Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment to Question [27th June], "That the Bill be now read a second time; and which Amendment was—
To leave out the wont 'now,' and at the end of the Question to add the words 'upon this day three months.'"—(Mr. Asquith.)
§ Question again proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ MR. COURTNEY (Cornwall, Bodmin)
I rise to take part in this Debate with unfeigned reluctance. I wish that this Bill had never been introduced, and in that respect I am not peculiar even on these Benches. I also wish, it having been introduced, I could have avoided speaking upon it. But as I have come to the conclusion that I must vote against the Second Reading of the Bill, I think it is convenient, if not necessary, that I should as briefly as possible explain the reasons which have led me to that conclusion. I am fortunate in being able on this occasion to explain why I am voting against it. When the Bill was introduced 1006 to the House, we had no opportunity of expressing any opinion on it. You, Sir, gave us the privilege of voting on the question whether the Debate should be adjourned, and I supported that motion, because I confess it appeared to me that the use of the Ten Minute Rule for the introduction of a Bill of this highly contentious character was altogether foreign to the purpose of the House when it sanctioned the rule. I do not on the present occasion intend to enter into a discussion of the propriety or impropriety of thus using the rule; if I did so you would call me to order for wandering from the point before us. But I am glad to be able to explain that I did vote for the adjournment of the Debate because I thought the rule was being abused, while I did not vote against the introduction of the Bill because I saw no reason why the Bill should not be introduced, although I was not even then disposed to look upon it with any great favour. Now we have come to the question of the Second Reading. It would ill become me to go over again the ground which was trodden by several speakers in the previous night's debate. I desire as far as possible to 1007 avoid the repetition of arguments which have been used, so as not to trespass too long on the indulgence of the House. I think the outcome of the previous night's Debate was this, that the supporters of the Bill based their advocacy of it on the question of justice. I listened with great attention to the speech of my hon. and learned friend the Member for Stroud. He speaks, naturally, with great authority upon this Bill. He has studied the question of rating from a professional as well as a political point of view, and he is one of the members—and not the least authoritative, I believe—of the Royal Commission out of whose interim Report this Bill may in some measure be said to have originated. But whilst I listened with great attention and with great respect to what my hon. and learned friend said, and whilst I admired the zeal and energy with which he put before us the statement that this Bill was to be discussed on the ground of justice, and that its justification was the endeavour to establish equality of burden, I had great difficulty in following the arguments by which he endeavoured to substantiate those propositions. It was probably my own fault, but for some time I could not understand the method on which he was proceeding. When at last I did apprehend it I thought, if I may be permitted to say so, that he had entirely misunderstood the problem which was before us, and which had also been before the Royal Committee on Local Taxation. The root of the error of my hon. friend's argument was an error which underlay many of the arguments of other Members who took part in the Debate—it is the confusion between the rating of property and the levying of contributions from persons who constitute the community, and who are called upon to meet demands that may be evolved from the wants of the community. If it were a question of considering quite de novo how the wants of a parish, or of any larger area, should be met, no one would dream of setting up such a system of local taxation as now exists. It could not be defended, and no one would suggest that it should be initiated. But we are dealing with a system which grew up three centuries ago—a system which brings into contribution towards meeting the wants of the parochial community different kinds of property, and provides the machinery by which the contribution should be levied in respect of that pro- 1008 perty. It is well that this distinction should be always kept in mind—not merely in regard to the smaller purposes of this Bill, but in view of much wider purposes. It is obvious it is a sound argument against the appeals for justice which the supporters of this Bill have so frequently made. Justice lies between individuals, and the organisation of the State frequently, no doubt, presents problems of justice which may have to be considered. But if we are inheritors of a policy under which certain properties have been set aside to meet certain uses by assignments long since past, we may as a nation concede the revision of those uses, we may discuss the purposes to which the money is applied, but the idea of justice in relation to the assignment is quite outside the problem. Let me suggest an illustration, which, I think, many hon. Members will concur in. Let us consider the case of tithe rent-charge itself instead of merely the rates upon it. This tithe rent-charge originated more than three centuries ago, and I think hon. Members would unite in repudiating the suggestion that any personal injustice was involved in the payment by the tithe rent owner of the sum he is required to pay. I have often heard this discussed in the country. I remember on one occasion a landowner saying to me—pointing to a clergyman—"I pay that man £500 a year out of my own pocket and yet he pays no respect to my opinions or wishes." I ventured to suggest that the clergyman would not assent to the proposition that the money did come out of the landowner's pocket, and that he probably rested his claim on a much higher title than that of the rest of the property; that, in fact, he would say, "Your property is subject to the payment of this £500, and I have a prior title." This is a strictly proper Conservative view of the tithe rent-charge, and how is it to be discriminated—except in comparison with its origin three centuries ago—from the question of personal incidence and the personal injustice suffered by the tithe rent owner in respect of the rates which he has to pay? He is not in possession as a freeholder of the tithe rent-charge; his only endowment is, not the whole of that which he may have the administration of, but so much of it as is left after the payment of rates. The examples which were brought forward by the hon. Member for Tunbridge the other 1009 day, if this view of the matter be correct, will be seen to be altogether wide of the mark. He gave us some illustrations of the incumbents of country parishes where the tithe rent was of small amount and the rates were exceedingly heavy. He said that the professional man pays rates in proportion to the income he receives, and that, given the income, he considers the rates as a personal obligation to himself. Now, if my view is right, the truth is that the incumbent who is endowed is entitled only to what is left after the rates are paid. There is no personal obligation whatever upon him in respect of the payment of rates. The case is exactly the same as if the property had been severed into parts, and one part had been assigned to the use of the poor, and the other part to the use of the incumbent. This is undoubtedly what the law was in respect to tithe prior to the Reformation. The first burden of several burdens was for the use of the poor, and the ecclesiastical burden came subsequent to it. The Statute of Elizabeth in this respect only means what was the law before the Reformation. That is the law in this country and in all Christendom.
§ MR. COURTNEY
It is undoubtedly the law in this country, as every one who has studied the subject will admit. If that be the ease, what is the conclusion from the pathetic examples adduced by the hon. Member for Tunbridge—that in the endowment of the English Church as at present organised there are some endowments very small, endowments which after paying the rates are, I admit, often very small and very inadequate, and that the endowments in other cases are very large and more than adequate. Do you wish to remedy the inadequacy of the endowments of some parishes by giving them additional or new endowments? Do you advocate some such action as would cause a reorganisation of the endowments as a whole, so as to secure the removal of the grievance to which the hon. Member for Tunbridge calls attention?
§ * MR. GRIFFITH-BOSCAWEN (Kent, Tunbridge)
The instances I gave were where no deduction was allowed in arriving at the rateable value, although money was paid out for a necessary 1010 curate. This was allowed until the case of the Queen v. Sherford. This, therefore, is an entirely new obligation.
§ MR. COURTNEY
It may be allowed by the sanction of the parishioners, but it is not the law. The illustrations of poor and inadequate endowment which the hon. Member gave—
§ MR. COURTNEY
I am sorry the hon. Member did not follow my arguments, but I may be allowed to state my own view of the position. The situation, to my mind, is precisely that which obtained in respect to the bishoprics of this country. We know very well that up to a comparatively recent time the incomes of the bishops were quite inadequate and insufficient. The Bishopric of Rochester was so badly endowed that for a long time it was annexed to the Deanery of Westminster in order to give the bishop a sufficient income. The Bishopric of Winchester was so poor that the income of the last bishop before the reorganisation had to be supplemented. The Bishopric of Lincoln, at one time the largest, and certainly the richest diocese in England, stretching, as it did, from Lincoln down to the Thames, was so shrunken in its endowments that for two centuries no man ever died Bishop of Lincoln. A man was put into it and assumed the episcopal office, but as soon as ever he could he got out again. The Ecclesiastical Commission removed all these scandals, and until we get a new Ecclesiastical Commission it is impossible to perceive how the obstacles, which are very great (including that of private patronage), which are now complained of, can ever be surmounted. There must be a reorganisation of endowments in order to cure the evils to which the hon. Member very justly called attention. But you must leave to an autonomous Church the power of correcting these inequalities. You must not come to Parliament saying in effect, "The endowments of our poorer parishes are too slight, seeing that they are endowed out of tithe rents, out of which a poor rate has to be paid, and we appeal to you to help to endow these attenuated incomes, and make them better than they are." The Bill as it stands is miserably inadequate for this purpose. The greater 1011 the present endowment the greater the aid it gives. It is the rich endowment that does not want it that gets assistance. This eleemosynary Bill is open to the initial objection that you come to Parliament for public money instead of reorganising the revenues of the Church and providing endowments for the poorer parishes, and you propose to apply the money in such a way that the poor are still left miserably poor and the wealth of the rich is increased. The custom of three centuries has made the existing system one in respect to which the idea of equal burdens and equal justice has no application. I appeal to hon. Members who have at any time mixed much in clerical society, whether, in habits of thought and figures of speech, it is not the universal practice to admit the position I am now taking. You will hear a man say "such a man was offered a certain living; he went to see it, and found that the house and the church and the school were in such and such a condition," and then he always winds up, "and the rates were exceedingly high." The outgoings are carefully calculated in a manner which may be a little unpalatable to some of us who hear them minutely discussed. Every clergyman takes a living with the knowledge that the real endowment is all that is left after the payment of the poor rate. For the rest, it is not his, and he cannot claim to have suffered any injury in connection with it. I have said that this Bill cannot be defended on grounds of justice, nor on the plea that it is clerical assistance given from the point of view of inequality of rating. The hon. Member for Woodbridge, who is always pointed and effective in his arguments, told us the other night that he would strip this project from any connection with the Church, and that it was not clerical. If that is so, how does it come to pass, as we heard to-day in answer to a question, that there are some parishes in which a part of the tithe is held by a lay impropriator, and the other part held by the clergyman of the parish, and that both are subject to the same assessment? Are you going to give relief to one, and not to the other? The tithe rent-charge in the hands of the lay impropriator is to have none of the relief which this Bill offers to that in the hands of the clergy. I think that is wrong, if the rating of the property in both cases is exactly the same. The 1012 alteration which you are going to make in the rating is not to meet a charge of injustice which does not arise in the matter, but in order to confer a new endowment upon the persons who are to receive this money. If you are going to upset an arrangement which has existed for 300 years, if you are going to take away in respect to the tithe rent-charge half the burden which up to this point has been a permanent charge upon it, people might say, "Why not go 60 or 70 years further back?" It seems hard, no doubt, to the incumbent of such a parish as that to which the hon. Member for Tunbridge drew our attention, that he should have the administration of certain property, a quarter of which, before he enjoys the other three-quarters, is to be employed in the relief of the poor. A man with a tithe rent-charge of £120, who sees £20 go out—assuming a strong and a hard case—feels bitterly about it, and is very apt to think he himself pays the £20. For my part, when I have had to deal with incumbents, I have always felt a great hindrance in meeting that complaint. But what must he feel when, perhaps, £300 of the tithe rent-charge goes to the lay impropriator? If £300, why not £360 or £370? I know the argument as to falling back on the usages of the clergy, or tying the hands of the lay impropriators. But the argument is a dangerous one, and as a respecter of property, I argue against the motives of benevolence which are leading you astray in the legislation you propose. You are adopting principles which you will find injurious in the end. Now, in connection with the case of the lay impropriator, I want to call very particularly the attention of two of my right hon. friends on the Front Bench to the questions I should like to submit to them. One of these two I shall put as a point of law, and the other I shall put as a point of reason and argument. The point of law is this. Under the Bill, as it stands at present, you are going to give up one-half of the rates on the tithe rent attached to the benefice, but you are going to make no allowance whatever in respect of the tithe rent in the hands of the lay impropriator. Now, suppose the lay impropriator conveys £120 of his tithe rent, in augmentation of the endowment of the benefice, to the rector or vicar and his successors in perpetuity, would the tithe rent so conveyed enjoy the advantage of the remission of half 1013 of these rates proposed to be conferred by this Bill? That is a legal question to which my hon. and learned friend the Solicitor-General, whose name is on the back of the Bill, ought to give an answer. The question is simplicity itself. A lay impropriator has £120 of tithe rent, tree outgoings from which for rates amount to £20, leaving £100 in his hands. But he wishes to augment the attenuated endowment of a living, and he proposes to hand over the £120 in augmentation of that living. Will the £120 so handed over be no longer subject to the diminution of £20, but only be subject to the diminution of £10? I only wish that my hon. and learned friend the member for Stroud had deferred his speech, when he might have told us incidentally what he thought of that question. As he is silent, I will say for myself that in the event of the transfer of the tithe rent-charge—assigned in perpetuity to the benefice and for the advantage of the rector or vicar—it would become clerical tithe rent, and would carry with it the benefit intended to be conveyed by this Bill. The question is really a nice question. If the answer is "Yes, it does carry a diminution of £10," then the tithe rent owner who assigns the £120 in augmentation of the living gives the £100 which he had kept in his own hands, and the £20 which was the amount of rates he paid; and the rector or vicar would get £110. In such a case there is no doubt that that £10 is a fresh endowment—an absolute endowment of the living. That does not come out of any consideration of past inequality; it is a new transfer, an absolute endowment from public money given in order to add £10 to the endowment of the benefice. But if the deduction of £20 is still made, then you would have this extraordinary position: an incumbent in possession of tithe rent-charge which is absolutely indistinguishable, mixed and fused together, and in respect of one portion he would be entitled to the deduction of one half of the rates upon it, and in respect of another portion he is not entitled to the deduction. That is surely an absurdity. If the answer is right, what becomes of the suggestion that you are bringing in this Bill in order to arrive at a better form of levying local taxation, for from absolutely the same kind of property you are making different contributions. I do not see how these inconsistencies have very much to 1014 do with justice. Hon. Members laugh, and I do not wonder at it. There is a society for the express purpose of acquiring lay impropriations in order to augment benefices in parishes in respect of which the lay impropriator at present receives the tithe rent. Its operations, I believe, are not on a very big scale. But it may be when attention is drawn to it, and especially with the assistance of this Act, that they may get lay impropriators to assign a certain portion of the tithe rent they enjoy, in order to augment their livings, knowing that the benefices would get also an added sum from the public exchequer. I can see no way out of the dilemma. I am addressing the second question to the Leader of the House, and no man in this House is more quick, more subtle, more prompt in detecting a fallacy, and no man is more ready in dialectic discussion. I do wish he would try and solve the dilemma, and, thanks to the suspension of the Twelve o'clock Rule, it would not be for want of time. If the turning out of the lay impropriator is accompanied with a relief of half the tithe rates, then how can you avoid the conclusion that by that relief you do get, quite apart from past considerations of endowment, and quite apart from considerations of professional stipend, a new endowment added to the benefice? If, on the contrary, there is not this relief, then you set aside altogether the question of professional income on which this Bill bases its claim for support. Now, if the argument on which this Bill is founded is really substantial; if the position taken by the hon. Member for Stroud or the hon. Member for Tunbridge is accurate; if you are right in saving that after the lapse of a long time, justice is offended by the taxation of the clergy on the gross impropriation; if you are right in transferring, as the Bill professes to do, the rates from rateable property to a charge on persons; if all that is right, then the fatal answer is that the Bill does not proceed on that basis, and it does not do what your premisses would require it to do. Yon say there has been a gross injustice in the past; the parson has been taxed too highly.
§ MR. COURTNEY
I hear my hon. and learned friend the Member for Ply- 1015 mouth say that is so. Well, injustice means that some person has got something which he ought not to have at the expense of some other person. Very well, the parson has been taxed too highly; then other contributories in the parish have been taxed too low. If that position is right, what you should do is—what a few members of the Royal Commission hinted at—to relieve the parson who has suffered from overtaxation so long, and to throw the burden on the other parishioners who have been for the same period taxed too lightly. But the Bill does not propose to do that; though that is a reasonable ground which might be put forward with confidence as a defence of the Bill, you have not proceeded on that ground. You are relieving one man of an injustice, which you say he has suffered, but not by the way of making those who have enjoyed the benefit of his suffering pay in the future what they have hitherto escaped. You are going to relieve him by making the whole community pay. Where is the justice of that? One injustice is covered by another injustice. It is a solution of a local taxation problem the most extraordinary I ever heard proposed. If you are considering the problem of how you are to raise the money to meet the wants of any particular area, and if you come to the conclusion that some of the inhabitants have paid too much and some too little, you throw the difference upon those who have paid too little. But you do not venture to do that which is honest and courageous and just in this case. You do not throw it upon the ratepayers of the parish, but on the ratepayers of the whole country. Now I come to the question of the peculiar method to which the Government have resorted in their attempt to cure what they allege to be an injustice. They have not adopted the proposal definitely made by the members of the Royal Commission on Local Taxation. They have not proceeded on the method of abatement of the taxation of the clergy. What they have done is to take the money out of the Local Taxation Account. I protest as an economist and a financier against this method of meeting the difficulty in which the Government have found themselves. They provide public money without any of those checks which are so necessary and so habitual in this House in regard to the ordinary appropriation of public money; 1016 and in order that its transfer should not be felt by any particular district, they impose the burden on the whole ratepayers of the country, in extenuation of an injustice which is differently measured in different parts of the country, and which ought to be met by a consideration of the different circumstances of these different parts. What they are really doing is to make the taxpayers furnish what the ratepayers would otherwise have to do, in order to create this new endowment which is to be added, not merely to the endowment of the impoverished but the actually wealthy clergy of the country. The President of the Board of Agriculture spoke of the distribution of funds under the Local Taxation Account as being often accompanied by—I think he said provocative of—waste.
§ MR. COURTNEY
That does not differ much from what I said. What I understand my right hon. friend now to say is that county finance committees, in anticipation of a growing and increasing income, the benefits of which they enjoy, were apt to be a little extravagant or wasteful in its distribution. I think that justifies what I said. What can we conceive more provocative of waste than this taking away of money without a check, and without the people who provide it having any voice upon it, and so turning the Local Taxation Account at large into something like the Irish Church Fund? The very suggestion of something of that kind shows danger. If the Local Taxation Fund is going to be made, as seems to be supposed, into a big bag, out of winch you may draw money as you want it, because it is growing—because the country is getting richer—you have, in the institution of this account, in addition to all the evils we recognised before, something like the creation of another Irish Church Fund, winch will be a ready prey to all Governments who want a little assistance. What have we done now? 1017 The Irish Church Fund has to provide £200,000 or £300,000 to meet the increase of the Teachers' Pension Fund, and if by any chance a strong Government, coming back fresh from the country at the beginning of its power, should propose to take from the Irish Church Fund, which seems to be inexhaustible, a million of money in order to found a university which may be accessible to the Roman Catholics, what should we think of the enormous gift so bestowed? But what are you doing here? Why, you are giving three millions of money. £87,000 a year, capitalised, means three millions of money, and you are going to give three millions of money as a new endowment—so wastefully employed that it is not employed to meet the cases which demand attention. It is scattered abroad, the greater part of it, amongst those who do not want assistance. Now, for these reasons I have found it impossible to concur in the policy of this Bill. It may be said—no doubt it has been said—what justification has this stiff-necked fellow for not bowing, like other people, in submission to what has been proposed? My final word in respect of this matter is this: I approach this problem as a Liberal Unionist. I know that is a word of vague import. If I said I was a member of the Church of England, or even, as we used to say at Cambridge, a bona fide member of the Church of England, I daresay I should not use a phrase less elastic, or more elastic, or more undefined. Well, I am a Liberal Unionist, and the word has at least an historic meaning. I carry my mind back, Sir, to that period of which Lord Rosebery spoke only the other day—to the period of 1886, before the disruption which caused some of us to become Liberal Unionists and others Home Rulers. In that prehistoric time Liberals were all, of course, occupied in some measure with the problem of the Church of England. Some amongst us were Liberationists, ardent for religious equality, and determined at the earliest possible moment to disestablish and disendow the English Church. I was never one of them. I belonged to the intermediates, if I may use the phrase, who looked forward with assurance to the day in which we should have a free Church in a free State. We were not alarmed at the prospect, but we did not desire in any way to accelerate it. On the other hand, there were other 1018 members of the Liberal Party who were then most staunch, and who remained staunch, in opposing any kind of alteration of the organisation of the English Church. There were these divisions of opinion amongst the Liberal Party before 1886, and we have, I believe, here amongst us Liberal Unionist representatives of those three divisions. Now, I confidently affirm this, that the Liberal Party, however much they differed amongst themselves in their views with respect to the Church of England, were united in this, that not one among them would dream of sanctioning an increased endowment. To that we should have been inflexibly and unitedly opposed. And I will say this of the Conservative Party, they were not very eager to make any proposition of that kind, which they knew would be hopeless of realisation. In 1876, 1877, 1878, and 1879 Mr. Sclater-Booth brought in Bills which contained proposals to deal with this problem, bat none of them receivet the favour of this House, notwithstanding the fact that the Conservative Party were in a considerable majority. Though the Liberal Party were much divided, especially on foreign questions, on this domestic question they were absolutely united, and they were supported by a certain number on the Conservative side who would all of them have resisted this endowment. Now, is there any reason why Liberal Unionists, who are merely Liberals as they were before 1886, should now, in 1899, entertain a different opinion from that which they held in 1886? As I have understood our position, we are ready to keep things as they are without alteration. We do not want to undo, neither do we feel called upon to assist in building up or in adding fresh endowments to those which exist already. Sir, why are we Liberal Unionists here? I mean, why is it that there are some seventy—("No")—are there not seventy?—well, it does not much matter—but why is it that there are some seventy who profess to call themselves Liberal Unionists instead of Conservatives? That is what I want to know. I want hon. Members, especially my right hon. friends on the Front Bench, to consider this question. Some of us, even before 1886, were returned as Liberals, and we represented constituencies which presumably, from that circumstance, apart from Home Rule, were Liberal constituencies. 1019 But we ourselves were opposed to Home Rule, and we were supported—those of us who survived—in these constituencies by a section of Liberals, like ourselves, opposed to Home Rule, but not otherwise changed in their opinions, and who came to join a minority of Conservatives in those constituencies, and so secured a majority. The Liberal Unionists, representing old constituencies of this character, sit here to make what was a Conservative minority into a Unionist majority. And then, consider those hon. Members who have come in since. Why do the astute managers of party conflict, who select candidates to go here and there, choose or select men who are Liberal Unionists instead of men called Conservatives to go to one constituency rather than another? They don't do it if they can help it, perhaps; but that only enforces the argument. The Liberal Unionists are necessary evils. That is the point which I am endeavouring to drive home. They are selected because they can appeal to a certain number of electors who can turn the scale and elect them. I can tell von one thing about the Liberal Unionists in the constituencies who return us. They are more or less persuaded that Home Rule is dead, and it is very difficult to keep them from not slipping back into that belief. I think it is a most mischievous error on their part, but that is the tendency. What use do they make of the legislation which is now proposed? Why, they say that the Conservative Government themselves show that they think Home Rule is dead, that they can dispense with Liberal Unionist support, and they will have to dispense with it. I think that is a great danger. I am, as I say, a Liberal Unionist, and I want to preserve the Union. I think it is a grave danger, if you propose to bring in any legislation, if you are forgetful of the fact that among the supporters of the Union there is this section, large or small, which is still operating in constituencies up and down the country, which turns the balance, and will continue to turn the balance if the Union is in danger, but which will turn the balance the other way if by action such as this the Government appear to show that in their opinion danger is past. This Bill is not only wrong as a solution of the problems with which it pretends to grapple; it not only proposes what is unexampled in modern legislation—an addition to the 1020 endowment of the Church of England—but by so doing it places the Unionist majority in peril by alienating the Liberal Unionists throughout the country, who have helped to give it its power, and as a Liberal Unionist I must vote against the Second Reading.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT (Monmouthshire, W.)
I think I must congratulate Her Majesty's Government upon the declarations which have been made by a number of Members on their side as to the view which they take of the consequences of this Bill. The Government affect very much ecclesiastical legislation in this House. We had a Benefices Bill last year, and I do not know they have reason to be pleased with the consequences of that Bill. I certainly think that before they have done with this Bill they will repent of having introduced it. We are at present living under a Parliamentary régime of what may be called legislation upon interim Reports. It is a new and altogether un-Parliamentary system. You send a Commission or a Committee whom you trust to examine a large subject which deals with a great number of interests, and then you solicit that Committee or Commission to report, not upon all those interests, but to pick out some particular interest that you desire to favour, and then upon the faith of that Report you secrete a sum of money, and bestow it upon that particular interest, and leave the rest to shift for themselves. That experiment was first begun in the case of the Agricultural Rating Bill. There was a Commission appointed to consider the whole condition of the agricultural interest, and by and by a Member of the Cabinet became charged with the affairs of that Commission. An interim Report was cooked up in a hurry, and was laid upon the Table of Parliament, and on the security of that interim Report they managed to obtain a million and a half of public money—a demand which, I venture to say, if they had waited for the full Report, no man would have had the courage to make. That was the first specimen of legislation by interim Report. The Government declared what, I believe, in joint-stock companies is called an interim dividend. But when the rest of the shareholders desired to have their dividend none has been forthcoming. There are a great many subjects dealt with in that Report 1021 which are of interest to many classes other than those which have been legislated for, but of these we have heard nothing. They got their million and a half of money, and the interim Report has done its work. I suppose if there is any question which more deserves to be treated as a whole, on account of the multiplicity of interests concerned in it, all dependent more or less one with another, it is the question of rating. It is a question in which the party which deals with a single interest is more to be condemned than that which deals with nothing. You cannot rate one man more without giving an advantage to another; yon cannot rate one man less without doing an injustice to another. It is under these circumstances that you have picked out from the Report of a Commission, appointed to consider the most complicated and important subject you could possibly refer to a Commission, a particular question, and by the aid, I suppose, of the Cabinet Minister in the chair, you get it to hurry up an interim Report, and endeavour to smuggle it through the House of Commons as a Ten Minutes' Bill. That is the way you are dealing with the rating question. I say that the system is unsound, it is most unfair to interests except the particular interest which you desire to favour. Now that is a thing which this House ought not to sanction, and is a thing against which, I think, we are bound to protest. These interim Reports, I say, are apt to lead to injustice in themselves, and they are an injury to the interests of every subject who is not himself favoured by them. But, Sir, the financial aspect of the question, as my right hon. friend the Member for Bodmin very properly said, is equally to be condemned. The money collected by public taxation has been allotted to a special class—that is, to the relief of the ratepayers of the country. How is that dealt with? I have the very words—because they struck me so much at the time, and I have taken pains to record them—of the right hon. Gentleman who with so much ability introduced this Bill, although I must protest against his financial principles. He said:Under our system the local authorities, who are the spending bodies, know nothing beforehand of these increased balances that are coming into their hands.I suppose the Minister of Agriculture does not read the weekly account of the 1022 revenues, otherwise he would see that the amounts coming into the hands of the local authorities are recorded every week. Therefore, they can see perfectly well whether they are increasing or decreasing. The Minister of Agriculture said further:This rather tends to extravagance and bad administration.That is quite true. The whole system tends to extravagance and bad administration. He went on to say:It will not throw upon any other class of ratepayers a practical burden of which they need complain.That is rather a curious view. Does the Chancellor of the Exchequer think that he can throw about £87,000 and nobody feel the loss of it? The ideas of the Minister of Agriculture are very grand, but in the region of finance I should rather have thought that a loose kind of accounting. But, then, he says:I believe that the burden will not be felt by any of those upon whom it falls. It is a burden of which they would not know were it not for the speeches of the hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite.Why, you have been praying for an active Opposition, and yet you imagine that you are to be allowed to smuggle through this Bill and to rob the ratepayers of £87,000, and that if you only have the amiable connivance of the "hon. Gentlemen and right hon. Gentlemen opposite," you may succeed in doing it without the knowledge of the ratepayers of this country. My right hon. friend the Leader of the Opposition jumped up at once and told you that your expectations were entirely unfounded, and that you had no right to count upon the amiable connivance of the Opposition; and he declined altogether this—I will not say dishonest, that is rather too harsh a term—but this disingenuous proposal for the connivance of the Opposition to conceal what they are doing from the ratepayers of England. So much for the finance of the Department of Agriculture. I come now, Sir, to the finance of the real financial Department. This matter was brought under the notice of the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the year 1897 by a very powerful and influential deputation, and this is what he said to them:The rating of tithe-rent charge could not properly have been dealt with in the Rating Act of 1896. It stands on a different footing, and must be dealt with, if dealt with at all, 1023 in a different way. It could not claim the kind or amount of relief given last year.Yet when you bring in your Bill the remedy is exactly the same, just the same in kind and amount as the relief to the agricultural interest—a relief of half the rate. This Bill is in exact contradiction to the statement then made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer as to the remedy which ought to be given in this case. Then there is a remarkable statement in the conclusions of the Royal Commission to the effect that this grant, this relief, this endowment—whatever you please to call it—is to be given on account of "exceptional acute dissatisfaction." There is "exceptional acute dissatisfaction" with most of the taxes of this country; and if the Chancellor of the Exchequer is prepared to give away hundreds of thousands of pounds whenever he meets with "exceptional acute dissatisfaction" I think he will be obliged to part with the income tax at once. A more extraordinary ground on which to base a grant of this kind I never met with. The question is not whether there is acute dissatisfaction. The question is whether there is just ground for it. That is the point we have to deal with. I say nothing about the Report, which is the most charitable thing to do. I associate myself entirely with the right hon. Gentleman in his opinion of the character of that Report. It has been so completely analysed, and criticised, and smashed by one of the members of the Commission—the hon. Member for East Donegal—that it is hardly necessary to slay the slain over again; but I do think that the Commission's reading of Magna Charta will always remain as a monumental blunder of which a Royal Commission would have been thought incapable. What is the serious part of it is, that we have to depend upon the authors of that Report for advice as to the reform of the rating system of the country. The early part of that Report was occupied with what seemed to be a hankering after that pre-Reformation period when the clergy were treated as an exceptional class, both in regard to their submission to the law and their submission to taxation. I do not enter into that. We must condescend to come to the Reformation period, of which the characteristic was that the clergy were to be dealt with on the same footing as any other subjects of the Queen, and that the law applicable to others should be applicable also to 1024 them. That is the time of the legislation of Elizabeth, and of the substitution of the great Act for the permanent provision for the poor instead of that precarious provision that was in force under the ecclesiastical institutions which existed before the Reformation; and it is upon the Statutes of Elizabeth that you have to examine the character of this property and its rights and liabilities. I desire to meet the challenge of my hon. and learned friend the Member for Stroud. He said, "Meet the question of the justice of this claim. Do you maintain that the present rating of the tithe rent—charge is one that is just?" Yes; I do. The notion that it is unjust depends upon that fallacy which has been so luminously explained by my right hon. friend the Member for Bodmin just now. It was also explained with great clearness and force the other night by my hon. and learned friend the Member for Haddingtonshire. The fact is, the rate is not a rate upon the person at all; it is a rate upon the property. That cannot be repeated too often or made too clearly understood. The whole fallacy of this injustice is that you are putting the rate upon the person, and being governed by the conditions attaching to the individual; whereas the rate is upon the property. The individual suffers no injustice when he receives that property subject to those conditions. Now, I desire to deal with this matter from that point of view. Certainly I do not desire that the clergy of this country should be dealt with unfairly or harshly. I have always taken occasion to hear my testimony to the honourable and useful way, often at great sacrifices to themselves, in which they have laboured for the good of those among whom they live. I recognise the trials which they have experienced, and the carking care which besets them, due to the diminution of their incomes. The fall in prices has affected their incomes as it has affected the incomes of many other people. But the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill emphatically told us that the Bill has nothing to do with the poverty of the clergy, or considerations of that kind. He repeated that over and over again. He said that if the clergy were rich instead of being, some of them, poor, this Bill would be equally necessary, because it remedied an injustice which affected them, and the rich as well as the poor 1025 were entitled to justice. Very well. Let us consider this question, altogether apart from the circumstances of the impoverishment of certain classes of the clergy, leaving any question of sentiment altogether out of the argument. That the right hon. Gentleman strongly insisted upon. It is rather surprising, I must say, because that is not the light in which the advocates of this measure have generally presented it to us, or in which I think they are likely to present it in other places. However, we must take it from the Government that it has no relation at all to the distress of the clergy, and it becomes therefore simply a question of the incidence of rating, and how it arises in respect to the tithe rent-charge. Now the remedy proposed in the Report is by deductions in consequence of certain charges winch fall upon the clergy. It is a very remarkable fact that the Government have rejected the method of relieving the clergy by deductions, and they have taken in its place the method of relieving by a lump sum. Not one of you, even in your ten minutes, has told us what the deductions were, and ever since the introduction of this measure we have not been able to bring you to book as to the deductions upon which you rely. There is a sort of vague statement in the Report that there should be some regard to the services rendered, but as to the deductions, and the heads to which they belong, and what they amount to, we have never been able to bring the authors and supporters of this Bill to book. I followed the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Stroud. He said, "I will presently show you that this lump sum is equivalent to the deductions we claim"; but when he came to that point he never stated what deductions he claimed; still less did he show what was their amount, or that that amount constituted half the rates. Perhaps we shall hear from the First Lord of the Treasury what are the specific deductions which the Government claim: he will give us the figures as to the deductions, and show us that they amount to exactly half the rate. But, Sir, I have more to say upon tins subject of deductions. It is a much fairer method of dealing with the question than that of a lump sum, because there are some cases where a deduction will apply, and there are other cases in which it would not apply at all. I will take the stipend of a 1026 curate. Under the system of deductions, where there was no curate, there would be no deduction, but when you give a lump sum you give it equally whether there is a curate or whether there is not. Therefore the lump sum system is obviously one which is grossly unjust as compared with the system of deductions. NOW, just let us consider what is the character of this property, and what is the nature of the rate which is placed upon it. First of all, it is said that it is rated upon its gross value. That is an inaccurate statement. If you look at the twenty-fifth page of the Report you will find six heads of deductions that are made from the rate. There is nothing more inaccurate than the statement that is made by Members on the opposite side of the House that the property is rated upon the gross value. Then there is a list of eight deductions which have been claimed which are not allowed. The first is the "landlord's property tax." Of course that is not allowed, because there is no landlord. How could there be a deduction for the landlord's property tax? Then the "land tax." In that very interview with the Chancellor of the Exchequer he said that the land tax was entirely out of the question as a deduction. "The liability to repair the chancel of the parish church." You might as well include the liability to repair the rector's house. "Personal services of the parson or vicar"; I will come to that directly. "Payments to curates," "payments to daughter churches," "pensions to retiring incumbents," "sums paid to the governors of Queen Anne's Bounty." The Chancellor of the Exchequer repudiated making a deduction for Queen Anne's Bounty. You might just as well claim a deduction from any ordinary mortgage; it is the money which is advanced for the benefit of the living, generally for the building of the rector's house, sometimes, I believe, also for the augmentation of small livings. Every one of these deductions which are claimed, and which are supposed to represent in the gross this 50 per cent. of the rate which is now going to be granted out of the general money of the ratepayers, has been disallowed by the courts of law; that is to say, they have been declared to be inconsistent with the Statutes of Elizabeth and that legislation which my right hon. friend has said has been in existence for 300 years. Here we have the Panty opposite attacking a 1027 principle which rests upon a tradition of 300 years, and in the interests of what? In the interests of a particular class. I do not call that a Conservative—I do not think that it is even a Liberal Unionist policy on the part of Gentlemen who sit on the Bench opposite. What is the true principle in this matter? It has been so well explained by my right hon. friend the Member for Bodmin that I shall not dwell upon it at any length. This is not a technical question at all. It is the fundamental principle upon which rating depends. The principle is that the rate attaches to the property itself, antecedently and independently of the interest of the person in whose hands that property may be. Every lawyer knows that that is a fundamental principle. I can illustrate it by a matter with which I think I was the means of compelling the House to be rather familiar in the year 1894, and that is the nature of the Probate duty. Probate duty is a duty which is paid out of property quite independently of how much goes ultimately to any individual. It is a tax upon the property itself, and is wholly independent of the condition or the interest or anything else of the person into whose hands it passes. That was established by the great and well-known case of the Mersey Docks, when the whole law upon that subject was thoroughly investigated. It was alleged, on the part of the trustees of the Mersey Docks, that inasmuch as they derived no benefit from the money raised they ought not to be rated—that rating was only applicable to parties who received benefit. That case showed that the rate was upon the property. That was followed by a case which was referred to the other day, which settled the claims for deductions. I am extremely averse to quoting law cases in this House, and I promise the House that it shall only be a few sentences. But it makes the principle of the law so clear that I think any layman will see the bearing of it. The claim was for a deduction on the tithe in regard to the stipend of a curate, and the Court said this:I can discover nothing, either in the words or in the spirit of the Act, exempting from liability the occupier of valuable property, merely because the property is not to be enjoyed by him or by anyone on behalf of whom he occupies, but is to be devoted to the benefit of the public.And the Court concludes with one sentence, which really sums up the whole of 1028 the law and the whole sense of this matter. The words are:The fallacy of the argument is in confounding the rateable value to the poor-rate with the remunerative value to the incumbent.And yet it is upon the remunerative value to the incumbent that the whole principle of claims for deductions is founded. That is contrary to the whole law of rating. It is a claim which has no foundation at all, and if you are going to give £87,000, or any other sum, in order to depart from that rule, you are in point of fact giving away the property of other people in order that the people who ought to pay shall not pay. This applies, as I have said, to the case of curates, and equally to the case of personal service. That is the only deduction which in the report, or in any of the speeches, I can find has really been relied upon. There is vague talk of allowing something for the personal service of the curate, but that is disposed of entirely by the principle to which I have already referred. But it does not depend upon the special condition attaching to this service. It is due upon the property itself, perfectly independently of the man who receives it; therefore, this personal service deduction is contrary to the whole principle, and I do not think that the Solicitor-General will dispute that proposition. It has been said, I know, that there is some difference in the Act of Elizabeth between the clergy as inhabitants and as occupiers. ("No, no!") I can quite excuse the hon. Member who dissents, and who has not had the advantage of a legal education; otherwise he would know that that distinction has been wiped out over and over again, and there is no foundation in law for it. As this matter has been referred to, I think it only right that I should make this statement. If personal service is to be a matter of deduction, why not the rectory in which the man lives? That is part of his personal service and necessary for his residence. Does anybody contend for a moment that, because the parson has to reside in the rectory, that is a reason why he is not to be rated? No, Sir, the argument of personal service will not hold water for a moment. But even supposing it did, I should like to know how the right hon. Gentleman would estimate the value of personal service. It is not to be the whole; it is a part. You have personal service and 1029 personal service. The services in this country are not all the same. There are some which are more numerous, there are some which are more ornamental, some which are most costly, and some which are more onerous than others. Are you going to take a figure of a man's services and deduct that from the rates on his property? The Government have not suggested what is to be the proper average of the remuneration of a man for his personal service. Therefore, for these reasons, the tax not being upon the person, but upon the property, I absolutely deny that there is any injustice in this case at all. Where the rate is on the property the question of justice or injustice cannot arise. It is because the Government knew perfectly well that they could not defend any of these deductions that they have thrown overboard the Report of the Commission, which recommended proceeding by deduction.
§ * MR. LONG
I did not say there was anything in the Bill about deduction, but that the right hon. Gentleman is incorrect in saying that the Commissioners specifically recommended deductions as a basis of relief. The right hon. Gentleman will see that in the last paragraph of their conclusions the majority of the Commission recommended that relief should be given, and subsequently that three of the Commissioners recommended deductions as a basis.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
A nice Commission and a nice interim Report, which is hurried down to the House of Commons when the Commissioners have 1030 not had time to make up their minds as to what kiwi of relief shall be given! I am greatly obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for his interruption. It only emphasises and italicises the criticism we have made on this Report. The only thing they have ventured to hint at is deductions, and when they come to the end of it I suppose they mistrusted their deductions, and so all they have done is to say, "Give them some relief; we don't know what, but we hope you will invent something for us." That is the Report on which you are going to take the money of the taxpayers of the country. I think the severest censure upon the Commission has been passed by the right hon. Gentleman, who has thrown their recommendations over and endeavoured to invent a lump sum to take the place of their unfounded deductions. The right hon. Gentleman, at all events, does not agree with his great defender, the hon. and learned Member for Stroud, because he is one who did recommend deduction, and he does not agree either with that great authority, Sir John Hibbert.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
Well, whom does he agree with? We have got this lump stun of 50 per cent. bestowed on this favoured class. It has no justification in law, and in point of amount it is higher even than most of the witnesses ventured to suggest. The secretary and solicitor of the Tithe Rent-charge Owners' Union expressed the opinion that if a deduction were made for personal services it should be at least 30 per cent. He considered that the effect of a deduction of 45 or 50 per cent. would be to induce anyone to take a lease of the tithe. Another witness proposed an allowance of 25 per cent. in the case of rectorial tithes and 30 per cent. in the case of vicarial tithes. And upon that sort of evidence the Government give 50 per cent. That is the sort of way in which the finance of this Bill has been conducted. It will be said "That may have been the law in the time of Elizabeth, but we do not think much of the times of Elizabeth, and we do not think much of the 300 years which have elapsed since then; we will make a new rating law altogether on an interim Report and in a Ten Minutes Bill." The making of a new rating law in this country is a very serious matter. It affects millions of people, not only the 1031 rich, but the poor, and you cannot proceed too carefully and considerately in dealing with matters of this kind. This sort of attempt to hustle an interim gift to a particular class under the cloak of rating is one of the most unstatesmanlike proceedings I have ever seen attempted in this House. What is the sort of authority on which you endeavour to support this Bill? I have heard the great authority of Mr. Gladstone quoted. I think the date of Mr. Gladstone's opinion was given as 1852 or 1856. That is very nearly fifty years ago. Since that time Mr. Gladstone was First Minister several times; he was Finance Minister still more often. Mr. Gladstone was a man who was not careless of the interests of the clergy, and he never attempted to meddle with this tithe rent-charge. I venture to think that was because when he came to examine the question he had came to the conclusion that there were no grounds for interfering. Is that not a reasonable construction? Do you think that if Mr. Gladstone had been convinced that a great injustice was being done to the clergy in the matter he would not have attempted to remedy it? If you do you have a different appreciation of the character of Mr. Gladstone than I have. But that is not all. There was the Government of Lord Beaconsfield, with its great majority. During that time suggestions were made that there should be some deductions in this matter, but so little importance did the Government of Lord Beaconsfield and the Tory party attach to these proposals that with great alacrity they dropped them. Well, if that be so I think we ought to have some higher authority than any you have yet produced in this matter. Looking at this Bill, looking at the manner in which it has been brought forward, looking at the contents of the Bill, I confess I am lost in amazement to account for the genesis of the measure. The Government know very well that it is loudly condemned by their opponents. Yes, and that condemnation is audibly whispered by their supporters. I read this morning, even in one of the leading ecclesiastical journals, a condemnation of the imprudence, in the interest of the Church, of the course that the Government are pursuing. Party ties, no doubt, may compel Gentlemen opposite to support this measure, but I venture to say it will not be a hearty support. They know very well to-day, 1032 and they will know better hereafter, what the true public opinion is upon a new State endowment for the wealthiest religious community in the world. Can anyone conjecture under these circumstances what induced the Government to bring in a Bill of this character? I have never been able to arrive at the idea that it was a Machiavellian policy. They have been sighing and moaning and deploring for some time that they had not before them a united Opposition. I cannot help thinking that it is in order I to confer upon them that blessing that they devised this measure. The process on this side of the House is complete, the division on the other side is beginning. I cannot help fancying that the Government thought that they were suffering under a dangerous plethora of superabundant popularity, and that they wanted a little depletion in order to make their system more wholesome, and therefore they introduced this Bill. They have thought it very easy to take the money out of what they derive from the death duties. That is their milch cow, from which they feed all their patrons, a fund whose inexhaustible resources they are perpetually using in order to job for their friends. Well, there is another solution of this riddle that occurs to my mind. No man who sits for six months in this House can fail to be aware that there is a party whose predominant influence on those benches considers ecclesiastical politics, and no other, which has no regard for any other sort or condition of men except those who belong to the ecclesiastical class. They seem to have the power to compel Her Majesty's Government to do what they please. They are very ably represented by a par nobile fratrum, the angel to whom the Government have sold their souls, and who exact from them the uttermost farthing. I can account in no other manner for the way in which ecclesiastical legislation was forced upon this House last year and is forced upon it again this year. Last year the condition of the Church both spiritually and morally was brought to our notice, and this year a grant to the clergy is put forward. One would have thought that in the interest of the Church a prudent Government would have avoided proposing this grant. The truth is that in this matter they are not their own masters. Medical men tell us that disorders have their sequelœ which. 1033 are more dangerous often than the disorder itself. You are suffering to-day from the sequelœ of the Benefices Bill, you are likely to suffer a good deal more from the sequelœ of the Tithe Rent-charge Bill. Do they really believe that they are going to strengthen the Church in the affections of the people by presenting to them the Church in the aspect of this Bill, a bounty-fed clergy subsidised out of the rates? I do not know whether that commends itself to the noble Lords below the gangway and whether that is the ideal which they wish to be entertained by the nation. There will not be a ratepayer in this country who will not become aware of the nature of this proposal, and I can tell the right hon. Gentleman that the Opposition are not going to follow his advice to cover his delinquencies. The ratepayers of this country will be well aware that, contrary to the fundamental law of rating, a special exemption and a lump sum of money has been given to the clergy expressly as an equivalent for the ecclesiastical services they perform. What right have you to take a lump sum of money from the ratepayers of this country and give it as a deduction for the ecclesiastical services of a particular religious denomination? No wonder the stomach of the Liberal Unionists rise. We have heard the views of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bodmin to-night. You have put a good many straws on that camel's back. This is the last straw put on by the Minister of Agriculture. A scheme more calculated to bring public odium upon the Church from the injustice of the principles upon which it is founded is, in my opinion, impossible to conceive. They violate all the laws of civil awl religious equality. You say it is a small sum, but the principle is not a small one. £87,000! Was there ever so great a birthright trafficked away for so miserable a mess of pottage? I believe there is many a true son of the Church in this House and out of this House who regards the provisions of this Bill with a sense of shame. I read in the Report of the Commission that in the year 1846 the gain to the land-owners under the Tithe Commutation Act was estimated at £650,000 a year. In 1878 it was estimated at £2,000,000 a year. Is that not a fund from which some voluntary contribution to these distressed clergy might have been looked for, without plundering the funds of the rate- 1034 payers, most of whom, the majority of whom, are amongst the poorest class of the population? You have got your majority, and you will use it to-night. (Cries of "We will.") Yes, I hope yon will. You have made your bed, and on that bed you will have to lie. This Parliament will be remembered in future times for nothing more than this, that its principal and almost its only feats have been class legislation—class legislation and gifts of public money, which ought to be appropriated to the good of all, for the benefit of privileged interests. These were not your professions at the election which returned you to power. It was not upon such grounds that you solicited and obtained the confidence of the country. You have used your powers, and you are using them to-night, for purposes for which you have no mandate. You have made your choice and we have made ours. We have resisted, and shall continue to resist to the utmost of our power, these most unjust proposals, and we shall await with confidence the judgment of the nation between a policy of class legislation and the principles of equal justice.
§ SIR EDWARD CLARKE
I think we are thoroughly justified in saying that after the two speeches we have heard delivered this afternoon against this Bill the whole case against the Bill has been stated. We have heard to-night all that philosophy and party spirit can suggest against this Bill. Unfortunately all the philosophy was in one speech and all the party spirit in the other. The right hon. Gentleman has just asked to what is the introduction of this Bill owing. I have no authority to give an answer to the question, but I think I can suggest to him a very good explanation, an explanation he could have found for himself in the Report of the Commission to which he has referred. The explanation for the introduction of this Bill is, I take it, that the supporters of the Government, as a body, represented to the Government that there was in all parts of the country a deep-seated and long-enduring dissatisfaction with a condition which put an absolute injustice upon the clergy of the country. This is no measure that has been forced by the Government for special purposes upon its unwilling supporters, it is a measure which has been asked for by the supporters of the Government, who, like myself, thought in the first instance 1035 that this was a wise and just view, and we may be well content to have listened to those two speeches and to know that all that can be said against the Bill has been said. What is the case against the Bill? The right hon. Gentleman opposite flouted the Report of the Royal Commission and spoke of it with contempt, as something which should be treated by this or any Government as waste paper. Has he for a moment thought of what experience and political knowledge are represented by the names of those who signed the Report? This is a Commission not composed entirely of supporters of Her Majesty's Government, or of those whose training and habits in political life would predispose them to suggest a measure of this kind. Whose are the names appended to this Report? There is Sir John Hibbert, than whom, it will be admitted, there is no more staunch Liberal or more experienced man in questions of this description. There is the name of Hamilton, well known as one long associated with Mr. Gladstone, and trained in the traditions of Liberal administration and finance. There is Murray, the name of another private secretary of Mr. Gladstone, and certainly trained in the same school. And when I heard the right hon. Member for East Fife making a sort of appeal to the urban populations in this matter, and suggesting that the Bill was asked for only by the rural supporters of the Government, I wondered whether he noticed the names of two gentlemen put on the Commission expressly for the purpose of adequately representing the interests of urban constituencies—Mr. Clare, representing Liverpool, and Mr. Smith, representing Birmingham. But what did the Commission report?That the representations made to the Commission on behalf of the owners of tithe rent-charge not severed from the benefice have shown that the burden of local taxation on such owners is unduly onerous, and that sufficient allowance is not made for the fact that persons entitled to the tithe rent-charge are under a legal obligation to render services and perform duties in return therefor; that the case of owners of tithe rent-charge not severed from the benefice is based upon a ground which we believe to be fully established; that the present law, as interpreted by the Courts, works unjustly and places those owners in a much less favourable position than other owners who are also occupiers of rateable property; that there exists an exceptionally acute feeling of dissatisfaction with regard to the hardship of the law as it stands; and that, 1036 in view of all the circumstances, although incumbents are not entitled to be wholly relieved from the liability to be assessed for local rates in respect of the tithe rent-charge—indeed, such a claim has not been generally made by the witnesses who appeared before us—yet, pending the final recommendations of the Commission on this and other matters referred to us, the case of the parochial incumbent owning tithe rent-charge not severed from the benefice may properly be met by some special measure of relief,'That Report comes to the Government and to this House with the authority of the collective judgment of men trained in different schools, and taking different views on parts of this question, but all united in the view that a real injustice is being done. I put this case upon the plea of justice. I quite agree with my right hon. friend in charge of the Bill that this is not a case in which any appeal is made for charity. But I protest against the unfairness with which the right hon. Gentleman treated this matter, and asked us to consider the two things as if they were wholly unconnected. They are not. Justice ought to be clone to all, and it ought to be the deliberate and anxious care on the part of this House to search out and remedy injustice. You cannot remedy every case of injustice; or we should probably have been dealing with the probate duties long ago. But if you find a case of manifest and grave injustice, pressing hardly year by year on ten or eleven thousand of one of the most deserving and hard-working classes in the country, surely you are bound to consider the fact that the persons who come to you for justice come to you not only asking for justice, but representing that the injustice which year by year you are allowing to be done to them is crippling and harassing and weakening them in the discharge of the highest duties! I was amazed to hear the right hon. Member for Bodmin condescend to the pitiful suggestion that this was an objectionable proposal, because the people who were rich would get more than the people who were poor. A superficial gibe like that is unworthy of my right hon. friend. If the Chancellor of the Exchequer were fortunate enough to-morrow to be able to reduce the income-tax by one-half, it would be perfectly true to say that the larger benefit was going to the richer people, because they paid on the larger incomes. But would anyone in this House suggest such a consideration, and complain that 1037 the Chancellor of the Exchequer was not acting with sympathy and justice, because he did not make better provision for the poor than the rich? If there is a case of manifest injustice which the House can easily remedy by this Bill, the fact that besides to the poor men who are very much harassed the relief will be given on the same grounds of justice to men who do not need it so much, is no reason for withholding the relief. I will not go back on questions of law—no one is more reluctant than I am to do that in this House; but when the right hon. Gentleman speaks of the Act of Elizabeth, I would remind him that the reason why the parson and vicar were mentioned in the Act of Elizabeth was to prevent it from being understood that they were exempted altogether from the liability imposed under the Act. The tithe rent-charge which the parson or vicar has is not mentioned in that Act as part of the property which, qua property, is dealt with. The inhabitants are dealt with first, and the parson and vicar are mentioned among the inhabitants who ought to pay according to their ability. But, I agree, that is a matter of no consideration now, because for many years the interpretation of this Act has been so well established that it would be idle to go beyond it. The real grievance is much more recent. It dates from 1836, when the Tithe Commutation Act was passed. There is no better principle of construing Acts of Parliament than that of construing them with reference to the law as it bad been declared at the time of the passing of the Acts, and that is a very important matter to be considered in regard to that. In 1830 the case of Jodrell bad been decided, and that decision would have given relief to the clerical titheowner. The Report of the Commission says:In 1830 it was decided that the titheowner was rateable only for that proportion of the value of his tithe which the rent received by the landlord for all the land in the parish bore to the whole annual value of such land, including the profits of the tenant.That is to say, the titheowner ought to have taken off his assessment the same allowances as were made in regard to the other occupiers of land in the parish. Then the point is stated in terms:If the rent is one-half or two-thirds of the total annual profit or value of the land, the rate on all other property should be one-half or two-thirds of its annual value.1038 The intention of that decision was, and the effect of it would have been, if it had been upheld and acted upon until now, to do very much what this Bill will do. It would have relieved the clerical tithe-owner in respect of that share which is there suggested as being perhaps one-half or two-thirds. That ease was decided in 1830, and if any lawyer had been asked in 1836, when the Commutation Act wits passed, to state the law with regard to the rating of the tithe-owner, he would have pointed to that decision. But in 1836, not only the Tithe Commutation Act was passed, but also the Parochial Assessments Act, the purpose of which was to deal with the assessments of all hereditaments. Then a very curious and interesting thing took place. Those who represented the clergy at that time were anxious to secure for them the benefit of the law as laid down in Jodrell's case; and it was arranged with the Government, and promised by the Government, that there should be a proviso put into the Parochial Assessments Act in these words:That nothing herein contained shall be supposed to alter or affect the principles and proportions according to which different kinds of hereditaments may now by law be rated.If these words had been put in, they would have given statutory effect to the decision in the case of Jodrell. Unfortunately—though there is no explanation of the circumstance—those words were altered as the Bill was passing through Parliament; and on the words substituted the Courts, two years later, put a different interpretation.
§ SIR EDWARD CLARKE
Not upon any discussion in Parliament. There is no trace found of how it came to pass that the words were differently drafted, and no one can doubt that the words in the Act were honestly intended by the Government of the day to carry out the purpose of the words they accepted. By a Parliamentary accident words were inserted which two years afterwards Lord Denman interpreted the other way. From that day to this the grievance has not been allowed to slumber. Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen have talked as if the complaint had been made just lately, and this appeal to Parliamentary generosity were 1039 because of what the clergy of the Church of England have suffered in recent years; but it is nothing of the kind. The grievance was complained of then, and has been complained of ever since, and when the right hon. Gentleman says that it was so long ago as 1852 that Mr. Gladstone used the strong words he did, I do not think he weakens the case for the Bill, for he establishes that the thing we now ask Parliament to remedy was denounced as an injustice by Mr. Gladstone 47 years ago. It is no answer to say that in later years Mr. Gladstone, having great authority, did nothing to redress the grievance. Unhappily Mr. Gladstone had to work with such instruments as he had at hand in his Parliamentary action. He had among those whose support was absolutely essential to his Ministerial existence those who would have resisted a proposal of the kind, as they resist it now, as a new endowment of the Church. But the question never slumbered; again and again it was set forth, again and again the clergy complained of the hardship, and surely now they should not be exposed to gibe and contumely because they ask the House of Commons to redress a grievance which has become intolerable. It is said this is a fresh endowment of the Church, this proposal to relieve the incomes of the clergy from burdens which are almost universally acknowledged to be unjust burdens. Well, we have quoted some opinions in recognition of this, and if there are two men belonging to the Party opposite who may be quoted as equal in authority on a matter of this kind to Mr. Gladstone and Sir G. Cornewall Lewis, then I leave the industry of hon. Members opposite to find out what they have said about it. So long as these declarations cannot be matched, cannot be controverted, cannot be overweighted by others, so long I think I am entitled to say the grievance is almost universally acknowledged and should be remedied. It is said that this is an endowment of the Church, and that the Church ought not to ask for an endowment from the State. It is said by those who are so very anxious for the welfare of the Church, it is said by these in sympathetic tones of sorrow, "How terrible a thing it is that the Church should accept this dangerous gift!" Sir, the Church is accepting no gift at all. There is no endowment, no gift. The clergy of the Church have asked, have 1040 clamoured, to be released from that which is an unfair burden on them, and for the House of Commons to yield to this demand and right this injustice involves no endowment, no gift of any kind. All sorts of topics have been introduced into this Debate, not indeed by the right hon. Gentleman to-night, but the other night there were constant references to the question of Protestantism and to difficulties with regard to the ministry. No one would be stronger than I in opposing and endeavouring to prevent practices of which we have complained; but what in the world has that to do with this Bill? To say that a clergyman in a country parish struggling to do his duty in circumstances of immense pressure that come around every man in the position of one ministering to the sick and poor, with the constant claims of others on his scanty means—to say that justice shall be denied to this man because somebody else in a fashionable church in some large town is indulging in extravagant ritualism, is surely to introduce an unworthy and irrelevant topic into this discussion. We have heard tonight an essay from my right hon. friend the Member for Bodmin on the present condition of the Liberal Unionist Party. The troubles that affect his position do not touch mine at all. I have the advantage of being supported by a good many very valuable and faithful friends of the Liberal Unionist Party in my constituency, and, so far as I know them, I think every one of them is at least as strong as I am in the desire to do justice to the Church. I have not the slightest fear of any loss of Liberal Unionist support in my constituency, nor need other Members have any fear in theirs. Then it is said by others, You are proceeding in the wrong way; you might make some allowance or deduction upon the method proposed by Sir John Hibbert and others. Of course, the Government have considered the different ways of meeting the grievance, and anyone can see there would be great difficulty in constructing an elaborate scheme, applicable with fairness to all cases and in all places. You would have to introduce a new set of terms and deductions into the administration of the Poor Law all over the country. This would be a matter of extreme difficulty, and political science need not necessarily be applied for the scientific dealing with a matter of this kind. All the members of the Commission agree 1041 that something should be done at once. All their Reports recommend that we should not wait for the final conclusion of their consideration of the subject of local taxation, but should do something at once. My hon. and learned friend, with two other Commissioners, recommended the proposal of deductions, but there was another and a supplementary Report by another member of the Commission. The right hon. Gentleman said that the hon. Member for East Donegal had in his Report "smashed" the Report of the Commission.
§ SIR EDWARD CLARKE
I heard the word "smashed "; indeed, it is familiar to me as used by the right hon. Gentleman. I think I have frequently heard him say somebody has smashed something or somebody else. Now, here is the Report of the hon. Member for East Donegal. He is unable to assent to some of the statements of the Commissioners, but he says:I am of opinion that the case of hardship which is admittedly made out would be entirely, sufficiently, and prudently met by an extension to tithe rent-charge of the provisions of the Agricultural Rating Act, 1896.The concluding sentence of his Report is this:I am pleased to find myself in agreement with the majority of my colleagues in dealing with the hardship inflicted by the exclusion of tithe rent-charge from the benefit of the Agricultural Rating Act, and am in favour of its inclusion as the proper method of dealing with the grievance complained of.This is the Report of the dissenting Commissioner who has been so triumphantly quoted. I read it as practically a suggestion of the very thing the Government are doing in this Bill. We have now the authority of the whole Commission. It is said the Government are doing wrong, though they are proceeding—if not in terms, at least substantially—to carry out the proposals of the Commission; but we are told they are taking the money from the wrong fund. The right hon. Member for East Fife said some severe things in reference to the Local Taxation Account and finance in which I am very much disposed to agree with him. There were singular incidents in relation to the Act of 1888 which appear to have had somewhat unsatisfactory results. It is an old 1042 but interesting story, and I think much of the result was due to a want of courage on the part of the Government of the day in not persisting in a proposal because of a narrow Division on an Ascot Cup day which brought their majority down to four, but, chiefly, it was owing to the Parliamentary dexterity of the hon. Member for Louth, who sprang at the momentarily discouraged Government and forced them into a somewhat hasty arrangement which has not, I think, resulted very well. It is proposed to take money from this fund, and why not?
§ SIR EDWARD CLARKE
I am quite aware of that. Does the right hon. Gentleman think I have forgotten what, the Bill was? It was the beginning of this local taxation system with which we are dealing, and which I think was very unsatisfactory. It was the beginning of the system, and the result of the system as it now stands is that local authorities do get year after year large sums, increasing in amount, and have to find a way of spending these sums. ("Oh, Oh.") I do not think there is any public money spent in the country in regard to which there is more extravagance and waste than the expenditure of these sums, for the duty of spending the money in particular ways has been thrown upon people not always quite prepared for the responsibility. The effect of this will be to take this money from the ratepayers, not from the taxpayers; there will be no new taxation upon taxpayers; the grant money will be intercepted, and, instead of being distributed among the ratepayers, a fair apportionment will go to relieve the unfair burden which has been improperly put on one class. Now, I confess I think, both in the substance of its proposals, and in the method of carrying them out, this Bill is a good Bill. I am quite sure it will be received with satisfaction, not only by the 10,000 or 11,000 clergymen to be benefited, but by the populations among whom they are working, and who have seen the hardships from which the clergy are suffering. They will be glad to see them relieved, and I am glad to think that there is no real division on this side of the House among the supporters of 1043 the Government, either as to the wisdom of the proposal, or as to the excellence of the means by which it is proposed to carry it out.
§ SIR JOSEPH PEASE (Durham, Barnard Castle)
Nobody who has known the history of the tithe or of Church rates but must have heard of the bringing in of this Bill with considerable pain. It seems to me that it will revive the controversies which prevailed in my youth between the Church and Dissent on a very paltry issue, and for a very small sum of money involving the great principle of the increased endowment of the Established Church of England. The manner of bringing in this Bill everyone in the House, on whatever side he sits, must have felt was most unfortunate. A Bill involving great principles in which vast masses of the people in this country are interested was brought in under a rule and under circumstances, as already described by the right hon. Member for Bodmin, never contemplated when the Standing Order was passed, and which I think the Government must already regret. Again, this Debate, involving the religious feeling of the country, is being pressed forward to a Division, under the abuse of another Standing Order. This is a great stretching of the Standing Orders, which I see with very great regret; because whatever Party is in power, the feelings of the other side of the House ought to be taken into consideration before the Standing Orders are stretched as they have been. This Bill is looked upon, and will be looked upon still more in the future, as a direct additional endowment of the Established Church. Now, the Established Church is already greatly endowed by the State. Its schools, without any local control whatever, are receiving something like two millions sterling per annum, and two years ago another endowment of £400,000 was placed on them, while the cities and boroughs on that occasion received no help whatever. My right hon. friend says that this Bill is an act of justice; but I say there is no act of justice to the clergy which gives to the rich a larger sum of money than it gives to the man in the same position of life who is poor. It was the same with the Agricultural Rating Act. The poor landlords who had lost their rents in Wiltshire, Hampshire; and 1044 other districts were rated on the decreased rent.
SIR JOSEPH PEASE
The farmers, then—their land was rated at the low rents, and they got some relief; but in my own district, where the rents had risen from 10s. to 20s. per acre, they also got relief. I say the principle is not a principle of honesty, but a bad principle. If there is distress which Parliament must relieve, let the grant go to those who are in distress, and not to those who are not in distress. The Bill is a clumsy Bill, and on that ground alone it ought to be repudiated. I view with very great suspicion these little bye Reports which come on when occasion requires them to meet the views of the Government. The question of local taxation, of which both counties and boroughs complain, arose in an acute form after the Agricultural Rating Act. These doles and piecemeal dealings have a tendency to make the local taxation of the country worse. Before legislation on the subject, the whole question of taxation, as affecting both the towns and the country, as well as the 11,000 clergymen whom this Bill affects, should be before Parliament and the country. I belong to a long pedigree of those who declined to pay Church rates and tithes, because they objected to national money being taken for the endowment of one section of the Christian Church, and on these grounds they were distrained upon for tithes. Long after the Act of 1836 they also refused to pay rates or tithes, because they believed that it was contrary to Gospel teaching. Large numbers of Nonconformists still look upon it as an act of injustice that one section of the Christian Church should receive national property, more especially when there is no longer harmony in the Church. What, after all, will this Bill do? A calculation has been made that on the average the clergy will receive £8 each. I know a good many who will get no more than £2, but others who do not require it, will receive from £8 to £10; and yet that is called an act of justice to the clergy! I am exceedingly surprised that the President of the Board of Agriculture should come here and minimise these points. There seems to be a desire merely to relieve a certain class, and to do a great injustice to those of us 1045 who believe that no further endowment of the Established Church should take place. The Bill has been brought in in a manner most unusual, and very dangerous to the best traditions of this House. Whatever may be said as regards justice or injustice, money is to be taken from the taxation not of the Church people only, but of the whole community, in order to endow the Church of England. That money has not been foolishly or unwisely spent by the Charity Commissioners, who have done an enormous amount of good with it in their districts. There are, however, some items of comfort in this measure. I am one of those who believe that it will hasten the day when the Church of England, disestablished and disendowed, will, freed from its fetters, teach the pure doctrines of Christianity to the great advantage of this country and the world.
§ MR. JAMES KENYON (Bury, Lancashire)
I have read very carefully the interim Report of the Royal Commission presented to this House, and 1 quite agree with what has been said in regard to the injustice of the rates on the tithe rentcharge. It was the unanimous opinion of the Members of the Royal Commission that great loss had been sustained by the lowering of the prices of agricultural produce, and that the distress of the clergy was due to that. The average price of British wheat, barley, anal oats, per imperial bushel, was for the seven years preceding Christmas, 1835: Wheat, 7s. 0½d. barley, 3s. 11½d.; cats, 2s. 9d.; for the year 1894: Wheat, 2s. 1½d.; barley, 3s. 4¾d.; and Oats, 2s. 1½ and for the year 1898: Wheat, 4s. 3d.; barley, 3s. 4¾d.; and oats, 2s. 3½d. At the very lowest prices of wheat the 41b. loaf sold at Spalding at 3d., and the chairman of the Co-operative Stores at Bury says that flour was sold at half the price of the early days of the institution. Two items are not in the tithe—wool, which is half the price it was ten years ago, and milk, which at the present moment is delivered at Kentish Town from Derbyshire at 1½d. per quart. The result of this fall in the prices of agricultural produce, on which tithe rent is based, during the twenty years from 1875 to 1895 is that 2,100,000 acres of arable land in this country have gone out of cultivation, and have been turned into pasture land. The farmers have suffered from the low prices, 1046 and the tithes rent owners have suffered; but who are the people who have had the benefit? It is the ratepayers and the taxpayers in the towns. I represent an urban manufacturing constituency, and I believe that they are quite willing to have this injustice to the tithe rent-charge owners remedied. And I am certain that the farmers of the country would not have objected to the clergy being brought under the Agricultural Rating Act of 1696. It is an important matter to the dwellers in towns that they should be able to live cheaply; and they have lived cheaply during the last twenty-five years. But it is important, also, that we should get our food supply in this country, and not allow the arable land to go into pasture. But there is another way of looking at it. The working men in the towns are not at all anxious that the workers on the farms should come into the towns to reduce wages. What difference does the Agricultural Rating Act make to the ordinary £10 householder? Only 2s. 6d. a year; and this Tithe Rent-charge Bill will only cause an additional penny, making a total of 2s. 7d. It will pay the townspeople to hand that over to keep the agricultural labourers from coming into the towns. There is another point which should tell very considerably with the employers of Lancashire and Yorkshire, and other people who have invested their capital in mills and manufactories, and who are interested in the workpeople being supplied with cheap food. When the farmers of this country are prosperous they improve the home trade. There has been a good deal of talk in this House about the trade of China. I do not wish to underrate the importance of that trade, but the home trade is worth several Chinas, and I think the Government did a sensible thing when they brought in the Agricultural Rating Act of 1696, and this Tithe Rent-charge Bill. During the years these Acts have to run, the British farmers will have time to see whether they can compete more effectually with the foreigners who are sending agricultural produce to this country. One thing has struck me since I have had the honour of coming to this House. It is that the "drum ecclesiastic" seems to arouse more feeling than anything else. As soon as the tithe rent-charge is spoken of the cry arises, "Oh, the parson!" I hope this House will treat the parson as fairly as anybody else. My constituents, 1047 I believe, do not trouble their heads very much about the parsons, either Church of England or Nonconformist. They look after their pockets and what will best serve their own interests. I have consulted many of them, and I do not think I was blamed once for voting for the Agricultural Rating Act in 1896. I look upon this Bill as a corollary of that Act, and I think that it should have been made I one of the provisions of that Act.
§ MR. PICKERSGILL (Bethnal Green, S. W.)
The hon. and learned Member for Plymouth rests the case for this Bill mainly upon the Report of the Royal Commission, and for the twentieth time the name of Sir John Hibbert has been brought in in support of it. I am somewhat weary of these reiterated references to the authority of Sir John Hibbert. Many of us remember him, and all who knew him entertained a most sincere regard for him. But really, it is hardly ingenuous to cite Sir John Hibbert as being in favour of the Bill before the House. He was nothing of the kind. The fact is really the other way. Sir John signed a special Report which looked for a remedy in quite a different direction—that of reducing the rateable tithe rent-charge by deductions. In other words, Sir John desired to treat the matter as a question of assessment, while the Government have elected to treat it as a matter of rating, which is quite a different thing. The hon. and learned Gentleman said that the introduction of this Bill had nothing to do with the sufferings of the clergy. Why, then, is this Bill being rushed upon us?
§ SIR EDWARD CLARKE
was understood to say that the sufferings of the clergy might be a reason for pressing forward the Bill this session.
§ MR. PICKERSGILL
Then I rather misunderstood the right hon. Gentleman with regard to that. I accept, of course, the statement he has made. But although I shall not be able to press this View of the case as against him, I think I can press it as against another hon. Gentleman who has spoken in this Debate, and who speaks with some authority, because he is, I believe, the secretary of the so-called Church Committee, which has banded itself together to look after the special interests of the 1048 clergy. I refer, of course, to the hon. Gentleman the Member for the Tunbridge Division of Kent. The hon. Gentleman said with regard to the proposal of this Bill that as a dole it is beneath contempt. Well, Sir, I quite agree that when £87,000 is divided up in the ridiculous way prescribed by this Bill among 10,000 or 11,000 participators, the share of those who most need help will indeed be beneath contempt. But the benefit to the individual is by no means the measure of the loss to the community. And here, at all events, I must join issue again with the hon. and learned Member for Plymouth. I think the House will hardly endorse the sweeping criticisms which he passed upon the local bodies throughout the country in regard to the manner in which they use the grants from the Local Taxation Account. I have had some experience of local bodies, and I venture to say that the money which comes to them from the Local Taxation Account is for the most part wisely expended in the public interest. Now, this £87,000 is at the present time distributed in this way amongst the public authorities throughout the country in fairly large sums, and it is, I submit, very usefully employed in technical education and in other ways. Well, that work will be stopped, or at least checked, if this money is diverted, and I submit that the money will be simply wasted, either by being given to those who do not need it, or, on the other hand, being given to those clergy who, as we know and regret, are in such severe straits, that the gift of such a beggarly sum will be doing little more than adding insult to injury. I think there are, not only on this side of the House, but also on the other side, some who feel that this money will not be distributed so as really to do anything to meet the necessities of the case. I hold in my hand a copy of a letter, which has appeared in the public press, addressed by one hon. Gentleman opposite to a correspondent. I refer to my friend the hon. Member for Hornsey, who says, writing to a correspondent with regard to the proposals made in this Bill:I should prefer that the relief given should be extended in great measure, if not entirely confined, to the poorer clergy, whose necessities are severe.I think there are some hon. Gentlemen, at all events on the other side of the House, who entertain similar opinions, but 1049 who, perhaps, will not express them with the same frankness which my hon. friend the Member for Hornsey has shown. The hon. Member for the Tunbridge Division last night said that this was a question of assessment: but if so why does the Bill treat the subject as a question of rating? In support of his contention he proceeded to say:Under this Bill the relief given to the clergy is contributed by other ratepayers.That is a jugglery with words which is almost worthy, if I may say so without offence, of the President of the Board of Agriculture. It is true that the relief to the clergy is contributed by other ratepayers, but what other ratepayers? Not the neighbours of the clergyman who is relieved; not the fellow ratepayers of the clergyman in the same parish or in the same district. That would be too flagrant, and would never be tolerated. But the burden is imposed on a different body of ratepayers, and perhaps I shall show that best by referring to the case of London. I am a London Member, and am naturally disposed to regard this question especially from a metropolitan point of view. Now, Sir, let me briefly put before the House what the case of London is so far as this Bill is concerned. But first, let me say that this Bill is the last—well, I will not say the last, because if the Government have rope enough, I daresay it will not be the last, but at all events the latest—of a series of Bills by which the metropolis has been particularly hard hit. I shall refer, of course, only to Bills which are strictly analogous to the present Bill so far as the metropolis is concerned. Take, for instance, the Agricultural Rating Act. How was London affected by the Agricultural Rating Act? The share which London had to contribute under the Agricultural Rating Act may be fairly estimated at £375,000. And what does London receive back? The total amount is £5,245 15s. 2d.—a very magnificent dividend! Then, again, under the Voluntary Schools Act, the contribution of London may be estimated very fairly at £120,000, and London receives back £44,000. Lastly, under the Necessitous School Boards Act the contribution of London is about £20,000, and the return is nil. I now come to the Bill before the House, and the way in which London will be affected by it. In the first place, I 1050 will take the City of London. With regard to tithes the City of London is a peculiar case. The tithe in the City of London was settled more that 300 years ago by a decree made under the authority of an Act of Henry VIII. and since that time other commutations have been made. But the City of London, so far as the enormous majority of its parishes are concerned, never came under the Tithes Commutation Act of 1836, and, as a matter of fact, the payments which are made in lieu of tithes in the City of London are not rated, with the exception of a few parishes, which for the present purpose I may disregard. So far, there fore, as the City of London is concerned, in an enormous number of its churches the clergy receive absolutely no benefit under this Bill. Secondly, with regard to the metropolis outside the City. That case is different from the case of the City. We must, however, remember that a large part of London was built over before the 1836 Act. Before the Commutation Act, land was built over which ceased to be divertible. There remains the large and not inconsiderable part of London which has been built over since 1836, but I should think there could be no dispute that the clergy in the metropolis are supported to a very small extent indeed out of the tithes. Take the East End of London, with which I am particularly associated. I should say that the number of clergy in the East End of London supported out of the tithes to any extent is most insignificant. I believe that a very large number of churches in the East End of London were endowed under what was called the Bishop of London's fund, and others have been endowed by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. But, as we know, tithe rent-charge in the hands of Commissioners receives no relief under this Bill, and therefore the advantages which will the gained by the metropolitan clergy by this Bill will be very small indeed. I have not been able in the time at my disposal to ascertain what the amount is, but it has been estimated at £1,000, and I should not think the relief which under this Bill will go to the metropolitan clergy will be largely in excess of £1,000. Let me turn to the other side, and see what London will have to pay. That is very easily calculated. The amount which London will have to pay under this Bill bears the same proportion 1051 to £87,000 which London's share of the estate duty bears to the total amount of that duty paid in to the Local Taxation Account for England. If that is worked out by the simple rule of three, the result will go to show that £20,000 is the annual burden which this Bill will impose on London. Thus £20,000, which might be spent on technical education, will be diverted entirely from the metropolis in any shape or form so far as 19–ths of it are concerned, and will simply constitute, on the part of the people of London, a dole to the country clergy. It does not particularly concern me to refer to the case of other towns. But what I have said as regards London applies mutatis mutandis to most other large towns. Take, for instance, Manchester. I believe a very large number of clergy in Manchester have been endowed out of what is called the Manchester Capitular Revenues. I daresay these revenues consist to a large extent of tithe rent-charges, but then, as we know, tithe rent-charges in the hands of such bodies are exempted from this Bill, and so it would appear that the Manchester clergy will receive very little benefit under this Bill. Before I sit down I desire to say just a word as to the bearing of this Bill upon wider issues. The position taken up by the advocates of the Bill is that a tithe rent-charge is not income from property in land belonging to the Church, but a mere salary paid by the State for services rendered. It was said again and again by the representatives of the clergy before the Royal Commission, "no body of men ought to be rated on their professional incomes; we object to being rated on pay for work." Well, I have no unfriendly feeling towards the clergy, but I must say that I am amazed that hon. Gentlemen opposite, who hold themselves out as the special champions of the Church, should be so blinded—if I may say so without offence—by the mere purpose of the moment as to be eagerly trying to reduce the great historic position of clergymen of the Church of England to that of mere receivers of a salary. The claims which are now made on behalf of the clergy are absolutely impossible unless either, on the one hand, you revolutionise the law of rating in this country, or unless, on the other, you depose the incumbent of a parish from his ancient and historic position. The clergy want to have it both ways, but that is impossible. The in- 1052 cumbent of a parish cannot at once retain the dignity and the security which attach to the position of one who is the owner of a freehold interest in land, and at the same time enjoy the immunity of their Nonconformist brethren who merely receive a salary hi return for services rendered. This Bill, if it passes, will have very far-reaching results. It is a proposal to supplement the incomes of the clergy by money taken directly out of the pockets of the people. It will give an enormous stimulus to the cause of Disestablishment in this country, and Liberationists may quietly smile while they see the noble Lord the Member for Rochester, the other noble Lord the Member for Greenwich, and the hon. Member for the Tunbridge Division zealously but all unconsciously sawing through the branch of the tree which supports them.
§ * MR. J. H. JOHNSTONE (Sussex, Horsham)
It seems to me that the general tone of this debate has been more fitted for the other House when sitting as the supreme Court of Appeal in this kingdom than it is for the House-of Commons, for apart from that zeal, which is not always according to knowledge, and apart from the harangues which we have so often heard on Liberationist platforms, and which we are hearing over and over again this evening, the matter has been treated as almost a pure and simple question of law. We have heard again and again hon. Members of the Opposition benches telling us that the law has been settled for so many centuries, and therefore it ought to remain what it is. I think that argument is extremely useful, because the foundation of our case is that the law being what it is, unjust and unequal, those who complain of the grievance under which they suffer must needs come to this House for that redress which they cannot get in the courts of the realm. The finding of the Commission is that the law as at present interpreted by our courts works injustice. They say that that point is fully established, and I think in dealing with this measure there are only two points worthy of consideration—one is whether the conclusion of the Commission is justified, whether their finding is established by the facts set out in their Report; and the other is, is this the time to remedy the inequalities, the existence of which they say has been fully 1053 established? I do not think it lies within the mouth of this House to say that an injustice and inequality does not exist. More than two years ago, on the 23rd Mar, 1897, this House, by a sufficient and substantial majority, declared its opinion that the burdens of local taxation borne by the clergy were inequitable and excessive, and that the grievance was one which called for substantial relief. That was a resolution passed two years ago, and, turning to the report of the Royal Commission, I think that we must see that the grievance is one of long standing. It was a hardship of which the clergy have had just reason to complain ever since the very inception of rating itself, and the inequality which they originally suffered from was intensified by the Parochial Assessment Act of 1836, as interpreted by the law courts. The injustice, which is recognised by the Royal Commission, is the foundation of the Bill now before the House, and I am quite content to take my stand on that foundation. When the Commissioners find that there is no other class which contributes so large a proportion of their income to local burdens as the beneficed clergy I think the justification of this Bill is fully and completely made out. Let me illustrate this by the case of a parish with which I am familiar. The population is 1,300, and the acreage 12,000, there are two churches and three schools. The clergy-man is a man of education and ability, and was a contemporary of my own at the university. The gross income of the benefice is £357, and the net income which he is able to put in his pocket after paying necessary charges upon it is £166, and the amount of local taxation upon that net income of £166 is 7s. 9d. in the pound. I think that is sufficient to show how real and how genuine is the inequality of which the beneficed clergy with good reason complain. I can never regard the income of the clergy as a professional income—I cannot say that that which does not depend upon a man's health and popularity, and ability and effort can be considered as professional income in the same sense as the income of the professional classes—but at the same time I cannot help being struck with the great contrast between the position of the lay impropriator of tithes and the clerical owner of tithes. The lay impropriator may live where he likes, he may undertake any other employment which he 1054 likes, he is put to no expense in earning his income except the trifling expense of collecting it; whereas, on the other hand, the clerical owner is bound by the law of the land to render certain services, to live in a particular place, and do a certain work, and yet he is assessed on exactly the same basis and to exactly the same extent as the other man, who does nothing whatever to earn his income. I think I have established the point that there is injustice and inequality in the present rating of the beneficed clergy, and if I have not done so I will call one further witness—the hon. Member who signs the memorandum at the end of the interim Report, in which he dissents from almost every line of his fellow Commissioners' Report. But even he says that rates form a charge upon the gross income of the beneficed clergy, where all other classes are rated upon the net annual value of their occupation, as measured by the rental, less certain deductions and that in itself constitutes a real and substantial grievance. The Bill is inconclusive, because, pending the final Report of this Commission on Local Taxation, I do not think the Government or anyone else can pledge themselves to this as a final solution of the difficulty. I say the Bill is temporary and inconclusive. I frankly admit I think the greatest part of its importance arises from the vehemence of the opposition with which it has been received. But for that it might be considered a small thing. I do not indeed think it ought to provoke that opposition, because it adopts one of the most cherishd principles of the benches opposite—the interception of an unearned increment. A portion of the money coming to local bodies without effort, labour, or question on their part is intercepted and used for other purposes, thereby carrying out one of the cherished doctrines of the Opposition. (An hon. Member: "For the whole community.") An act of justice is for the benefit of the whole community. Sir, the question is whether this is the right way of dealing with this—dealing with it on an interim Report of a Royal Commission. The House has accepted that course before in passing the Agricultural Rating Act of 1696, an Act which I very much doubt if this or any future House will attempt to repeal. The same reasoning is equally applicable to this measure. The tithe rent-charge has for most purposes long been considered as land. The 1055 clergy very deeply felt their exclusion from the Agricultural Rating Act of 1896. I have thought, and I have not hesitated to: say, that I considered that exclusion was inevitable because the Report of the Committee on which that Bill was founded did not deal with the clergy but with the farming community. I do not think the clergy could have been included in that Bill. But I cannot appreciate the reasoning of those Gentlemen who say that because the case of the clergy was not dealt with in 1896 it ought not to be dealt with by a separate supplemental measure at the present time. Their position has been altered for the worse, if slightly so, by the passing of that measure, and I think we shall be justified in accepting the conclusion of the hon. and learned Member who said that the case of hardship which had been made out would be prudently and sufficiently met by the extension to tithe rent-charges of the provisions of the Agricultural Rates Act of 1896. The only question, it seems to me, that can be raised at all is whether we shall deal with the subject now or wait for the Report of the Royal Commission as a whole—wait until it goes through the long process of report and consideration, of compilation and digestion, and then of final legislation. The precedent of the Agricultural Rates Act is against that course, and when I consider the enormous opportutunities of dilatoriness which our Parliamentary system puts in the way of dealing with any single subject at one and the same time, I think the Government acted wisely and rightly in dealing with the measure at the present time in the present way. For a long time the clerical tithe-owner has had nothing but sympathy. I am glad to think the Government have felt the necessity and have had the courage to deal with this matter. I know it will be largely capable of being misunderstood, misrepresented and misinterpreted, and I honour the Government for having the courage and pluck to deal with a subject which has so long been waiting to be dealt with. I believe the clergy will receive their proposals with gratitude, and the electorate of the country will acquiesce in them as an act of simple, fair, necessary justice which has been too long delayed.
§ * MR. LOGAN (Leicester, Harborough)
I do not regret the introduction of this Bill. I shall leave that to the hon. Gentlemen opposite. The long-suffering 1056 taxpayer only needs this last straw to make him realise the kind of class legislation which the Government is constantly imposing upon him, who has to bear the burden of taxation. They will soon realise that the noble Lord the Secretary of State for India was more frank than judicious when he said a short time ago that the policy of this Government was to look after their friends. When the Government said they were the true friends of the toilers of the country they laid claim to a title to which they had no right whatever. Ever since they have been in power they have session after session lined the pockets of their political friends at the expense of the great mass of the taxpayers of this country. I have no objection to their looking after their friends so long as they do it at their own expense, but what I object to is their doing it at the expense of the taxpayers. Previous doles have been proposed on the pretext that they were for the benefit of the country. But this is a Bill in the interests of the clergy of the Established Church of England, and the relief is said to be necessary because the clergy are so miserably poor; but looking at the great wealth in the hands of the Churchmen of this country it is a standing disgrace to them that the clergy should be in the condition in which they are at the present moment. If poverty is to be urged as a reason for relieving people of their just burdens I presume that the Government will later bring in a measure for the relief of the agricultural labourers and Civil servants, land those three out of seven of the entire population of this country who are on the verge of starvation. It cannot be contended that it is right to relieve those who are among the least poor of the community at the expense of those who are bordering on pauperism. The excuse that the burden of finding this money will not be felt is a very paltry one, because it is simply impossible to give away £87,000 without those who have to find it feeling it. We are told that this Bill should be passed as a measure of justice, and the pretence that is made is that the tithe-owner is hardly dealt with by having to pay rates on his tithes. Now that has been shown to be fallacious, and it can be shown that the tithe-owners are now receiving a larger proportion of the profits of the tithe than it was ever intended that they should receive. Mr. H. A. Farquharson, examined by the 1057 Royal Commission who sat upon this subject in 1894, said:I submit that the tithe all over England is very much higher than it was ever intended to be by the Tithe Commutation Act. I am speaking of the seven years preceding the Tithe Commutation Act, which, I think, was 1836. The consequence was that they (the Commissioners) made enormous additions to the par value of the tithe in order to enable the tithe-owner to pay rates in future. Take the instance of a tithe-owner who said, 'the net value of my tithe has been £100 on an average for the last seven years, and the rate in the parish on an average of the past seven years has been ten shillings in the pound.' The Tithe Commissioners said, 'Very well, your par value in future is £150, that is £100 to give you your old net value, and £50 with winch to pay those rates.' But the moment that the new Tithe Act came into force the new Poor Law came into force, and the rates which had been ten shillings in the pound went down to half-a-crown in the pound. The consequence was that this tithe-owner, who ought only to have had £112 10s.—that is £100 for himself and £12 10. for the rates—got £150, leaving him £137 10s. for himself and £12 10s. for rates. The same witness instanced a parish in which the Commissioners added 19s. in the pound for payment of rates.He went on to say:I believe that the high tithe is nearly always caused by the enormous additions made by the Tithe Commissioners for rates.In a Return which Mr. Farquharson furnished to the Royal Commission on Agriculture relating to thirteen parishes in Essex with which he was acquainted, he showed that in 1893, when agriculture was at its worst, those thirteen parishes overpaid the tithe-owners £1,926, or 37¼ per cent., on account of the enormous allowance made by the Tithe Commissioners on account of rates. Sir Robert Giffen, whose authority will not, I think, be disputed in this House, told the Royal Commission on Agriculture that "tithe now is, I do not say a larger share of the gross produce, but it is a larger share of the net produce than it was in 1836." Mr. E. P. Squarey, of the great firm of land agents (Messrs. Raw-lence and Squarey), told the Royal Commission, whilst there had been a great fall of tithe between 1879 and 1894, the fall in tithe had not been commensurate with fall in the actual produce of the farm. I will suggest a solution to the Government with regard to this matter. It seems to me that the provision made for these rates in 1836 was ample, and I would suggest that the Government should deduct from the tithe rent-charge the 1058 amount that was added in 1836 for the purpose of enabling the clergy to pay their rates, and that we should then allow the tithe rent-charge to go free of rates altogether. That is a fair bargain for the land and would be a fair settlement of this question. If the clergy believe in the justice of their claim, they will gladly accept that suggestion in preference to the proposals in the present Bill. Under the circumstances, I think no case can be made for those proposals. I do not, as I have already said, regret the introduction of this Bill, because it has enabled the Government to reopen this question, and we, before it is closed again, shall endeavour to make the people realise that the tithe is the nation's reserved interest in the land, to be disposed of as Parliament thinks fit. In the past it has been devoted to the purposes of the Church, on condition that it paid its rates and taxes; but now the clergy seek to get rid of their part of the bargain we shall be amply justified in reopening the question. The tithe is an enormous burden on the country, and it is one of the main reasons why our farmers are unable to compete with foreign nations, and we may find it necessary to shift that burden off the land and leave Churchmen to maintain their Church in the same way that other denominations do. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer instanced two of his farms on which tithe and land tax were nearly equal to half the gross rent, and we know that land tax formed a very small proportion of that. A witness from Cambridgeshire said: "In some cases in my parish there is 12s. an acre tithe." A witness from Hampshire gave evidence that a farm of 640 acres in his occupation was paying £212 per year for tithe. A witness from Huntingdonshire said he was holding land at 12s 6d. an acre, on which the tithe was 9s. an acre. A witness from Somersetshire said there was a lot of land within three miles of him which was uncultured because the tithe came to more than the land was worth. I intend to vote against this Bill, because there is no doubt that this £87,000 will ultimately have to come out of the general taxation of the country. You may take it for the moment out of the local taxation of the country; bat the local taxation is fed by the general taxation of the people of the country; and though, no doubt, many of the clergy are poor, as compared with 1059 the millions of people among whom they live, and who will have to contribute towards this relief, they are in comfortable and affluent circumstances. This Bill is a gross piece of class legislation, providing for the few fairly well off at the expense of the many. It is such a Bill as, in my opinion, should not commend itself to Members of this House.
§ * MR. PURVIS: (Peterborough)
I wish to say a few words at once as a Liberal Unionist in reference to what fell from the right hon. Member for Bodmin. I am amazed that he should speak as if he were the mouth-piece of the Liberal Unionist Party. We are old friends, and have fought together—he for me in my constituency and I for him in his, during that ten years' Trojan war against Home Rule, in which we overcame our hon. friends on the other side. But I have had something to do with the organisation and work of the Liberal Unionists from the very first until now, and the last thing I should have thought of was to hear my right hon. friend talking as the mouth-piece of the Liberal Unionists. He certainly is not; and I hope and believe that they are quite ready and willing to help the Conservative Unionists to do anything which is found to be an act of justice to anyone. The arguments for and against this measure have of necessity been of a somewhat legal and technical character, but drawn from these arguments are certain plain conclusions on which lawyers and laymen alike will, after all, give their Votes for or against the Bill. I shall try to state those on which I shall vote as a Liberal Unionist in support of this Bill. At present rating falls on tithe owners as occupiers like the rest, but unlike the rest the tithe owners are rated on the gross value—not on the net. This is one hardship which the Bill seeks to alleviate. Now to be rated on the gross and not on the net is bad enough, but it is not the worst. The tithe owner is rated on what is income, which is a still greater anomaly than the other. Other people are rated on their dwellings and land and taxed on their income, and the clergy are rated like the rest on dwelling and land, but, unlike the rest, are both rated and taxed on their income. That is another hardship. How did this arise? For the law is but the outcome of the practice. The overseer, not being himself a tithe owner, and the amount of the 1060 tithe being an ascertained sum, down he put that sum in his rate-book, but he had a fellow feeling for other parishioners, who, like himself, were not tithe owners, and so rated them if anything less than the net value. Hence another hardship. Then as to the money to be provided under this Bill. My right hon. triend the Member for Bodmin calls it a fresh endowment of the Church, but how could you rightly capitalise what is to last only for two or three years, that is for the period assigned to the Agricultural Rating Act of 1696? It is also said the taxpayer will suffer. Why not? If he has been enjoying an advantage at the expense of his neighbour the tithe owner, that is no reason why he should continue to do so. I will not believe that the taxpayers are so mean as to begrudge this act of justice. Our opponents declare that it is a relief too scanty to be real, that a five-pound note every year is about all the poorest of the clergy can get out of it. Well I take leave to say that many a poor clergyman will hail the five pounds as a considerable aid for his children's clothes bill, or even in some cases for their schooling. We are told by hon. Gentlemen opposite that it is not desirable to relieve one class without dealing with the claims of other classes, but we hold it is better to go by steps when we can than to wait for some indefinite future when we might be enabled to deal with the whole question of local taxation. The whole is made up of its parts, and if we do not make a beginning with part we may never make an ending with the whole.
§ * MR. CARVELL WILLIAMS (Nottinghamshire, Mansfield)
I have been much struck by the way in which the President of the Agricultural Board has repudiated the motives which it has been commonly supposed have actuated the Government in introducing this measure. He says it has no connection with agricultural depression. Then how comes it that it is he who has brought it in, instead of the President of the Local Government Board; to which matters of local taxation properly belong? And how is it that it is constructed on the lines of the Agricultural Rating Act, and that it will terminate with that Act? If there is no connection between the two the coincidence is at least curious. Two hon. Members opposite have expressed regret 1061 that the clergy were not included in the Agricultural Rating Act, and the same complaint has been made out-of-doors scores of times. A clerical correspondent of mine writes, "I lose one-third of my income for cheap bread." Yes! it is unfortunately true that what has been a boon to the multitude has been a pecuniary injury to the clergy. I believe that if the agricultural class were still in the enjoyment of the fat years of the past, instead of the lean years of the present, this clerical demand would not have been made. I believe further that we owe this Bill and its hurried introduction to the approach of a General Election and to the threats of the Established clergy. We are, however, told that this is not a Clergy Relief Bill, and the hon. Member for the Woodbridge Division says that he wants to strip the Bill of its clerical vestments, while the President of the Agricultural Board hopes that we shall hear no more about a clerical dole; but I can assure the one hon. Member that the vestments will cling too closely to be removed, and the other that he will continue to hear of the dole for many a day to come, If this Bill is not intended for the relief of the clergy as such, why are only the clerical receivers of tithe to have the benefit of it, when others have equally suffered from the diminution of tithe? If the Government are so anxious to do justice, why do they wish to do it on so limited a scale? The object of the Royal Commission on local taxation was to benefit all classes of ratepayers; but, without waiting for its Report, the Government has singled out two classes for immediate relief, and those two the most influential classes of the community, as well as those among whom they find their most numerous supporters. If, as we are told, relief has been too long delayed, that is equally true of other classes of ratepayers. The Government has had no word of sympathy for them, nor is it likely that, even when the Report is presented, the requisite changes will be made. The President of the Agricultural Board seems enamoured of the cleverness of his proposal, because the ratepayer will not feel the loss of the money of which the clergy will have the benefit; but he must have a very poor opinion of the ratepayers of this country if he thinks they can be so easily deceived. Parliament intended certain money to come into their hands for general public purposes, 1062 and this Bill will intercept it on its way, instead of its going direct into their pockets. The only difference, therefore, is that between highway robbery and burglary—the victim equally suffering from either method. What Parliament gave with one hand this Bill takes away with the other, and when local Chancellors of the Exchequer have to frame their Budgets they will have to provide in other ways for the deficit which it will create But this is much more than a ratepayers' question. The hon. Member for Stockport, in his striking and courageous speech, advocated the cause of the urban ratepayers; but he did more, for he declared that this Bill would impose an intolerable grievance on Nonconformists. That is true; because they will only not suffer, as ratepayers, but will have to give further support to a system to which they object. This measure is practically a revival of the policy which in past times gave large Parliamentary grants for the building of churches, and kept in existence for a lengthened period the odious system of Church rates. There are some Nonconformists who think that the removal of many of their grievances has had the effect of abating the desire for disestablishment; and if so, this Bill will have a useful effect as an irritant. Indeed. I believe that the advantage which will accrue to the disestablishment cause will be cheaply purchased by the £87,000 a year to be given for three years by this measure. I say so for two reasons. One is, that Churchmen will no longer be able to say that, as their endowments are their own, the Church does not now receive a single penny from the State. Of course, I differ from them as regards the endowments; but when this Bill has passed it will be no longer possible to make such a boast; as the money voted by it will be a complete answer. There is also the danger of fresh demands; for no one has stated why 50 per cent. has been fixed upon as the amount of the remission, and presently it will probably be contended that it is insufficient, and the whole claim upon the clergy may then vanish. A second reason I have for thinking that the Bill will advance disestablishment is the effect it will have on the finances of the Church. It is admitted that it will not do much to relieve clerical poverty; but it will do a great deal to prevent the suc- 1063 cess of efforts for its diminution. I strongly sympathise with the underpaid clergy; and the only question which divides us is as to the source from which additional remuneration should come. There appear to me to be only two legitimate sources. One is a redistribution of ecclesiastical revenues, which would give at least a competence to all the clergy, and will not excessively remunerate any. There is, however, no prospect of such a change, and therefore what should be looked to is the liberality and good feeling of the members of the Church. Look at the contrast which at the present time is presented by that Church and the Free Churches of the country! The latter are proposing to begin a new century by raising large sums of money for increasing the incomes of their ministers and creating new religious agencies; and probably about two millions of money will be contributed for those purposes. On the other hand, the Clergy Sustentation Fund, which was commenced at the Queen's Jubilee, is stated to have been a miserable failure; and other appeals on behalf of the clergy have met with but partial success. Why have they failed? Partly, I believe, because the Church is thought to be rich enough to provide for all the clergy, if the money were fairly divided; but the chief reason is that the endowments pauperise its members and repress liberality. In support of that statement, I will give the House two short quotations. One is from the Record whose fidelity to the Church cannot be questioned. Writing some time ago, it said:We are suffering as a Church from the liberality of our forefathers, the landholders of Saxon times. Not that the clergy have too much wealth in consequence of the gift of tithes—they are largely starving—but that the laity have from that cause too little liberality. They are largely pauperised, made willing to receive their spiritual privileges as a charitable dole.That is from an Evangelical quarter, and here is similar testimony from the Church Times, which is in the opposite camp:The average Churchman, it must be confessed, is a miracle of shabbiness. … He has yet to learn the first rudiments of almsgiving.I do not believe that the lesson will be taught him by tins Bill; on the contrary, I believe that for every pound which the 1064 Church will receive through this Bill it will lose two; while, at the same time, the distrust and prejudice with which the clergy are regarded will be increased. Those, how ever, are considerations which mainly concern Churchmen; whereas, I am speaking in the interest of the entire community, and especially in the interest of Nonconformity; and because I regard this as an unjust and a retrograde measure, I shall continue to resolutely oppose it.
§ SIR W. HART DYKE (Kent, Dartford)
I will endeavour to be merciful to my fellow Members who are anxious to speak, but I find it is hard to give a silent vote upon this measure. I have listened to this Debate with great interest, and it seems that in a very short time we have got to a direct issue—namely, whether certain clergy of the Church of England had or had not for a long period been suffering from a grievous injustice with regard to the payment of their rates. The issue is a very narrow one, and can be easily and clearly put before the nation. There have been many subtle arguments as to the historical nature of the case, on which I do not intend to dwell. The question is, are we satisfied with regard to this question of injustice? Is it true or not that the clergy have been rated on a different basis to other ratepayers? Is not it true with regard to the relative position of the clergy and other ratepayers that deductions are made in the case of the ratepayers which in the case of the clergy are conspicuous by their absence? I deny the fact that has been urged upon the House that every clergyman takes his cure knowing that there will be this incubus upon his income. Clergymen who, fifteen or twenty years ago, accepted a cure knew nothing of the kind. The rates in many villages near where I live have gone up enormously; there have been new sanitary and School Board rates, and not only is this a new burden on the clergyman of the parish, but deductions are made in favour of all the other ratepayers which are not made in his case. I say this constitutes a serious injustice, and we do not want to go back forty-five years, to the days of Mr. Gladstone and Sir George Cornewall Lewis, to find that out. The Government has been asked why is it and how is it that the Government have at this particular juncture brought this forward? It is not an unnatural question for Members 1065 to ask, but it is very easily answered. The Agricultural Rating Act did much to make it more acute, of that I have no doubt. Then as now we had this grievance, and what has emphasised the injustice was the passage of the Agricultural Rating Act of 1896. At the passing of that Act it was not possible to include the clergy in the Bill, but since then the Conservative party has pledged itself to deal with this injustice. After all, what is all this fuss about? We think nothing of parting with large sums of money in August, and now there is all this fuss about £87,000 in June for a limited period of years. Of course this proposal creates joy among the hon. Gentlemen opposite; they have had a very rough time lately. For many weary months their political horizon has been overcast with clouds, and if we can bring them a rift of sunlight I do not grudge it. But let them not be too sanguine as to what the ultimate result will be, because the case we can put before the country is a good one. They have got tired of beating the air on the Agricultural Ratings Bill; let them make hay while the sun shines, for when the country understands this question more fully it will be recognised that the Government is doing an act of justice. With regard to the motive power behind this measure, I introduced one of the largest and most influential deputations to the Prime Minister on this question last session; 104 Members of this side of the House waited upon him to urge upon him the desirability of bringing in such a measure. Whether we lose votes in the constituencies or not we reck little. There is no time that can he a bad time for political parties to redeem pledges, to redress a manifest injustice. I should like to say one or two words with reference to the attacks which have been made upon the Church of England in this matter. I am not a Church politican, and in any remarks I make I throw no blame on any denomination. We are told that the Church is a rich Church, and that this relief should come not from the outside but from within; but the Church, although individually rich, is poor having regard to the demands upon her resources. In a charge delivered by the late Bishop of Rochester, he says that in 1881 the population of a particular parish was 100,000, and that it is now 450,000, which is an increase of 35,000 per annum.
1066 The diocese therefore had to meet the needs practically of five additional parishes of 7,000 souls. The Church has not only to supply churches and schools, but a resident clergyman in each parish. I repudiate that in this matter the Church is guilty of any meanness because she does not meet this obligation which we are asking the House and country to meet. The more I look at this matter the more I am convinced that the Government have met the demand the Party has made upon them to meet this injustice. If it be true, as we hold it to be, that these clergymen have been unfairly rated in the past, and the other ratepayers have gained thereby, it is only fair that the other ratepayers should now repay some of the fine which has been so long inflicted on the clergy. I support this Bill because I think the injustice is manifest, and that the Government have right and justice on their side.
§ MR. LLOYD - GEORGE (Carnarvon Boroughs)
The right hon. Gentleman has invited us on this side of the House to make hay while the sun shines; but as all the hay has been carted on to the landlord's and the parson's hayricks I do not think there is much for us to attend to. The right hon. Gentleman has also every confidence in the justice of the cause which he puts before the country; but that confidence does not appear to be shared by Oldham, where both the Conservative candidates absolutely repudiated this Bill, and said that if they were returned they would vote against it; but I understand that this Bill has destroyed any chance they might have had of carrying out the promise. Since this Bill of doles has been introduced into the House, the electors of Plymouth have expressed their opinions in an emphatic manner, and completely at variance with those of the hon. and learned Member representing them in this House. But I rise now as a Welsh Member to protest against this measure, because we have grievance with regard to this matter. Our grievance is a peculiar one, because this measure seeks to appropriate funds which are very largely drawn upon for educational purposes by Wales. Our grievance is still stronger, for the reason that in Wales we have exhausted every means under the Constitution to protest against using funds which belong to education to keep up a Church which only applies 1067 to a minority of the population. I would not say anything if a strong case were made out for remedying an obvious injustice, but in this case the clergy are not the only or the greatest sufferers by the anomalies of our present system of rating. It is not merely the rating of income, but the rating of machinery which produces the income as well. What is the case of the lodging-housekeeper in seaside resorts, as in my own constituency? He lives in a house which is larger than he himself can use, and from which he derives a precarious income, and he is rated upon the value of that house to an extent larger, perhaps, than the income he receives. But the case of the shopkeeper, the lodging-housekeeper, the quarrymen—all these are forgotten, and only the case of one section of the community is to be considered. The Government pick and choose. While on the question of the Agricultural Rating Act, I am glad we have had an expression of opinion from the Royal Commission in regard to that Act, which confirms exactly what we pointed out at the time it was under discussion. It has increased the burdens on the general ratepayers throughout the country. I hold in my hand a statement which has been produced by a rural district council in Yorkshire, which shows that in every single parish of the district the effect of the Agricultural Rating Act has been to raise the rates; in one case to the extent of a shilling, and in another case to 1s. 9d. in the pound. This is due entirely to the miserable system of doles initiated by the present Government. It is perfectly true that the clergy suffer, but what about the shop-keepers, the artisans, the lodging-house keepers, and all other sections of the community? Not a word is said about them. A good deal has been said during this Debate by way of expressing sympathy with the clergy in their distress; but the way in which the clergy have acted in this matter has lessened the sympathy which might otherwise have been felt for them. They gave evidence before the Royal Commission. They were there to represent their parishioners; they knew perfectly well that the grievances they endured were participated in by all their parishioners. But not a single word was given of any grievance suffered by these parishoners. It was all about their own injustice, their own grievance. The Rev. James Manners Sutton, a rector from Suffolk, gave evi- 1068 dence. One of the first questions put to him was, "I understand that the rates in your parish have, as a matter of fact, risen very much during the last three years." His answer was, "Very much indeed in my case, if that is what you mean." "I mean in the parish as a whole," said the Chairman. To which the reverend gentleman replied, "I have not gone into how the rates of the parish as a whole have risen." It is only when the facts are elicited, and when it is shown that the rates of the parish have gone up very largely through the operation of the Agricultural Rating Act, that this reverend gentleman very reluctantly admits that others suffer as much as he does. This is the "Am I my brother's keeper" attitude taken up by the spiritual guides of the people—
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
I do not see why these gentlemen should be spared. They are coming here to ask for £87,000 at the expense of the people, who are suffering in many cases much more than they are, and I think it is high time that the facts should be stated in regard to them. They are not taxed on their professional income. The point has been made over and over again, that the maintenance of the poor was a tax on the tithe. That has been challenged. Of course, it was imposed in the first instance for the maintenance of the poor. We hear a good deal of the opinion of the Fathers of the Church nowadays. It is always quoted whenever there is a question of ritual. One of these Holy Fathers wrote:Men pay tithes for God's church; let the priest divide them into three—one part for the repair of the church, the second part for the poor, and the third part for God's servant.What has become of the poor's third part? At the present moment they are getting 2s. in the pound, or a tenth, whereas formerly it was a third, or 6s. 8d. Now they say a tenth is too much, we should only pay a twentieth. The Fathers of the Church may be good enough for quotation to justify a breach of the law of the land, in regard to extravagant ritual; but whenever it is a question of fulfilling the obligations imposed on them, then the Fathers of the Church are thrown overboard, and the "King 1069 V. Jodrell" is brought in instead. It is very wonderful how the opinions of the clergy alter according to the character of these decisions in regard to ecclesiastical matters. The right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down quoted very largely from some authority with regard to the voluntary contributions of the Church towards carrying on its work. This was in reply to the taunts made from this side of the House, that if the clergy were in distress the members of the Church should supplement their income by their own subscriptions. There was a letter in the Standard this week which supports the Clergy Tithe Rent-charge Bill. The writer, who signs his name, says:I have examined the reports of the Church funds and charities, and have analysed the offertories at many large churches, with the result that the average contribution scarcely represents l½d. per worshipper.Now the Calvinistic Methodists of Wales contribute 30s. per head, and among the members are the quarrymen of the community. These men sacrifice their lives to earn every penny they place on the altar; and yet they are asked by this Bill to contribute in addition in aid of clergymen whose supporters value their services at 1½d. per head. No marvel that there is a strong feeling in every part of the country in regard to the iniquity of this proposal now before the House. On what is this dole of £87,000 based? Upon a Report brought up in a hurry by a Commission appointed for another purpose. I trust hon. Members have perused the Report. As far as I can see, the main pillar and support of this policy was a clergyman of the name of Jones. The changes are rung on the name of the Rev. Mr. Jones on page after page of the Report. First of all we have what the Rev. Mr. Jones said in 1836, and then what he said in 1840: and then there is a pamphlet which proves that the Rev. Mr. Jones is of the same opinion in 1850; and then there is a quotation in a footnote from a letter written by the Rev. Mr. Jones to Sir Robert Peel. All is Jones until you get sick of the Rev. Mr. Jones, in spite of the honourable and ancient name he bears, and until you do not care "What Happened to Jones." Jones is really the basis of the whole case. But then he is supported by the Rev. Mr. Stevens, who is said to be an authority on tithe—quite a superfluous explanation, for he is a clergyman. It is just 1070 like saying that a lawyer is an authority on fees. Then after this clergyman there is some gentleman of the name of Peterson, who is a kind of bum-bailiff for the collection of tithes. That is the kind of impartial gentleman who gives evidence on which we are asked to grant this £87,000. Finally, there is the climax of the whole thing—the evidence of the secretary of the Church party in this House. And that is the evidence on which we are asked to vote money out of the funds used for educational purposes. It is said we must make deductions for the services of the clergy. What an insult to the clergy! Their services are valued by the Government at half the sum paid for them. I should say the services of the clergy are worth what they are paid for them. No, there is really no grievance. I would invite the attention of the House to the grievance Mr. Jones makes out. He says, before the Commutation days the income of the clergy was not known, and therefore the overseers could not get at it; and in the case of the land the overseers could not ascertain what the value is, and the farmer got off. But since the Commutation the value of the clergyman's interest is known, and he never escapes his little liabilities! And this grievance has lived since 1836, and Mr. Jones has left this as a post obit—that the clergy are not now in as good a position to deceive the overseers as formerly! This is a grievance seriously put forth by a minister of the only "Hall-marked religion" in the land. Is that a grievance on which to base a claim of this character? It is necessary not merely to make out a case of grievance, but a case of urgency. It is admitted that our system of local taxation is unfair, unequal, and inequitable. It is admitted by hon. Gentlemen opposite that large sections of the community are suffering sorely from the same grievance. Therefore we say, Why not redress the grievance of everybody at the same time? If you redress the grievance piecemeal it is not made less, but is increased. The grievance will be increased to all except the clergy by another 2d. in the £ by this Bill. You profess that you have got a case of special urgency for the clergy; but the real urgency is to be found in the case of the rural ratepayers, whose rates are exceedingly high at the present moment in many districts of England and Wales. 1071 A rate of 8s. in the £ has been quoted, but I know of a case where it is 11s. 3d. in the £. The result of these high rates is that there is a practical bar to every public improvement. The provision of open spaces, increased accommodation for the working classes, improved sanitation—all these things are being stopped by the high rates. I can give the evidence of clergymen themselves to show what a terror an increase in the rates is to them. One clergyman says, "I am very much afraid that next year will bring in some sanitary expense." Human nature is pretty much the same, especially if it is in holy orders. We have heard a good deal of the condition of the poor in large towns, of fever-breeding congested districts, and of people rotting in the slums, but nothing has been done to improve these conditions. It is the high rates that are stopping the improvements, and in passing this Bill we will aggravate the matter. What an answer this Bill will be to those Welsh constituencies who at the last election gave up their share in the great struggle for religious equality which has been part of the inheritance of their race! And what for? For a prospect of a 5s. pension when sixty-five years of age, and for the sake of the prospect of improved dwellings, All I can say is that the mess of pottage promised to them has been consumed by other Gentlemen who are higher up at the table. Yes; the disappointment is not confined merely to the Welsh constituencies. Go into Lancashire, into Cornwall, and all over the country, and anyone who looks up the record of this Government must see what effect it will have on the rural constituencies. There you have a gentleman who owns the whole of a parish, and all over the country there are communities working hard late and early to increase his wealth and consequence. He has got his old age pension already.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
It is the Question, and hon. Members will find it out. He has got it already; and then comes the priest of his household, who gets three times the income which the poor Nonconformist minister receives (£10, £20, or £50 a year)—and he gets his pension. But the man who was talked about far more than any other at the last 1072 election, the working man, is entirely left out. There was not a word said about the Clerical Tithes Bill then. It was not on the "Manchester Card." It was not on the "Birmingham Liberal Unionist Programme." But the promises made to the working man were there clear, definite, and detailed. The age was fixed, the amount of the pension was fixed, and "any further particulars can be supplied by the Liberal Unionist agents." But the money which was to be devoted to this purpose has been given to the landlord and the parson. Why, the squire and the parson have broken into the poor box, and divided its contents among them. I would remind hon. Gentleman opposite that these promises were not made by politicians hungering for office, and making any promises at random. They were made by gentlemen who at the moment were Ministers of the Crown, and that was what lent importance to them, and that is why they were believed. They were spoken, not on behalf of a great party, but in the name of the Throne, and "shall Caesar send a lie?" I say that the men who were promised some provision for old age are still left out in the cold, and the Tammany ring of landlords and parsons are dividing, by this Bill, the last remnants of the money between them.
§ * MR. LOWE (Birmingham, Edgbaston)
As a representative of one of those large urban constituencies which were referred to the other evening by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Fife, I beg to ask the indulgence of the House for a few moments while I state, as briefly as I can, the grounds upon which I wish to give my hearty support to this Bill, and the reasons why I intend to vote for its Second Reading. In spite of the somewhat startling and sensational utterances of the hon. Member for Stockport, and notwithstanding the gloomy prognostications of the hon. Members for Bodmin and West Monmouth as to the effect this Bill is likely to have on the working classes in the constituencies, I must say that I am not at all afraid of the effect it will have on the working classes of Birmingham. Because, after a long experience of these classes, I am able to say that one of their chief characteristics is their great sense of justice and fair play, and that, if they are left to themselves, they can, in the great majority of cases, 1073 be relied upon to do unto others as they themselves would be done by. Now, if I thought for a single moment that this Bill constituted anything like an additional endowment of the Church of England by the State, I do not hesitate to say that I would not vote for it on any account whatever. But I very respectfully submit that it cannot be reasonably held to bear any such interpretation. For the relief which is proposed to be given by it, is not in the nature of a gift or bounty bestowed without any consideration on the other side; but it is a payment of a debt or obligation which has been incurred by the State, and which is justly due and owing to those who have suffered a public wrong at the hands of the community for many years past. Nor do I think that it is any valid argument against this Bill to say, as has been said by the hon. Member for Halifax and several other hon. Members opposite, that it is a return for services rendered at the last General Election, or that it is an interim dividend, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Monmouth described it. I do not know whether many of these unfortunate clergymen voted for the Unionist Party at the last General Election, but all I can say is, that if they did so it shows their good sense. It is certainly likely to encourage, rather than to deter, other sections of the community who have legitimate grievances to place their faith in that Party on any future occasion, when they find that the leaders of that Party are not only ready to make promises for the redress of those grievances at Election times, but to redeem their pledges and perform those promises when the Election is over, and as soon as an opportunity is afforded them. Now, I should like to go for one moment to another point. It is all very well for the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition to compare the case of these clergy with that of the ministers of the Scotch Church, and to say that if those ministers had not a sufficient income the deficiency would be made up to them by the munificence of private individuals—viz., the members of their own Church. But if the right hon. Gentleman will pardon me for saying so, I respectfully submit that this is entirely beside the mark. I do not for a moment admit that the Members of the Scotch Church are more generous in the support of their church and ministers than the 1074 Members of the English Church are in the support of theirs; in fact, I think if we came to examine into the matter closely, we should find that the latter would be found to compare at least on equal terms with the former. But as I have said that is entirely beside the mark, and the question we have to decide in this Debate, and by the division which is to follow, is, not the relative generosity and open-handedness of the members of this or that particular church, but whether it is fair and right and just that a certain section of the clergy of the Church of England should be rated upon their professional incomes, which they receive only on condition that they do certain work and render certain services—when other clergymen of the same Church—when the ministers of every other denomination, and when those who follow any other calling or profession are entirely exempt from any such form of local taxation. We all know that lawyers, doctors, shopkeepers, and business and professional men of all kinds, are assessed and rated upon the annual value of the premises which they occupy, and that is considered a fair criterion of their rateable capacity. But these poor unfortunate clergymen are not only, rated upon the annual value of the houses which they occupy but also on their incomes—i.e., the only remuneration that they receive for the services which they render, and the only resources they have upon which to rely for the maintenance of themselves and their families. Well, Sir, I do not care to follow those hon. and right hon. Gentlemen who have conducted a laborious and intricate examination into the legal history of this case almost from time immemorial. I am one of those, referred to by the right hon. Gentleman opposite, who do not trouble their heads with the law as it was in the time of Queen Elizabeth. I say, "let the dead past bury its dead," and I am quite satisfied, for the purpose of the present question, to take the law as I find it to-day, and I say that the law as it now stands is a bad law, that it is unjust, antiquated, and out of date, and the sooner it is altered and put right the better it will be for all concerned. These clergymen are in very many cases—I hope in the great majority of cases—carrying on a most admirable work, and frequently in very poor parishes amongst very poor people, who stand greatly in need of all the assistance 1075 which can possibly be afforded them, and it would in most of these cases be a very great loss and hardship upon them if they were deprived of the services and assistance which these clergymen, poorly paid as they are, are able to render to them at the present time. Moreover, they are, by virtue of their training and education, entirely unfitted to follow any other form of employment, and they could not change their occupation even if they were minded to do so. "Oh, but!" say some very well-meaning people, "this may be an injustice, but why should the Government single out this from all the other inequalities and injustices which exist in our present system of rating, and go out of their way to find a remedy for it now; and this especially at a time when the clergy of the Church of England have been getting themselves into bad odour and disrepute by their illegal practices?" Well, Sir, it seems to me that the answer to this question is perfectly clear and obvious. In the first place, there are black sheep in every fold, but that is no reason why you should punish the whole flock for the sins of the few. If there has been wrongdoing, if there have been improper practices on the part of a certain number—and I think it is a very small number—["No!"]—well, at all events, a certain number—if there have been improper practices on the part of a certain number of the clergy, that may be a very excellent reason for punishing these wrongdoers, but it is certainly no reason whatever for withholding justice from, or for perpetuating an injustice against the whole class to which they belong. The reason why this case has become so urgent, the reason why the grievance has become so intolerable that it cannot wait to be redressed until the whole question is dealt with, is to my mind equally clear. It is because in consequence of the fall in prices, and, in many cases also, of the increase of rates, the hardship has been growing more burdensome and more acute every year; and I take it that it is this consideration, and this consideration alone, which has induced the Royal Commission to present the interim Report which has formed the foundation for this Bill; a Report which unanimously recognises the existence of the wrong, and almost unanimously recommends that some special measure of relief shall be immediately applied to it without waiting for the much longer period which must necessarily elapse before the 1076 whole of this complicated question can possibly be dealt with. I do not think it is altogether a fair or a courteous method of political controversy for hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite to allege that the members of this Commission—who are all honourable men drawn from both political parties—and who possess, and deservedly possess, the confidence of both sides of the House—I say I do not think it fair to allege that they would lend themselves to a sort of underhand trick whereby they agreed to present this report at the bidding and instigation of the Government to help them out of a difficulty. I know several members of this Commission personally, and particularly do I know the Town Clerk of Birmingham. A higher authority on rating questions could not be found throughout the whole of the country, and I am perfectly sure that neither he nor any other members of this Commission would have lent themselves to so disingenuous a proceeding. Well then, my contention is, that the Report of a strong, reliable, and impartial Commission, founded upon a growing increasing wrong, is at least a sufficient justification for the action of the Government in singling out this injustice for special and immediate treatment. I further contend that it should have been dealt with three years ago when the Agricultural Rating Bill was passed, and that the present Bill simply remedies the omission which was then made by excluding these clergy from all participation in the benefits which were conferred by that Act. But, Sir, I very respectfully submit to hon. Gentlemen opposite that they should be the last people in the world to refuse to assist us in passing this Bill into law. And why? Because their former great leader, Mr. Gladstone, and the members of the Commission who were of their own way of thinking—and many other members of their own Party—have over and over again admitted that the present system of rating tithes is wrong, and that it constitutes a manifest injustice. This being the case, I contend that it is inconsistent with all their former traditions, and antagonistic to every political principle which they have ever professed, that they should not assist us in finding a remedy for this admitted grievance. I have always been taught to believe that it was one of the chief offices and functions of the Liberal Party to seek 1077 out any wrong, injustice or inequality which might anywhere be found in order that they might at once devote themselves to the task of setting it right. I know that they are not predisposed to look with any great favour upon anything which savours of the parson or the squire. I do not blame them for it in the slightest degree; for I know it is their natural instinct and that they cannot help it. But I also know that hon. Gentlemen opposite can on occasions be most tolerant, most fair, and most Liberal-minded even to a parson, and I do appeal to them on this occasion not to allow their sympathies to be deadened and their natural sense of right, justice, and fair-dealing to be warped and interfered with, merely because the class which is dealt with by this Bill happens to be that much-maligned class to which I have referred. If hon. Gentlemen opposite will for the moment try and banish from their minds the recollection that the persons to be relieved under this Bill are clergymen, and will think only of them as men, and as being in very many cases very poor men and very deserving men, suffering under a grievous wrong and injustice, I am not without hope that they will even at the eleventh hour reconsider the determination which they have formed to hamper and impede the progress of this very just measure of relief.
§ * SIR H. H. FOWLER (Wolverhampton, E.)
Mr. Speaker, I have carefully listened to the whole course of this Debate, and I am bound to say, now that it is approaching its close, that I feel, to a greater extent than I did before, the difficulty, almost the impossibility, of reconciling the varied, the diverse contentions which have been urged upon the House in favour of this measure. The hon. Member who has just sat down added a new ground, which has not, I think, been presented before—namely, that it is a debt and burden owing by the State. Well, Sir, we have heard, not only of this being a debt and burden owing by the State; we have had complaints made about the injustice of rating tithes, about the injustice of the manner of assessment, of the special injustice in the rating of the clerical tithe-owner; and my right hon. friend the Member for the Dartford Division of Kent raised also to-night, and very frankly admitted, the extra 1078 injustice occasioned by the passing of the Agricultural Rating Act of 1896. We have also had, I think, pretty nearly the same contrariety of opinion in reference to the remedy proposed. I am not going into the history of this case, I am not going into the law of the ease, I am not going back 200 or 300 years with reference to finding out what was the position of the rating of tithes in this country. One of the witnesses, not a witness before the Commission, but a witness quoted by the Commissioners, who gave evidence before one of the earlier Committees, gravely informed that Committee—and the present Royal Commission considered his opinion so valuable that they have reprinted it for our information—that in his judgment it was not the intention of the framer of the Act of Elizabeth to rate spiritual tithes. I think we have no evidence of and no necessity to refer to what was in the mind of the distinguished draftsman, whoever he was, who drafted that Act of Parliament 300 years ago. I am content to confine what I have to say to what is the law to-day, and the law to-day is the law that was enacted in 1836. Whatever was the state of the law before then does not really concern the present issue. Lord John Russell, in introducing the measure, told the House that tithes were subject to the same rates as land, and that the Bill would be framed on that assumption. His Bill was so framed, and was so carried through both Houses of Parliament, and the Act enacted that tithe should pay all Parliamentary rates, all parochial rates, all county rates, and every other rate which might be assessed upon it. Therefore I am not arguing now as to whether that was right or wrong—that is not the question. The question is, what is the law, and the law is what was enacted in 1836, and that law affects all tithe-owners, whether clerical or lay. Now, we cannot separate the passing of that Act from the whole question of tithe commutation, of which it formed a part, and it is the fact of that tithe commutation which, I think, has brought about to some extent the present state of affairs—at all events, as I read the evidence and part of the recommendations of the Commissioners' report, I have come to that conclusion. The tithe commutation, I think, was a great advantage to the tithe-owner. I think he gained considerably by the commutation 1079 of an unfixed and uncertain payment into a fixed and certain payment. He was in a decidedly superior position to what he previously enjoyed. He was then subject to the disadvantages which might arise from deficient crops or other causes which might affect the produce of the soil; for the future, whatever might be the result, good harvests or bad, nothing was to affect his tenth, which was commuted for a money payment. It is worthy of note that Lord John Russell stated that at one time he had the notion of making the tithe a fixed charge upon the rent. I have no doubt that if that measure had been adopted it would have been very acceptable to those agricultural members who have in this House complained so bitterly of the heavy charge of the tithe on land, which was hardly producing any rent; but the result would have been very different to the tithe-owner. So far as the averages are concerned, for the first fifty years after the passing of the Act commuting the tithe, the tithe rent-charge was above par, the average being £102 9s. 9½d. Therefore there was no loss then. But I admit—and this is one of the circumstances which complicates this case—that there has been a terrible fall in the money value of the tithe during the last few years. I think the highest point reached in the last fifteen or sixteen years was in 1883, which was the last year when it went over par (£100 4s.9¾d.); but now I make out, according to the average of the last seven years, that it has got down to £68 14s. 11d.—at all events, under £70. This money payment was fixed subject to the payment of rates, and in every one of the three modes about which there has been some controversy the rate question was dealt with. Where the tithe was paid in kind and the tithe-owner paid the rates no deduction or addition was made in respect of rates. The gross value was commuted, and the sum so fixed was subject, as the tithe in kind had been, to rates. Where there was a composition for a fixed sum, and the tithe-owner paid the rates, the commutation was based on the fixed sum, and this sum was subject, as before, to the rates; and where (as Mr. Porter, the Secretary of the Ecclesiastical Commission, thought was the most common case) the composition was for a fixed sum free from rates, the composition was taken as the commutation value, with the addition of a sum for rates based on the average of 1080 the preceding seven years, and these two sums made up the commutation value. Where the rates were large the clergy, or, rather, the tithe-owner—for I do not wish to deal with this as a clerical question alone—got a distinct advantage, because the rates were taken on the average of the preceding seven years, and I think it will be difficult to find in the present century a period of seven years when the rates were higher than they were in the seven years preceding 1836. The cost of the administration of the poor in 1833 was 7 millions; for the seven years preceding the tithe commutation the average amounted to 6½ millions, whereas in the years which followed it went down to 4½ millions. Whatever hon. Members may say about rates having risen, it is an actual ascertained statistical fact that rates have gone down, and they are lower by 1s. 2d. in the £ than they were at that time, and still more in the rural districts than in the urban districts. The hon. and learned Member for Plymouth has referred to what he calls the unfair mode in which the assessment was and is carried out, and we have had in the Debate, and notably in the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Stroud, a series of arguments founded upon what the law ought to have been, instead of what the law is and what the meaning of Parliament was. The meaning of Parliament is expressed in what Parliament says in the Act, and the true interpretation of that meaning is for judges and for no one else. We cannot go behind the Act and the interpretation placed upon it. I may say in passing that the hon. and learned Member for Plymouth told us that a clause was agreed to be put in to produce a certain result. But somehow or other it was altered. But we cannot go behind what is in the Act of Parliament, and we have this singular confirmation, that that was not inconsistent with what the Duke of Richmond and the House of Lords intended, because the decision which finally demolished the contention which my hon. and learned friend looks upon with approval was given in 1840. Sir Robert Peel, at the head of a great Tory administration, came into power in 1841, and Sir Robert Peel was not likely at that time, having regard to the composition of his majority, to have permitted the continuance of an injustice found upon 1081 a breach of an understanding, in passing an Act of Parliament through the Upper House, and there can be no doubt that from the decision which the Court of Queen's Bench came to in 1840 the statesmen of that day, and the Conservative leaders of that day were satisfied that there was nothing inconsistent with what Parliament intended, or they understood to have been intended, three or four years before legislation would have followed. Every speaker has alluded to what Mr. Gladstone said in reference to the gross injustice of this mode of rating. My hon. and learned friend the Member for Plymouth read a quotation from Mr. Gladstone's speech, but he did not tell the House when that speech was delivered.
§ SIR H. H. FOWLER
He did not tell the House the circumstances under which it was delivered; nor what the point was against which Mr. Gladstone was arguing when he made that remark. I will recall it to his recollection. Mr. Gladstone made that speech in regard to the Budget of December, 1852, in a very excited House, and in very excited circumstances. It was the concluding speech of a Debate which resulted in the defeat of the Conservative Government. Mr. Gladstone was arguing at that time against what? There was no question before Parliament as to the rating of tithes. There was no expression of any deliberate and well-formed opinion as to what course should be pursued in reference to a change being made in favour of the tithe-owner. Mr. Gladstone was arguing against a proposal of the Government of that day to bring the poor clergy within the range of the income-tax. The limit of the income-tax was then £150 a year, and what Lord Beaconsfield proposed was to reduce that limit under Schedules A and E from £150 to £50 a year, and under Schedules B and D—the occupation of land being under one schedule and the profits of trades and professions under the other—from £150 to £100 a year. Therefore Mr. Gladstone was dealing with what he considered an improper attempt, which he himself defeated, to impose the income-tax as a fresh burden upon the occupants of small livings, and with reference to that he did 1082 interject the remark as to the gross injustice of the rate. I do not wish to, minimise it at all. I think my right hon. friend behind me has called attention to the fact that Mr. Gladstone was not the man to shrink from redressing what he believed to be an injustice, and especially an injustice to the Church of England, in any shape or form. He had never been Chancellor of the Exchequer at the time he made that speech, but after he made that speech he was Chancellor of the Exchequer for a long series of years, and he was also Prime Minister for a long series of years. We are told that this question never slumbered, but at all events I do not find that Mr. Gladstone ever dealt with it legislatively. But, Sir, there is another authority which has been quoted in this Debate, to which on this question, with all respect, I attach a greater weight. My right hon. friend described Sir George Cornewall Lewis as a great financial genius. I will describe Sir George Cornewall Lewis not only as one of the ablest, but one of the wisest, statesmen of this century—one of the greatest men that ever belonged to the Liberal Party. And Sir George Cornewall Lewis gave very clear and distinct evidence upon this point. We have been told by the bon and learned Member for Plymouth that Sir George Cornewall Lewis stamped with his high authority the objection to the rating of tithe-owners, and declared that it was an injustice. Let me read what Sir George Cornewall Lewis did state. He said—and it is in the Report—There is no doubt that this Act" (the Tithe Act of 1836) "has operated very considerably to the disadvantage of the tithe-owner with respect to rating, and that is the point which I am desirous of mentioning to the Committee. It has acted injuriously to the tithe-owner in this manner. It has exhibited the entire amount of his tithe in public and in authentic form, and therefore, the tithe commutation being known and ascertained, the overseer has put down the tithe-owner in the rate-book at the full amount. But, being himself generally a farmer, he rates the other farmers in the parish at an amount less than the annual value, a practice certain to give the occupiers of land within the parish an advantage in comparison with the tithe-owner.Where is there any disapproval of the mode of rating there? He states a fact. [A laugh.] Will the hon. Member who laughs quote a paragraph which states that rating to the assessable value is contradictory to the law? It is always well to go back 1083 and see whether anything else was said. But that was not all that Sir George Cornewall Lewis said. In reply to further questions he said:It has been proposed not to rate tithe so far as it is a remuneration for services. It has been said that the rating portion of the tithe ought to be that portion which may be considered as the net payment beyond that for the remuneration of services, and that you ought to deduct from the tithe rent-charge as much as would cover the salary of a curate, which would be a remuneration for services performed, but the principle has never yet been admitted in the legislation of this country, but the entire tithe with certain deductions has been rated.Then a noble Lord, who did not appear to be quite satisfied, asked—Is the Committee to understand that your opinion is that the owner of the tithe rent commutation charge is at present subject to no injustice in rating except that which may arise from the greater facility there is for obtaining tins net income?And Sir George Cornewall Lewis replied:I am not aware myself of any disadvantage to which the owner of tithe rent-charge is subjected than this—that his cards are shown, whereas the cards of other ratepayers are not shown; and in my opinion, the most proper and equitable mode of redressing that disadvantage is to compel the other party to show all his cards, rather than to withdraw the whole of them.Not one word is said as to the injustice of which we have heard so much to-night. I now come to the remedy which the Commissioners suggest for the injustice which they allege exists. And what do they suggest? I am assuming that the injustice is admitted, which it is not. They said that the state of the law was unjust to the clerical tithe-owner, but that it was also unjust to the lay tithe-owner. You say you throw aside the argument of the poverty of the clergy, and that you proceed solely on the ground that this is an unjust law, and ought to be redressed. Then why confine your redress to one class of tithe-owners alone? Why leave out of consideration the owners of tithes separated from benefices? No distinction can be drawn which could hold water. It has been said that it is our duty to pay special respect to the opinions of gentlemen who compose a Royal Commission, and that they have been improperly criticised. All we are entitled to do is to deal with them in their public capacity. But I wish to refer to the history of this 1084 Commission. I took a part, if I may say so, in the movement in this House which resulted in the concession by the Government of the appointment of the Royal Commission on whose report this Bill is said to be based. When the Government were proposing to benefit, unjustly as we thought, one class of ratepayers and leave all the others out of consideration, and when there was a feeling—not expressed, perhaps, with the same force as it was expressed the other night by the hon. Member for Stockport—of hostility on the part of urban Members against the proposal of the Government, the Government said:We admit that local taxation bears hardly upon the urban taxpayer, and we promise that there shall be an immediate inquiry "—into what?—" into the rating of personal property as well as real property, with a view to giving relief to dwellers in towns as well as dwellers in the country.The Commission was accordingly appointed, and what was it to inquire into? —"whether all kinds of real and personal property contribute equitably to taxation for local purposes." That was in 1896; and we have not yet got the Report of the Commission on that point. There has been a good deal of talk during this debate of the grievance of the clerical tithe-owner. I admit it. I also admit the grievance of the agricultural ratepayer. But I say the grievance of the urban ratepayer is greater. The President of the Board of Agriculture said the Government had arrived at the £87,000 by taking the average rate as 2s. 6d. in the £. What is the rate in Wolverhampton? What are the rates in all the large urban districts.? It is 7s. 4d. in the £. These rates are steadily growing, and we have no remedy proposed. I treat with the utmost respect the gentlemen who compose the Royal Commission on Local Taxation; I attribute no motives to them; but I say their first duty was to deal with the task entrusted to them, which was to suggest a remedy for the grievances under which all property holders labour in respect of local taxation, instead of reporting, as they have done, with regard to one class of property and one class of property alone. Now there are three courses suggested as a remedy by the Commission. First, we have the suggestion that there should be a special measure of relief. Secondly, that there should be special legislation for the purpose of dealing with the deductions; and 1085 we have also what, I think, was the very wise suggestion of my right hon. friend the Member for Clackmannan, with which he objected to special legislation. But, Sir, what I would submit to the House is this, if the law is unjust—that is your contention—well, then, alter the law. Do not vote a sum of money out of the public funds to be levied indiscriminately upon those who are suffering by this bad law. That is not constitutional; that is not in accordance with precedent. Many Members may be able to recall a case of rating injustice which was discussed in both the last and the preceding Parliaments. I am alluding to the question of the rating of machinery. There was a great majority of this House, both under Conservative and Liberal Governments, who considered that the state of the law with reference to the rating of machinery was most unjust and unfair. I remember my friend, the late Mr. Winterbotham making a most powerful and convincing speech on this subject, in winch he showed how it was crushing out local industries in Stroud, in Gloucestershire, and in the West of England, and other Members from all parts, both urban and rural, pointed out the same thing. Five times did the House pass the Second Reading of a measure for the relief of that injustice. In the time of the Conservative Government there was a majority of 153 for the Second Reading, and under the Liberal Government the majority was 152. The Bill was blocked for reasons into which I will not enter; but an hon. Member who took a prominent part in opposing the Bill said he objected to it on the ground that it was not fair to alter one description of rating until the time arrived for altering all descriptions of rating. Now, what would you have thought if my right hon. friend the Member for West Monmouth had come down and said with respect to that Bill "We have no time to alter the law; we are not prepared to do that; but we will give you a sum of money out of the death duties"? Such a proposal would have been laughed out of the House. It would have been said that he was playing, and improperly playing, with public money under those circumstances. You have no right to redress a bad law by making a present of the money of one class of the ratepayers in order to benefit another. That brings me to another point. The Bill proposes that the 1086 relief shall apply to the owner of any benefice. There is no distinction as to the value of the benefice. Of course, it is put upon the high ground that you must not distinguish between rich and poor benefices. Well, Sir, that is absolutely inconsistent with the argument that the present system of rating presses so hard upon poor benefices. That is what the Government did in the Agricultural Rating Act—they did not distinguish between land worth 10s. an acre and land worth £10 an acre. I had a letter the other day from a friend of mine who had received half his rates back, as a distressed agriculturist, and he tells me that he has sold the land for which he received this relief for £500 an acre. The same principle is applied to this measure. They come down to the House and point to the hardship of the men with large families and small livings; but they give the relief to all alike—they give it to the man with the living of £1,000 a year as well as to the man with a poor living. It is a wrong principle and given in an extravagant and unfair way. My right hon. friend the Member for Bodmin referred to a point upon which I wish only to say a word. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Agriculture talked of the sum of £87,000 as if it were of little account; but when once the House has allowed a grant of this kind, as an hon. Member reminded us to-night, it is very difficult to undo that sort of legislation, and if you are going to vote £87,000 the House must take its capitalised value, which is over £3,000,000. We are told that the Bill only operates for a limited period. Much the same argument was used with reference to the Agricultural Rating Bill. Now I come to an extraordinary matter, the finance of this Bill. There is to be an interception of an interception. The money that ought to go into the Exchequer is first diverted into the Local Taxation Account, and then the Board of Inland Revenue has power to pay it to the respective local collectors of rates. That is a question we shall discuss pretty fully when we go into Committee on that clause. I only mention it now. The right hon. Gentleman says, "There is a sum of money somewhere that we really do not know what to do with; it is a surplus which has grown up nobody knows how," and the hon. and learned Member for Plymouth actually said that the local authorities would have some difficulty in knowing how to spend 1087 the money. I wish that among his many advantages—his unrivalled advantages—the hon. and learned Member for Plymouth had the advantage of experience of municipal work for two years. He would find that municipalities have no difficulty whatever in knowing how to spend their money. He would find that they cannot at times answer the demands that come upon them. Every year a sum is paid to the authorities on account of their share of the local taxation account, and there is always a balance at the end of the year, but until the accounts are closed nobody knows what the exact amount is, and that balance is distributed early in the following financial year when it is received. The sum that was available at the end of the year March 31st, 1897—the Return for the year ended March 31st, 1898, is not yet issued, but it will not vary much—was £845,000. What is proposed is to take 10 per cent. of that sum away from the local authorities and give it for this new purpose; and in this connection I wonder if the right hon. Gentleman has worked out the sum. I have worked out some of the figures. I find that the County of Stafford is now receiving £22,000 a year from this surplus, and you are going to take 10 per cent. of that £22,000 from the County of Stafford. Then Lancashire. That is a county in which the Government have a special interest, especially at this moment. I have no doubt we shall see to-morrow morning that the Member for Plymouth and the Member for Dartford will make good their challenges and go down and address the electors of Oldham and try to do away with the unfortunate impression which has been made there by the fact that the two Conservative candidates have declared that they would not vote for this Bill. Well, Lancashire receives £100,000 a year from the balance of this fund, and this Bill will inflict on Lancashire a fine of £10,000 for the purpose of this endowment which the House is now asked to sanction. Do hon. and right hon. Gentlemen believe that this burden is going to be permanently placed on the back of the people without eliciting indignant protests from the ratepayers. But then, Sir, the Member for Stroud and the Member for Plymouth declare that this is not a question of doles or of charity. No, Sir, it is not a question of doles or of charity, 1088 I agree that the clergy of the Church of England, and the clergy of the Church of Rome, and the clergy of the various Nonconformist Churches are as a rule underpaid. I believe that the labourer is worthy of his hire, and especially that class of labourer that represents the ministerial offices in all the Churches. I admit that is not a question of charity. I admit that these clergymen have a right to have their miserably small incomes made up. They have a right to be relieved from the payment of a heavy burden. They have a right to a just remuneration for the lifelong labour, the unceasing sacrifices as well as the constant assiduity with which they discharge their sacred offices. But against whom have they that right? Not against the revenue of the country. They have no right against the taxpayers, who belong to all creeds or to no creed. They have a right, and the right is against the Church at whose altars they minister, a right against the Christian men and the Christian women of whatever rank in society, from the peerage to the peasantry, whom they serve in that office, and to whom they afford spiritual teaching and consolation. I am not going to say anything disrespectful of the clergy or the laity of the Church of England, but, Sir, I cannot help contrasting what the laity and the clergy are doing in Scotland—in the Free Church, in the United Presbyterian Church of Scotland—and in the whole of the Nonconformist Churches of England and Wales. Hon. Members apparently are not aware that these burdens of rates arise elsewhere than in the Church of England. Perhaps I may refer to one Church of which I know something—I mean the Wesleyans. Every married Wesleyan minister is entitled to and has a furnished house, rent free, and the rates of that house are paid for him. His Church never asks him to pay a single shilling of rates, and when it was discovered some years ago by the authorities of Inland Revenue that these furnished houses, rent and rate free, were an addition to the stipends, they charged income-tax on them, and the Wesleyan Church also pays that income-tax. 1089 In addition to the support of their Ministers the bodies to which I am referring in England and Scotland—and I do not exclude Ireland, for there is no class by whom there are greater sacrifices made than by the peasantry of Ireland for the support of the Roman Catholic clergy—bear their fair share of all the other extraneous charitable contributions which fall on their shoulders. They do not regard it as a burden—they regard it as a duty—to support their ministers—their churches—their schools—their missions—and all other departments of their church organisation; and is it right, is it fair, is it just that you should impose new taxation upon them, for that is what it amounts to—diverted taxation once raised is precisely the same as if you impose new taxation—in addition to the burdens that they already bear? I say, in conclusion—and I apologise for having trespassed so much upon the time which belongs to the right hon. Gentleman opposite—that the Church of England can—and if this enfeebling idea of rate-aided support can be got rid of will—do its duty to its clergy and will relieve them from a cruel and heavy burden. I admit there is a hard case. I admit it entirely. I have not had time to dwell upon it as I intended to. The real and true cause, is the heavy fall in the money value of the tithe commutation rent-charge. That is the real grievance; but 1s. or 1s. 3d. in the £ on the rates will not touch that sad diminution in clerical income. I say that the Church of England, if properly appealed to, will relieve its poor clergymen from this reduction of their stipends, and will show that, while the Anglican Church surpasses all other Churches combined in its unrivalled resources, it will equal them in the just and generous discharge of all its obligations.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR,) Manchester, E.
I think those who, like myself, have had the duty imposed upon them of following out the course of this Debate, will admit that the speech to which we have just listened is in happy contrast in tone and temper to some of the speeches which have been delivered both to-night and on the preceding occasion. It is quite true that towards the end of his speech the right hon. Gentleman, who is, after all, human, could not resist a little elec- 1090 tioneering, and that he terminated his observations by a parallel between the English Church and the Nonconformist bodies, to the disadvantage of the former communion. I think the right hon. Gentleman is most unjust to the English Church. I have no means of comparing the relative liberality of members of the Church of England and of the Nonconformist bodies, and I do not go the length of saying, indeed I do not think, that the laity of the Church of England in all respects show themselves equal to the great responsibilities thrown upon them. But that Church contributed for Church purposes, I believe, something over £7,000,000 last year, and £7,500,000 in the year 1897–98, to her purposes, and, though that may be a less sum than the members of that Church ought to contribute, I do not think it is a niggardly contribution. But it is hardly necessary for me to enter a caveat against the suggestion that the English Established Church comes forward at the present moment to ask for alms of this House. The claim she makes may be just, or it may be unjust—I shall argue that question directly; but the basis of that claim, be it sound or unsound, is a claim of justice and not a claim of pity. And certainly I should think myself quite unworthy of the task which has been laid upon me if I were for one moment to suggest that we come to the taxpayers of this country as beggars for alms and not as claimants for justice. Before I dwell any further upon that, which is, after all, the central citadel of the case, let me deal briefly with three attacks which have appeared in almost every speech made from the other side of the House. The first of those attacks is that we have based our proposals upon an interim Report of the Royal Commission. I think that is a very absurd attack. The right hon. Gentlemen in most of their other speeches upon Royal Commissions have declared that they were an expedient of the Government for indefinitely deferring some difficult question which ought to be dealt with. No doubt the result of a very prolonged inquiry is that the consideration by this House of a question is deferred from year to year. Well, is it not a very great advantage to get over that difficulty by having a Report upon any branch of the general topic which can, with advantage and propriety, be dealt with separately? I do not admit that the procedure of the Government 1091 with regard to the Royal Commission has been in any way improper. It appears admirably suited to carry out the general objects for which that Commission was appointed. The second criticism that has been made seems to me, if I may venture to say so with all respect, even more frivolous. We have been attacked by almost every speaker, except the right hon. Gentleman, for introducing this Bill under Standing Order No. 16, and thereby curtailing, no doubt, the Debate on the First Reading. I think that accusation is made against us by hon. Gentlemen with that species of courage which is born of Parliamentary forgetfulness. They were constantly in the habit when they were in office of introducing in this way the most elaborate Bills—great factory measures, for instance, were introduced in this way by the right hon. Gentleman the late Home Secretary.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
"Controversial" is a very difficult term to define; they were complicated and elaborate measures upon which, no doubt, a great many gentlemen would have had something to say if the Bills had been introduced in the older fashion. I remember a case in which not, indeed, a Member of the Government, but an hon. Baronet opposite, one of the Members for Glasgow, introduced under this Standing Order No. 16 a measure for the disestablishment of the Scotch Church, and the whole of the front bench opposite without any exception supported him in the course he took and voted with him for the First Reading. I confess that for my own part a small readjustment of rating does seem to me rather less important and less controversial than the disestablishment of a national Church.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I never said it was a Government Bill, I said that it was 1092 introduced by the hon. Baronet, one of the Members for Glasgow, and that right hon. Gentlemen opposite supported him in the course he took and went into the Division lobby with him. The third of these subsidiary attacks which have reappeared at every phase of this discussion is in regard to the machinery we have adopted for remedying the injustice, as we think it, at the present moment of the position of the clergy. That method is to intercept a portion of the money which goes into the Local Taxation Account, and this has been attacked by hon. Gentlemen opposite as if it amounted to a breach of some great and accepted financial principle, as if it were intolerable that this House should come upon the fund for any purpose, however important, or however much it might affect the general community. Again, I say this is an accusation born of the shortness of political memory, because the machinery of the course we have adopted is one that we have borrowed in all respects from the procedure of right hon. Gentlemen opposite. They also intercepted this fund, and they intercepted it by a demand upon the fund far greater than that which this measure will make upon it. I forget the precise object for which they made the demand.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
Yes, something about pigs. I must respectfully point out to the House that it appears to me quite as reasonable to take £87,000 a year from this fund in order to readjust on an equitable basis our local taxation, as to take twice that sum from the fund in order to deal with swine fever. I do not expect right hon. Gentlemen opposite to make the same balance of motive or estimate of importance as I do, but without balancing the relative importance of relieving an injustice to the clergy and of dealing with pigs, I am justified in pointing out that the machinery we have adopted can hardly be open to all the criticisms passed upon it, inasmuch as that machinery is borrowed without alteration from the procedure of right hon. Gentlemen opposite. I quite admit that these three points with which I have dealt are subsidiary points, they are to my mind relatively unimportant points, but they have bulked largely in this Debate, and I could not without disrespect to the House avoid touching 1093 upon them. But having dealt with them briefly, though I hope not unsuccessfully, I proceed to touch on what I regard as the paramount questions. Let me say on this part of my case that I think hon. Gentlemen have been very unsuccessful in rebutting the weight of authority which stands on record in favour of the proposition that the existing rates press with undue severity upon the clergy. The right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down tried to minimise the weight of Mr. Gladstone's opinion by telling us that it was delivered on an exciting night at the end of a Budget Debate which had for its result the turning out of the Government of the day. Well, I do not know whether these considerations ought or ought not properly to be regarded as qualifying the importance of the statement which Mr. Gladstone made in 1851, but let me for the sake of argument, in order that I may not discuss that point, remind the House that that was not the last time nor the most important occasion on which Mr. Gladstone delivered an authoritative and considered judgment upon this point. A Bill was brought in in 1856 by Mr. Robert Phillimore, and its object was the same as the object of this Bill—namely, to diminish the burden of rates on the tithe-owning clergy. I am sure the House will take it from me that that was the object of the Bill; if they doubt it, I will read Mr. Robert Phillimore's speech. Let me read this brief passage from Mr. Glad-stone's contribution to the debate:He would respectfully press upon the House that, after the universal admission which had been made as to the existence of the grievance which was the subject of the it would not be altogether creditable to allow small difficulties of detail and small differences of opinion to prevent the application of a remedy to that grievance.That was not a statement made on the Budget or in the heat of some great Party conflict, but a considered utterance upon the Second Reading of a Bill brought in for the very purpose for which we are introducing this Bill. And while we can quote on our side such a great authority in this matter as Mr. Gladstone, and while we can quote the various gentlemen of all shades of political opinion who have signed this Report, the industry of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite, which certainly leaves nothing to be desired, has not extracted one opinion in a contrary direction from any great authority on the 1094 subject since 1836 to the present time. That is a presumption in favour of our Bill which it would take a great deal to get over. But how do they try to get over it? They tell us that the rates are exacted from the tithes according to law; and they quote a great many legal opinions which show conclusively that rates are levied at the present moment from the clergy strictly in accordance with the law. Yes, Sir, it is because it is in accordance with the law that we wish to change the law.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
We do propose to change the law. I never heard a Bill of tins kind described as a Bill which did not change the law. Every Bill which becomes law alters the law, unless it is a mere superfluity. But a great deal too much attention has been paid to the dicta of courts of law and lawyers in this matter.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
Well, that is my opinion. Lawyers and courts of law are very eminent authorities as to the verbal interpretation of Acts of Parliament. It is their business, and as long as they do it, it is not for poor laymen to say a word as to the way in which they do it, or as to the results which follow upon it. But I venture to think that we who are not lawyers or eminent judges are quite as well qualified, and even better qualified, to judge of the intentions of Parliament in passing the law. After all, we and occupied in passing laws ourselves, and we have open to us information which judges, quite rightly, by a self-denying ordinance refuse to consider. We have the Debates which precede the passage of the law, and we have collateral means at our disposal for discovering the intentions of the framers of the law. As far as I am able to understand the matter, the intentions of the legislature, from the Act of Elizabeth downwards, have been steadily thwarted by the courts of law—not with any corrupt motive, but the courts of law have not truly or accurately interpreted the intentions of the legislature which passed the laws. As far as I am able to form a judgment—and I do not see why I am not as competent to form a judgment in this matter as any gentleman 1095 even with the highest legal training—the effect of this Bill will be, I will not say to bring the law precisely into harmony with the intentions of the framers of this or that Statute, but it will be to put the clerical tithe-payer in the position from which he ought never to have been excluded by the decision of the judges. I now pass to a criticism made by many speakers, but principally by the right hon. Member for Bodmin. The right hon. Gentleman is accustomed to criticise the procedure of the Party to winch he belongs. We have in him that most valuable assistant—a candid friend always ready to tell us of our faults. But I sometimes think that he presses that congenial rôle almost to excess. We are accustomed to hear the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Monmouth, in his easy and genial style, represent our arguments in a shape in which we are wholly unable to recognise even the most familiar friends. If he adopted any other course in our Debates we should not recognise our old antagonist, and we should think that his hand had lost its cunning. I am glad to say I see no sign of failure of that kind in the course of to-night's Debate. But we are not accustomed to have such eccentric views of the subject-matter of our Debates put forward by even the most candid of our friends as those we have heard from my right hon. friend the Member for Bodmin. He has advanced the most astounding proposition, as I think it—that you must not consider the rates to be paid by a clergyman at all; he is personsonally liable, no doubt, if they are not paid, but still you must not consider they are paid by him; they are first paid somehow or other, and then everything that remains over is his stipend and he has no right to complain of a rating system which diminishes that stipend or right to ask for a reform of the system of rating to increase it If that doctrine is applicable at all it is applicable to every species of property, and not to tithe alone; and is it not obvious on the face of it that it is a preposterous proposition? Is it not obvious there could be no reform in our rating system if such a doctrine were really accepted? My right hon. friend has laid it down that any change in our rating system that diminishes the burden on any kind of property is an endowment of that property and pro tanto a robbery of other classes in the community. If 1096 that is so, then this House is incapable of reforming rating; the thing cannot be done. The only way to reform rating is to alter the incidence of rating, and, according to my right hon. friend, such alteration means the endowment of one set of people and the robbery of others. Does my right hon. friend think that that is tenable in argument, or that it is a principle that has ever been or can ever be accepted by the House? I may remind him of a few cases. In 1874 there was a great alteration in the incidence of rating of railway and other property in regard to certain classes of local taxation. Was that an endowment of railways? The thing is absurd. In 1845, I think it was, an Act was passed which made ministers of the Established Church of Scotland liable to pay poor-rates in proportion to their means and substance. It was an enabling Act; it gave the power to levy the rate to local authorities. That existed for twenty years, but in 1861 it was abolished, and members of the Scotch Church were relieved from that liability. Was that relief an endowment of the Church of Scotland? If it was an endowment passed by the uncontaminated Liberal Party, to which my right hon. friend looks back with such an air of regret. Yes; my right hon. friend told us—I do not know if the House was as full then as now-that he looked back with regret to 1886, and I rather gathered from his observations on the general history of politics in this country, of which we have heard a good deal not very relevant to this Bill before us—I gathered from him that if an eminent statesman were willing to go back and frame a Ministry upon the principles that prevailed in 1886, my right hon. friend would be very glad to be in it. Let me take another ease, which was referred to by the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down. He alluded to the Bill so often brought in and read a second time in this House—the Machinery Rating Bill. Now, the theory of my right hon. friend, and those who have echoed his sentiments, is that all rating is upon property; at all events, his view is that if you relieve one species of property of rates you are endowing the owners of that property. I confess I thought that was his view.
§ MR. COURTNEY
Of course it is impossible for me now to reopen my argu- 1097 ment, but when my right hon. friend comes to see the full report of the Commission on Local Taxation he will have an opportunity of reading a long argument of mine submitted at the request of the Commission, reconciling what he says is impossible—namely, respect for long-existing rates with the power of reconstruction of rates.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I can assure my right hon. friend I shall read with the utmost interest and attention his argument in the report to which he refers. I have not had the privilege of seeing it, so I can only found my answer to his speech upon the speech itself. Had I seen the document it would have given me infinite pleasure to have dealt with it to the best of my ability. My right hon. friend puts to me this dilemma. Supposing this Bill is passed, and supposing a liberal Member of the Church of England desires to increase the endowment of some particular church. Suppose, further, that, in order to carry out that object, he hands over to the clergyman a certain amount of tithe rent-charge which is in the hands of a lay impropriator. Would that tithe rent-charge be relieved of rates, or would it not? If it is relieved of rates, said my right hon. friend, then you are manifestly endowing the Church of England in such circumstances with a further endowment equal to half the rates. If, on the other hand, the tithe rent-charge is not relieved of half the rates, then are you not admitting that the logical basis of your Bill wholly falls? That, I think, was my right hon. friend's argument. He did me the honour to say that I was a person of great dialectical ability, and he waited with interest to see what answer I should give to this puzzle. But he forgot that I am also a Scotchman, and a Scotchman has, or is supposed to have, the habit of answering one question by putting another. I propose to answer that question by putting another. At the present moment, though the fact has been forgotten in this Debate, every Nonconformist place of worship throughout the kingdom is relieved of rates.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
Of course; concurrent endowment. I put this to my 1098 right hon. friend, who is not less dialectically endowed than I am—supposing a piece of land is given, as it is given every day, for the building of a Nonconformist place of worship. That piece of land before it is given is liable to rates. As soon as it is given and the place of worship is built it ceases to be liable for rates. Now I should like to know how my right hon. friend deals with that problem.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
My right hon. friend is perfectly correct, it is a concurrent endowment; and the difference between the two cases is this—that while, as far as we can judge from experience, the number of persons who choose the machinery of handing over tithe for the purpose of augmenting a living is extremely small, the number of persons who hand over land to build a Nonconformist chapel upon is, I am glad to think, very many. It makes no difference whether the land is sold or handed over for the purposes of my argument, and my right hon. friend's candid interruption brings me to a point which demolishes nine-tenths—and the most telling nine-tenths—of the arguments we have heard in this Debate. Hon. Gentlemen opposite have told us that whenever, at the cost of the general ratepayer, you relieve the Church of England of rates you are endowing that Church. I have heard that statement made by every speaker, and it has been usually the one statement which has brought down vociferous cheers from the gentlemen sitting on the other side of the House. How do they deal with this? They have even quarrelled with this freedom from rates enjoyed by Nonconformist chapels. They have told us that the Church of England might grovel for money, but the Nonconformist bodies were too noble to do so. Has the right hon. gentleman, who boasts, and boasts so justly, of the liberality of the great communion to which he belongs, ever protested against this? If so, he has protested in silence. The Act which frees these places of worship—and, in my judgment, quite rightly—from rates was passed, I believe, in 1844 or 1845. It has been in undisputed and increasing employment ever since. Every Nonconfor- 1099 mist chapel which has been built since then, and every chapel which was built before then, which is still in existence, constitutes or obtains an endowment from the State at the expense of the ratepayers, according to the argument which has been urged in season and nut of season. This may be a problem the solution of which is not easy, but, in Heaven's name, let us hear no more of this trash about endowments. Let the House notice that, while we ask only for a readjustment of rates, which, in our judgment, ought not to be described as an endowment, this freeing places of worship from rates is an endowment in any sense in which the word can be used, and is admitted to be an endowment even by so candid a friend of the Government as the right hon. Member for Bodmin. Therefore, let us argue the question henceforth on a somewhat different basis from that employed these last two days, and not lower the tone of our Debates by attacking the Church of England for its want of public spirit when, so far as I know, not a single Nonconformist has ever suggested that they should reject the rate aid given by the Act to which I have referred, and which is undoubtedly endowment in its purest and nakedest form. I should like every hon. Gentleman who proposes to vote against this Bill to ask himself whether, if there were any other class than the clergy of the Church of England suffering under this kind of disability, they would either make the speeches they have or give the votes they propose to give. Here you have, side by side, a man bound to do certain clerical work for, let us say, a nominal stipend of £400 a year. You have next door a Civil servant living in a similar house, under similar conditions. The one pays £5 a year to the rates, the other pays £50 a year to the rates. Each gets precisely the same benefit from the expenditure of the local rates, the same amount of police protection, the same accommodation in the way of roads, lighting, and all the other matters for which rates are paid. Is it not inevitable that in the minds of those overtaxed a feeling of soreness should arise? Is it not inevitable that he should come to this House—which, perhaps, until the speeches we have recently had he regarded as one of the fountains of justice—and ask that something should be done to relieve him? I have heard hon. Gentlemen lament over the poverty in which too 1100 many of the clergy of the Church of England are at present plunged, and tell us how grieved they are at the condition of things, and how much they think the spiritual efficiency of the Church is injured by the straitened means of those who have the care of its ministrations. I do not for a moment doubt the sincerity of these observations, though they do come oddly from those whose most earnest efforts are directed towards depriving the same clergy of all the endowments which at present they enjoy. But, though I do not doubt for a moment the sincerity of what has been said, I confess I do feel that at the bottom of the opposition to this Bill is not any theory of rating such as that of my right hon. friend, not any regard for the interests of the ratepayers at whose cost it is alleged this reform will take place, but a deep-rooted animosity to the Church of England. I listened with the interest which I always feel to the speech made by the hon. Gentleman the Member for West Fife. The hon. Gentleman never seems able to forget the ancient controversies between the Church and Nonconformity. He speaks with a bitterness upon these subjects, as if it was the morrow of that unhappy day when 2,000 of the Presbyterian clergy were turned out shortly after the Restoration. Can he not let these "old, unhappy, far-off things" be forgotten once for a while? Can he not feel that, bitter as those contests may have been, and unhappy as their results have undoubtedly been, they may now be allowed to slumber? I do not know whether the great Nonconformist divines—uncompromising Calvinists as they were—would have regarded the hon. Gentleman as their legitimate spiritual successor; but, whether he has inherited their doctrines or not, why should he inherit their controversies? Have we not reached, or may we not reach, a more peaceable age in which questions between one Christian sect and another may be dealt with without that bitterness which has flavoured too many of the orations we have heard from the other side? Sir, hon. Gentlemen have told us in terms of ill-conceived triumph that the cause we are now championing is an unpopular cause, that the clergy of the Church of England, and for various reasons, are not now a popular body. What we are doing may be easily perverted at the hustings, and in their judgment, at all events, we are doing 1101 little by the measure we are now pressing forward to, in the vulgar phrase, catch votes. That may be so, and yet I think that when the country has time to consider the claim that we make, and when they see that it is based upon justice, it may be that the prophecy of hon. Gentlemen opposite will not find a ready fulfilment. But let us suppose that their view is correct. They intend, I presume, or profess now that they will let this Bill, which only runs two years and a-half, die a natural death without renewal, and I presume they will mete out the same justice or injustice to the Rating Bill, of which we heard so much in 1896. I do not hear that prophecy of their policy received with the applauding cheers which I expected. One courageous gentleman, indeed, did interrupt me with loud applause, but there was an ominous silence brooding over the other Benches on his side of the House, and I venture to think that when the time comes we may not hear, perhaps, on the hustings of this country these loud attacks on this Bill we have heard to-night, or any specific or formal promise on the part of the leaders of the Opposition that they mean to reverse the system which this Bill and the other Rating Bill have introduced. I have many reasons for doubting that view. Perhaps the House will allow me to read one which has been given to me by an hon. friend of mine who was concerned in an election in June, 1898—my hon. friend the Member for Hertfordshire. I have been given a circular issued, as
I understand, by the Hertford Central Liberal Association. It states:
The present Government, which holds office largely owing to the support of the clergy, have done nothing for them in respect of rates, and still refuse to do anything. Although every £100 of tithe rent-charge is now worth only £65, they have still to pay heavy local rates, which further diminishes their declining incomes. Briefly stated, the grievances of the clergy are as follows:—(1) their houses are over-assessed; (2) their tithe endowments are over-rated; (3) the tithe-owning ratepayer ought to be as considerately treated as the land-owning ratepayer. Why should the clergy support the Unionist candidate at the present election? Why not vote for the Right Hon. C. Robert Spencer?
Well, Sir, I cannot concur with the advice given at the end of that extract, but the sentiments contained in the earlier part of it seem unexceptionable. I entirely agree with Hertford Central Liberal Committee, and I am convinced that as the Hertford Central Liberal Committee think today the general Liberal Party will think to-morrow, and that when they, in common with the rest of the country, really consider the position in which these clergy are placed, they will, not indeed on grounds of charity, but spurred on by a legitimate feeling for poverty and straitened means, concur with the policy which this Government has adopted, and which I earnestly trust before this session ends we shall see carried to a complete and satisfactory issue.
§ The House divided:—Ayes, 314; Noes, 176. (Division List, No. 210.)1103
|Acland-Hood, Capt. Sir A. F.||Bartley, George C. T.||Brassey, Albert|
|Aird, John||Barton, Dunbar Plunket||Brodrick, Rt. Hon. St. John|
|Allhusen, Augustus Henry E.||Bathurst, Hn. Allen Benjamin||Brookfield, A Montagu|
|Allsopp, Hon. George||Beach, Rt. Hn. Sir M.H.(Brs't'l||Bullard, Sir Harry|
|Anson, Sir William Reynell||Beach, W. W. Bramston (Hants||Burdett-Coutts, W.|
|Archdale, Edward Mervyn||Beckett, Ernest William||Butcher, John George|
|Arnold, Alfred||Begg, Ferdinand Faithfull||Carlile, William Walter|
|Atkinson, Rt. Hon. John||Bemrose, Sir Henry Howe||Cavendish, R. F. (N. Lancs.)|
|Bagot, Capt. J. FitzRoy||Beresford Lord Charles||Cavendish, V. C. W.(Derbsh.)|
|Bailey, James (Walworth)||Bethell, Commander||Cecil, Evelyn (Hertford, East)|
|Baillie, James E. B (Inverness)||Bhownaggree, Sir M. M.||Cecil, Lord Hugh (Greenwich)|
|Baird, John George A.||Biddulph, Michael||Chaloner, Captain R. G. W.|
|Balcarres, Lord||Bigwood, James||Chamberlain, J. Ansten (Wrcr.|
|Baldwin, Alfred||Bill, Charles||Chaplin, Rt. Hon. Henry|
|Balfour, Rt. Hon. A. J. (Manc||Blakiston-Houston, John||Clarington, Spencer|
|Balfour, Rt. Hn. G. W. (Leeds||Blundell, Colonel Henry||Chelsea, Viscount|
|Banbury, Frederick George||Bonsor, Henry Cosmo Orme||Clare, Octavius Leigh|
|Barnes, Frederic Gorell||Boscawen, Arthur Griffith-||Clarke, Sir E. (Plymouth)|
|Barry, Rt. Hn.A. H. S.-(Hunts||Bousfield, William Robert||Cochrane, Hon. Thos. E. A.E.|
|Barry, Sir Francis T. (Winds'r||Bowles, Captain H. F. (M'dl'x||Coddington, Sir William|
|Coghill, Douglas Harry||Helder, Augustus||Milner, Sir Frederick George|
|Cohen, Benjamin Louis||Henderson, Alexander||Milward, Colonel Victor|
|Collings, Rt. Hon. Jesse||Hickman, Sir Alfred||Monckton, Edward Philip|
|Colomb, Sir John Charles R.||Hill, Arthur (Down, West)||monk, Charles James|
|Colston, C. E. H Athole||Hill, Sir Edward Stock (Bris.)||Montagu,Hon.J.Scott (Hants.|
|Compton, Lord Alwyne||Hoare, Edw. Brodie(Hampst'd)||Moon, Edward Robert Pacy|
|Cook, Fred. Lucas (Lambeth)||Hoare, Samuel (Norwich)||Moore, William (Antrim, N.)|
|Cornwallis, Fiennes Stanley W.||Hobhouse, Henry||More,Robt.Jasper (Shropshire|
|Cotton-Jodrell,Col. Edw. T. D.||Holland, Hon. L R.(Bow)||Morgan,Hn. F.(Monm'thsh.)|
|Cox,Irwin Edward Bainbridge||Hornby, Sir William Henry||Morrell, George Herbert|
|Cranborne, Viscount||Houldsworth, Sir Wm. Henry||Morrison, Walter|
|Cripps, Charles Alfred||Houston, R. P.||Morton,ArthurH.A. (Deptford|
|Cross, Herb. Shepherd (Bolton)||Howard, Joseph||Mount, William George|
|Cruddas, William Donaldson||Howell, William Tudor||Muntz, Philip A.|
|Cubitt, Hon. Henry||Howorth, Sir Henry Hoyle||Murray, Rt. Hn. A. G. (Bute)|
|Curzon, Viscount||Hozier, Hon.JamesHenryCecil||Murray, Charles J. (Coventry)|
|Dalrymple, Sir Charles||Hubbard, Hon. Evelyn||Murray, Col.Wyndham (Bath)|
|Davies, Sir H. D. (Chatham)||Hughes Colonel Edwin||Myers, William Henry|
|Dickson-Poynder, Sir John P.||Hutchinson, Capt. G.W. Grice.||Newark, Viscount|
|Digby, John K. D. Wingfield-||Hutton, John (Yorks. N. R.)||Nicholson, William Graham|
|Disraeli, Coningsby Ralph||Jackson, Rt. Hn. Wm Lawies||Nicol, Donald Ninian|
|Dixon-Hartland,SirFrd. Dixon||Jebb, Richard Claverhouse||Northcote, Hon.Sir H.Stafford|
|Dorington, Sir John Edward||Jeffreys, Arthur Frederick||O'Neill, Hon. Robert Torrens|
|Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers-||Jenkins, Sir John Jones|
|Doxford, William Theodore||Johnston, William (Belfast)||Pease, Herbert P. (Darlington)|
|Drage, Geoffrey||Johnstone, Heywood (Sussex)||Penn, John|
|Dyke,Rt.Hn.SirWilliam Hart||Jolliffe, Hon. H. George||Percy, Earl|
|Egerton, Hen. A. de Tatton||Kemp, George||Pierpoint, Robert|
|Elliot, Hn. A. Ralph Douglas||Kennaway,Rt.Hn.Sir John H.||[...]ilkington.R.(Lancs.,Newton)|
|Fardell, Sir T. George||Kenyon, James||Platt-Higgins. Frederick|
|Fellowes,Hon.Ailwyn Edward||Kenyon-Slaney, Col. William||Pollock, Harry Frederick|
|Fergusson, Rt HnSirJ.(Manc'r.||Keswick William||Powell, Sir Francis Sharp|
|Field, Admiral (Eastbourne)||Kimber, Henry||Priestley,Sir W.O.(Edinburgh|
|Finch, George H.||King, Sir Henry Seymour||Pryce,Jones, Lt.-Col. Edward|
|Finlay, Sir Robert Bannatyne||Knowles, Lees||Purvis, Robert|
|Firbank, Joseph Thomas||Lafone, Alfred||Pym, C. Guy|
|Fisher, William Hayes||Laurie, Lieut.-General||Quilter, Sir Cuthbert|
|Fison, Frederick William||Lawrence, W. F. (Liverpool)||Rankin, Sir James|
|FitzGterald,Sir Robert Penrose-||Lawson, John Garant (Yorks.)||Rasch, Major Frederic Carne|
|FitzWygram, General Sir F.||Lecky, Rt. Hn. William E. H.||Rentoul, James Alexander|
|Fletcher, Sir Henry||Leigh-Bennett, Henry Currie||Richards, Henry Charles|
|Flower, Ernest||Leighton, Stanley||Ridley,Rt.Hn. SirMatthew W.|
|Folkestone, Viscount||Llewellyn, Evan H. (Somerset||Ritchie,Rt. Hn. Chas. Thomson|
|Foster, Harry S. (Suffolk)||Llewellyn, Sir Dillwyn-(Sw'ns a||Robertson, H. (Hackney)|
|Galloway, William Johnson||Lockwood, Lt.-Col. A. R.||Robinson, Brooke|
|Garnt, William||Loder, Gerald Walter Erskine||Rou d, James|
|Gedge, Sydney||Long,Col.CharlesW.(Evesham||Royds,Clement Molynenx|
|Gibbons,J. Lloyd||Long,Rt.Hn, Walter(Liverpool||Russell,Gen.F.S.(Cheltenh'm)|
|Gibbs,Hn.A.G.H.(City of Lond||Lopes, Henry Yarde Buller||Russell, T. W.(Tyrone)|
|Gibbs,Hon. Vicary (St.Albans)||Lorne, Marquess of||Ruterford, John|
|Giles, Charles Tyrrell||Lowe, Francis William||Ryder, John Herbert Dudley|
|Gilliat, John Saunders||Lowles, John||Herbert Dudley|
|Godson, Sir Augustus Fred.||Lowles, Archie Kirkman||Samuel, H.S.(Limehouse)|
|Goldsworthy, Major-General||Lubbock, Rt. Hon. Sir John||Sassoon, Sir Edward Albert|
|Gordon, Hon. John Edward||Lucas-Shadwell, William||Savory, Sir Joseph|
|Gerst,Rt. Hon. Sir John Eldon||Lyttelton, Hon. Alfred||Scoble, Sir Andrew Richard|
|Geschen,RtHnGJ.(StGeorge's||Macartney, W. G. Ellison||Seely, Charles Hilton|
|Goschen, George J. (Sussex)||Macdona, John Cumming||Seton-Karr, Henry|
|Goulding Edward Alfred||MacIver, David (Liverpool)||Sharpe, William Edward T.|
|Graham, Henry Robert||Maclean, James Mackenzie||Sidebotham, J. W. (Cheshire)|
|Gray, Ernest (West Ham)||Maclure, Sir John William||Sidebottom,T.H.(Stalybridge)|
|Green,WalfordD(Wednesbury||M'Arthur, Charles (Liverpool)||Simeon, Sir Barrington|
|Greene, Henry D.(Shrewsbury||M'Calmont, Col J (Antrim,E.)||Skewes Cox, Thomas|
|Gull, Sir Cameron||M'Iver,SirLewis(Edinb'rghW.||Smith, Jas. Parker (Lanarks.)|
|Gunter, Colonel||Malcolm, Ian||Smith, Hon. W. F. D. (Strand)|
|Hall, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles||Manners, Lord Edward W. J.||Soames, Arthur Wellesley|
|Halsey, Thomas Frederick||Maple, Sir John Blundell||Stanley, Hon. A. (Ormskirk)|
|Hamilton,Rt.Hn.Lord George||Martin, Richard Biddulph||Stanley, Edw. Jas. (Somerset)|
|Hanbury, Rt. Hon. Rby. Wm.||Massey-Mainwaring, Hn W F||Stanley, Henry M. (Lambeth)|
|Hanson, Sir Reginald||Maxwell, Rt Hn Sin Herbert E.||Stanley, Lord (Lancs.)|
|H rdy, Laurence||Mellor, Colonel (Lancashire)||Stephens, Henry Charles|
|Hare, Thomas Leigh||Melville, Beresford Valentine||Stewart,SirMarkJ.M' Taggart|
|Haslett, Sir James Horner||Middlemore, J. Throgmorton||Stock, James Henry|
|Hatch, Ernest Fred. George||Milbank,SirPowlettChas.Jhn.||Strutt, Hon. Charles Hedley|
|Heath, James||Mildmay, Francis Bingham||Stunt, Hon. Humphry Napier|
|Sutherland, Sir Thomas||Warde, Lieut-Col.C.E. (Kent)||Wortley, Rt. Hn. C. B.Stuart-|
|Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)||Warr, Augustus Frederick||Wyndham, George|
|Talbot,Rt.Hn.J.G.(Ox. Univ.||Webster, B.G. (St. Pancras)||Wyndham-Quin, Major W.H.|
|Thornton, Percy M.||Welby, Lieut.-Col. A. C. E.||Wyvill, Marmaduke D'Arcy|
|Tollemache, Henry James||Wentworth, Bruce C. Vernon-||Yerburgh, Robert Armstrong|
|Tomlinson, Wm. Edw. Murray||Whitmore, Charles Algernon||Young,Commander,(Berks,E.)|
|Tritton, Charles Ernest||Williams, Colonel R. (Dorset)||Younger, William|
|Ushorne, Thomas||Wiliams,Joseph Powell(Birm)|
|Valentia, Viscount||Willox, Sir John Archibald||TELLERS FOR THE AYES— Sir William Walrond and Mr. Anstruther.|
|Vincent, Col. Sir C. E. Howard||Wilson-Todd, Wm. H. (Yorks.)|
|Wanklyn, James Leslie||Wodehouse,Rt.Hn. E. R.(Bath|
|Ward, Hon. Robert A. (Crewe)||Wolff, Gustav Wilhelm|
|Abraham,William (Rhondda)||Flynn, James Christopher||Morley,Rt.Hon. J. (Montrose)|
|Allan, William (Gateshead)||Foster, Sir Walter (Derby Co.)||Moulton, John Fletcher|
|Allen, Wm. (Newc.u.-Lyme)||Fowler, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||Murnaghan, George|
|Ambrose, Robert Andrew||Fox, Dr. Joseph Francis||Norton, [...]pt. Cecil Williams|
|Ambrose, Robert||Goddard, Daniel Ford||Nussey, Thomas Willans|
|Ashton, Thomas Gair||Gold, Charles||O'Connor,T. P.(Liverpool)|
|Asquit, Rt. Hon. Herbert H.||Gourley, Sir Edward T.||Oldroyd, Mark|
|Atherley-Jones, L.||Grey, Sir Edward (Berwick)||O'Malley, William|
|Austin, M.||Griffith, Ellis J.||Palmer, Sir C. M. (Durham)|
|Bainbridge, Emerson||Gurdon,Sir William Brampton||Palmer. G. Wm. (Reading)|
|Baker, Sir John||Haldane,Richard Bardon||Paulton, James Mellor|
|Balfour, RtHnJ.Blair(Clackm.||Harcourt, Rt. Hon. Sir Wm.||Pearson, Sir Weetman D.|
|Bayley, Thomas (Derbyshire)||Harwood, George||Pease,Joseph A. (Northumb.)|
|Beaumont, Wentworth C. B.||Hayne,Rt. Hon. Charles Seale-||Pease, Sir J. W. (Durham)|
|Billson, Alfred||Hazell, Walter||Perks, Robert William|
|Birrell, Augustine||Hedderwick, Thos. Chas. H||Pickersgill, Edward Hare|
|Blake, Edward||Hemphill, Rt. Hn. Charles H.||Pilkington, Sir J.A (Lancs SW)|
|Broadhurst, Henry||Hegan, James Francis||Pirie, Duncan V.|
|Bryce, Rt. Hon. James||Holden, Sir Angus||Price, Robert John|
|Burns, John||Holland, Wm. H. (York,W. R.||Priestley, Briggs(Yorks.)|
|Burt, Thomas||Horniman, Frederick John||Provand, Andrew Dryburgh|
|Buxton, Sydney Charles||Humphreys-Owen, Arthur C.|
|Caldwell, James||Hutton, Alfred E.(Morley)||Randell, David|
|Cameron,SirCharles(Glasgow)||Jacoby James Alfred||Reckitt, Harold James|
|Cameron, Robert (Durham)||Johnson-Ferguson,Jabez Edw.||Rickett, J. Compton|
|Campbell-Bannerman, Sir H.||Jones, David B. (Swansea)||Roberts, John H. (Denbighs.)|
|Carmichael, Sir T. D Gibson-||Jones, Wm. (Carnarvonshire)||Samuel J. (Stockton on Tees)|
|Causton, Richard Knight||Kearley, Hadson E.||Schwann, Charles E.|
|Cawley, Frederick||Kilbride, Denis||Scott, Chas. Prestwich (Leigh)|
|Channing, Francis Allston||Kitson, Sir James||Shaw, Charles Edw. (Stafford)|
|Clark, Dr.G.B. (Caithness-sh.)||Langley, Henry||Shaw, Thomas (Hawick B)|
|Clough, Walter Owen||Langley, Batty||Sinclair, Capt.Jn. (Forfarshire|
|Condon, Thomas Joseph||Lawson,SirWilfrid(Cumb'land||Smith,Samuel (Flint)|
|Courtney,Rt.Hon. Leonard H.||Leese, Sir J. F. (Accrington)||Souttar, Robinson|
|Crilly, Daniel||Leng, Sir John||Spicer, Albert|
|Crombie, John William||Lenty, Thomas Richmond||Stanhope, Hon. Philip J.|
|Curran, Thomas (Sligo, S.)||Lloyd-George, David||Steadman, William Charles|
|Dalziel, James Henry||Logan, John William||Stevenson, Francis S.|
|Davies,M.Vaughan-(Cardigan||Lough, Thomas||Strachey, Edward|
|Davitt, Michael||Lyell, Sir Leonard||Stuart, James (Shoreditch)|
|Denny, Colonel||MacAleese, Daniel||Sullivan, Donal (Westmeath)|
|Dewar, Arthur||MacDonnell, Dr. M. A. (Q.C.)||Sullivan, T. D. (Donegal, W.)|
|Dillon, John||MacNeill, John Gordon Swift||Tennant, Harold John|
|Donelan, Captain A.||M'Crae, George||Thomas, Abel (Carmarthen, E.|
|Doogan, P. C.||M'Ewan, William||Thomas, Alf. (Glamorgan, E.)|
|Douglas, Charles M.(Lanark)||M'Ghee, Richard||Thomas, David Alfd. (Merthyr|
|Dunn, Sir William||M'Kenna, Reginald||Trevelyan, Charles Philips|
|Edwards, Owen Morgan||M'Laren, Charles Benjamin|
|Ellis, John Edward||M'Leod, John||Wallace, Robert|
|Evans, Samuel T. (Glamorgan)||Maddison, Fred.||Walton, John L. (Leeds, S.)|
|Evans,SirFrancisH.(South'ton||Mappin, Sir Fredk. Thorpe||Warner, Thos. Courtenay T.|
|Evershed, Sydney||Mellor Rt. Hn. J. W. (Yorks)||Wedderburn, Sir William|
|Farquharson, Dr. Robert||Mendl, Sigismund Ferdinand||Weir, James Galloway|
|Fenwick, Charles||Montagu Sir S. (Whitechapel||Whiteley, George (Stockport)|
|Ferguson, R. C. Munro (Leith)||Morgan, W Pritchard(Merthyr||Whittaker, Thomas Palmer|
|Fitzmaurice, Lord Edmond||Morley, Charles (Breconshire)||Williams, John Carvell(Notts.|
|Wills, Sir William Henry||Wilson, John (Govan)||Yoxall, James Henry|
|Wilson, Charles Henry (Hull)||Wilson, J. W. (Worctrsh. N.)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—|
|Wilson, Henry J. (York, W. R.)||Woodhouse, Sir J. T. (Hudd'rsfd||Mr. Herbert Gladstone and|
|Wilson, John (Durham, Mid.)||Woods, Samuel||Mr. M'Arthur.|
Bill read a second time, and committed for Monday next.