. The noble Lord and his Friends were, by the Bill, attacking the most sacred rights of property, and yet they were doing it in a way which did not enable them to take credit for spiritual reform. He contended that if the Bill passed in its present form they would deal a blow at the rights of property, scandalise clergy and patrons all over the country, and practically leave things very much as they were now. A beneficed clergyman in Rochester, the noble Lord's own constituency, had, by letter, thanked him for his stand against the infamous clauses of the Bill. He would hand the noble Lord the letter.


I think I have had it already.


said the writer of the letter went on to say that the Bill would have the effect of ruining the value of advowson property. Official bodies of the Church itself were opposed to the proposals of the noble Lord. He believed that if a proper system of compensation were provided by the Bill the clergy would welcome a drastic Amendment such as that of his hon. Friend. If the noble Lord and his Friends would withdraw their opposition to the Amendment, they would do much to facilitate the passing of the Bill.


was sorry he could not agree with the Amendment, which he thought would do considerable injury to what might be called popular rights of property. His objection to the Bill all through had been that it gave rather too much power to the Bishops, and not sufficient to the laity. The Amendment, by prohibiting the sale of advowsons altogether, would make a property which no keen religious man would care to keep, arid would hand it over to the first persons who wanted to have it, and the first persons were generally the Bishops and clergy. They would be most objectionable holders, because they were less in contact with the parishioners than private patrons. It was desirable to keep private patronage up because the Squire was the nearest approach to the people in country districts. Personally, he would be quite willing to hand private patronage over to the village council, as they would be very appropriate people to hold it. He believed it would be a great injury to the Church and the country to destroy the property in advowsons altogether, not because it was property, but because it was useful to have local people interested in the appointment of the clergy to different parishes. For the reasons he had given he objected to the Amendment, and ho hoped the noble Lord in charge of the Bill would resist it.


in supporting the Amendment, said he regarded it as one, which, if carried, would bring about the greatest reform, except one, that could be effected in the Church of England, for it would put an end to those scandals in connection with the Church that men of all Churches deplored. ["Hear, hear!"] The objection made to the Amendment by the noble Lord the Member for Rochester was that it went too far. The noble Lord did not deny that it would be a reform, and he could not avoid admitting that it would be a reform if the traffic in livings was done away with altogether.


I did not say so.


No, the noble Lord did not say so, because he was in a dilemma, and was afraid to speak decisively one way or the other. It followed that if it was wrong to allow the traffic in livings for the next presentation it was equally wrong to allow it for the second, third, or fourth presentation, though the noble Lord seemed to think that the objection was only to the sale of this presentation. The fact was that the noble Lord was not thorough in this matter. He was afraid to take the plunge which was implied in the acceptance of the Amendment. Neither he nor his friends working with him were very ardent reformers either in regard to the Church of England or anything else. [Laughter.] As showing what was the real object of the Bill, he should like to call the attention of the House to what was stated in this connection by the promoters of a similar Measure in the House of Lords in 1893, and to show thereby that if the present Amendment was accepted it would go a very long way to entirely abolish the evils in the Church which had been pointed out by those who supported the present Bill. It was shown by the Archbishop of Canterbury in the House of Lords in 1893, on the Second Reading of the Church Patronage Bill, that private patronage in the Church of England was very extensive. He stated that it had become completely part of the English Church, and that "statistics showed that nearly one-half of the livings in the Church were in private patronage." He proposed to prove that, according to the statements of the Archbishop, private patronage was an evil. The Archbishop said:— The existing slate of things led to the establishment of shops for the sale of benefices. And of this state of things he complained now, what did his hon. Friend propose to do by the Amendment? He proposed by it to shut up those shops altogether, and thus to prevent the evils which followed from their being kept open and the sales taking place. ["Hear, hear!"] The Archbishop went on:— Livings became articles of commerce and sold by auction to the highest bidder. Well, for his own part if livings were to be sold at all, he would prefer that they should be sold by public auction, because the more publicity was given to the transaction the less chance there would be of simony, or any other offence, being committed. His hon. Friend proposed to enact by the Amendment that such livings should no longer be made articles of commerce, and there was the remedy. ["Hear, hear!"] The Archbishop proceeded:— The salesmen's lists set forth all the particulars and the attractions of the livings. Inducements of the lowest kind were offered to purchasers. One advertisement read:—'Chance for a man fond of sporting. Rectory house cost £4,000. Price, with early possession, £2,000.' [Laughter.] He ventured to say that such a transaction as that must be considered by every son of the Church to be a grave and deplorable scandal. ["Hear, hear!"] What made such scandals possible was that advowsons and rights of presentation were regarded as property, and as long as persons had the right to sell livings in the open market the scandals would continue. ["Hear, hear!"] "Another advertisement," the Archbishop said, stated that an 'attractive living' was not far from a fashionable seaside resort. I hold in my hand, he continued, a correspondence between an agent and a clergyman, in which the agent sought to induce the clergyman, who was a rector with several incumbencies in his gift, to dispose of the presentations to the agent. Another advertisement reads:—'Population 1,500, but congregation small.' [Laughter.] Here, then, they had livings offered to the sporting man, the man fond of the seaside, and the idle man. [Laughter.] He would ask hon. Gentlemen opposite to pay particular attention to what was next said by the Archbishop.


We have heard it all before. ["Hear, hear!"]


said there were some lessons worth repeating. ["Hear, hear!" and cries of "Divide."] The Archbishop went on:— In a letter, privately written to a clergyman by an agent, a living was mentioned, and this was what was stated of it:—'The price is £2,500, with interest until possession. The age of the incumbent is 76, but we hear this morning that he is very seriously ill. The doctor says that he cannot possibly last more than six months, so there is every prospect of an early vacancy.' [Laughter.] And the agent intimated that his client would be prepared to entertain a fair offer at any moment. [Laughter.] Those facts were given as illustrations of the evils of the open sale of livings by the spiritual head of the Church. What was the objection to accepting the Amendment? The hon. and learned Member for West Fife had said that one difficulty which arose was the question of funds—that was to say, compensation. Doubtless, there was some difficulty here, but he thought it might be overcome, though the point could not then be discussed. The noble Lord and some of his Friends objected to the Amendment because it was too great an interference with the rights of property. But the noble Lord was not consistent. The right hon. Member for Thanet (Mr. J. Lowther), however, was perfectly consistent on the point, because he objected to the Bill altogether from beginning to end, on the ground that it unduly interfered with the rights of property. But the position taken up by the noble Lord was entirely inconsistent. For what did the Bill do? It took away from the private patron the right of the next presentation. That was property surely. So that the noble Lord was willing to take away a part of the property, but not the whole. Where was the consistency of that course. ["Hear, hear!"] He had never heard, in the course of his political life, any sufficient argument for interfering with the rights of private property unless it would be for the general public good. He had pointed out that it might be that the deprivation of a particular part of private property might not be for the public good at all, whereas it might be for the public good if, with one sweep, they declared that no further traffic in livings for a money consideration should take place. It had been said that the Amendment was brought forward to destroy the Bill. He was not in the secrets of his hon. Friend who moved the Amendment, but he believed he was perfectly right in saying that he had a sincere desire to reform the Church of England, and that that desire was the foundation of his Amendment. If the noble Lord and the promoters of the Bill were to accept the Amendment, they would get the rest of their Bill immediately. He hoped his hon. Friend would go to a division, and that he would be followed by a large body of the House in order to show again, that they desired on that side of the House, although they were opposed to Establishment, to do what they could to get rid of the evils which were admitted to exist in the Church of England, even by its own supporters.

The House divided:—Ayes, 115; Noes, 177.—(Division List, No. 230.)


moved to omit the words "or for more than three calendar months after such transfer or agreement," so that it should not be rendered invalid by the postponement of the payment of consideration for that time. He said he could not see what object would be gained by the retention of the words which would create great difficulties in many transactions, without in any way increasing the security against the money being paid when a vacancy occurred. These words would be a restriction on the power of contracting which could be used only as a deterrent to prevent owners from selling. Where an estate which included an advowson was sold, was there to be a separate transaction in respect of the advowson? In that case there would be some danger of the advowson getting separated from the rest of the property; and it was public policy to facilitate the connections of advowsons with the property in the landed estate. The restriction would be illusory as regarded its main object; It might compel the purchaser to borrow money from a third party, on which the payment of interest could not be prevented. In quite one-half of the transactions he had had to do with, the payment of purchase money in a lump sum had taken place more than three months after the agreement had been come to.


said the Solicitor General had already explained at length why it was necessary to interfere with the postponement of payment.


He did not explain this at all.


said the postponement left the purchaser with a control over the vendor which would compel the vendor to create a corrupt vacancy. With all respect for the hon. Member he rested the case on the defence of the words made by the Solicitor General.


was disappointed with the answer just given. It had not been shown that there was any connection between the anticipated evil and the proposed remedy. It was said that sometimes there might be objectionable collusive arrangements made whereby the advowson would be acquired and the purchase would not be completed until a vacancy arose, and therefore pressure would be put upon the owner of the advowson to create a vacancy. But this was provided against by the words already passed, because the agreement was void if the payment of any part of the consideration was postponed till a vacancy occurred. The words now proposed to be got rid of had no connection with that eventuality. No evidence had been adduced to show that any evil would arise from postponing the payment of the consideration money for more than three months. Almost invariably it took longer than three months to complete a purchase of a complicated character; as a rule it took more nearly six months than three. It was said that if you allowed a longer period than three months you opened the door to collusive bargains; but on the other hand you would hinder a large number of innocent transactions, or put such obstacles in the way of the exercise of a legal right as would drive men to evade the restrictions. He would ask the Solicitor General what protection there would be for the purchaser of this class of property if the vendor failed to complete the purchase within three months; whether, if the contract provided for the payment of interest during delay, owing to the illness or absence of either of the parties, the agreement would be invalid; and if so what remedy there would be?


said the sub-section dealt only with cases in which the agreement stipulated for the postponement of the payment of consideration for more than three months. The remedy for delay would be to enforce the agreement and obtain damages for breach of it. Unless an agreement stipulated for that delay it would not come within the sub-section. Three months was quite long enough to allow for the completion of a transaction of this kind. The making out of titles was a matter very much in the hands of solicitors; and they knew that, for good and adequate public reasons, in this particular class of transactions, everything could easily be made out in three months.

MR. CALDWELL (Lanark, Mid)

said that in the case of a minor it might be absolutely impossible to make out a title in three months, or, for that matter, in 12 months. He had heard with surprise the statement of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Solicitor General that in every bonâ fide case it would be possible to make out a title within three months, because months and years might elapse before a title was made out. He could perfectly well understand the period of three months after the title was made out being fixed, because that would be a reasonable time. It must be remembered that this was an Amendment that had not been put forward from the Opposition side of the House, because it had been placed upon the Paper by the hon. and learned Member for Walsall, who, for some reason or another, had not thought fit to move it. The fact that the hon. and learned Gentleman, with his considerable experience, had not moved his own Amendment in consequence of some arrangement he had entered into with the noble Lord the Member for Rochester, was no reason why they should not consider it upon its merits.

* MR. SYDNEY GEDGE (Walsall)

said that the reason why he had not moved the Amendment of which he had given notice was because the noble Lord the Member for Rochester had consented to accept a far more important Amendment to strike out Sub-section 2 (a), which was the most confiscatory part of the Bill. As he considered that the present Amendment was of comparatively little importance, he had been unwilling to move it, as he had no desire to do any act that might have the effect of delaying the passing of the Bill. Since, however, the Amendment had been moved, he should certainly support it. He must say that he could scarcely understand the opposition of the promoters of the Bill to the Amendment, which certainly could bring about no evil. He hoped that the Amendment would be carried.


hoped that after the practical suggestions which had been made by the hon. and learned Member who had just sat down, the noble Lord the Member for Rochester would accept the Amendment. It appeared to him that this was a matter of practical inconvenience. His experience in these matters showed him that three months soon passed away when making out a title. Even if solicitors were always at their posts and never let business get into arrear, it often happened that at the critical moment counsel might be away on their holidays; and it often happened that during the long vacation questions of the most vital importance in making out a title might arise, and the learned counsel whom it might be necessary to consult in reference to them might be away in the Scotch deer forests, or they might be abroad enjoying their well-deserved rest. Every practical man who had had experience of the difficulties involved in the transfer of property would say that three months was not a sufficient time to allow for making out a title. Some of the persons interested might be minors, some might he abroad in places not readily accessible, and considerable time might elapse before they could be communicated with. Surely this question of time to be fixed did not touch the root of the Bill in any way, and it was of comparatively little importance, as far as the objects of the Measure were concerned, whether the time fixed was three or six months. Then, again, it was sometimes difficult to pay down hard cash at short notice and without any corrupt or collusive arrangement between the parties or further time for payment might be required. He hoped the noble Lord would see his way to accept the Amendment.


said that he could not understand why the noble Lord should oppose this Amendment. As a lawyer not very junior in the profession, he should say that three months was a very short period to fix. Many circumstances might arise that would render it absolutely impossible to complete a title in three months. After all, the period fixed was merely arbitrary, and there was no more reason for making it three months than one month.

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

The House divided:—Ayes, 193; Noes, 125.—(Division List, No. 231.)


moved the omission From the sub-section of the words prohibiting arrangements for the payment of interest on the purchase money for more than three calendar months after the date of an agreement for the transfer of any right of patronage.


opposed the Amendment, observing that the arguments which had been adduced against the preceding Amendment applied with equal force against this proposal. That being so, he should not waste the time of the House by repeating what the Solicitor General and others had said.


pointed out that in all ordinary contracts a provision was made to the effect that the purchase should be completed on such and such a date, and if it was not completed then the purchaser had to pay interest until the completion of the purchase. By passing the clause with the words in it to which attention had been directed, the House would be rendering that moderate provision illegal. The object of the promoters of the Bill was to prevent the vendor of an advowson from paying high interest to the purchaser upon the purchase money which had been paid. The effect of the clause would be to prevent the purchaser from paying a low rate of interest upon the unpaid purchase money. This was one of the many instances in which this Bill prohibited an innocent and convenient arrangement

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

The House divided:—Ayes, 223; Noes, 100.—(Division List, No. 232.)


moved to omit the words "if the person instituted or inducted has been party or privy to the transaction." He pointed out that the object of the sub-section was to render void any transfer, the motive of which had been corrupt; but any institution or induction in pursuance of such transfer was only to be void if the person instituted was privy to such transfer. If the section were to be made a reality every one benefiting by the corrupt transaction ought to be included in the penalty, and institution should be void as well as the transfer.

MR. H. D. GREENE (Shrewsbury)

said that the words were inserted in Committee at his suggestion. It was seen that without such words the sub-section would offer an easy method of inducting an unsuitable person.


said that the Amendment not only covered the hon. and learned Member's intention, but went beyond it.


hoped the Amendment would not be pressed. The words were unanimously accepted in Committee, because it was felt that to deprive an innocent incumbent of his living would be a great hardship.

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

The House divided:—Ayes, 222; Noes, 107.—(Division List, No. 233.)


moved to add at the end of Sub-section (3), after the word "notice,"— nor shall it apply to any agreement for transfer of any right of patronage, by reason of such agreement providing for the payment by the purchaser of interest on the unpaid purchase money from the date fixed for completion until actual completion. His object was to provide that in the event of an agreement not being completed within the three months, as provided by the clause, interest might be paid on the unpaid purchase-money until the actual completion without it being said that the parties had entered into an illegal contract, and the whole arrangement being thereby declared void.

Question, "That those words be there inserted," put, and negatived.

And, it being Half-past Five of the clock, further proceeding on consideration, as amended, stood adjourned.

Further proceeding to be resumed upon Wednesday next.