HC Deb 12 May 1899 vol 71 cc493-503

The principal object of the Bill which I now ask leave to introduce is to provide remedies for certain grievances under which the pavers of tithe rent-charge at present suffer, and which can only he dealt with by legislation. There are two classes of tithe rent-charge payer's in Ireland, the payers of ecclesiastical tithe rent-charge and payers of lay tithe; rent-charge. Each of these have their own special grounds of complaint. Let me first take the payers of ecclesiastical tithe rent-charge. The Irish Church Acts of 1869 and 1872 gave power to payers of Church tithe to redeem their liability either by a payment in cash or by means of a terminable annuity. These terminable annuities run for a period of fifty-two years. But if the interest charged in the annuity be taken (according to Mr. Gladstone's declared intention in 1869) at the rate of 3½per cent., the capital sum in respect of which, the annuities are paid would, in fact, be discharged in forty-five years instead of fifty-two years. I do not see how it is possible to defend the continuation of those annual payments for seven years after the capitalised liability has been discharged This injustice has already been remedied by the Land Act of 1896 in the case of lands sold to the tenants under the Land Purchase Acts. The scope of that Act precluded any morn general application of the remedy; but we publicly recognised at the time that the principle applied equally to the case of all ecclesiastial tithe rent-charge redeemed by terminable annuity, and the present Bill proposes to give effect to that recognition by altering the currency of the annuities to a period of forty-five years. The payers of ecclesiastical tithe rent-charges have another grievance. The Irish Church Act of 1872 definitely fixed the amount of the charge at its amount as payable on November 1st, 1871. Before that the tithe payers had power to apply periodically for a revision of the charge, as lay tithe payers have still. It is true that no objection appears to have been offered at the time by those interested in this stereotyping of the charge. But the heavy fall in agricultural prices which subsequently took place was not then foreseen either by the legislature or by the tithe rent-charge payers; and the system introduced by Mr. Gladstone has in the end proved very prejudicial to the interests of the latter. It must be remembered that the charge is a charge upon rents, and while rents have been greatly reduced under the supervision of a State tribunal, the rent-charge can no longer be varied. While I am not prepared to place this grievance in the same category with the first mentioned, I do think a hardship has been indicted on the tithe payer to which it would be desirable to apply a remedy, if a reasonable remedy can be found. What remedy, then, do we propose 'We propose that the distinction created by the Irish Church Acts between ecclesiastical and lay tithe rent-charge should be done away with by restoring to the former the character of a variable charge, and at the same time withdrawing from the payer of ecclesiastical tithe rent-charge the special right which he now possesses under those Acts of converting his liability into a terminable annuity. We further propose that the old basis of variation should be changed. The old basis was the variation in the average prices of cereals as published in the Dublin Gazette, and in place of it we propose to substitute a now basis of variation, namely, the average percentage of variation in judicial rents in each county during successive periods of fifteen years. The variation will be, automatic and general, instead of depending as formerly on individual applications to a court of law, applications which were rendered difficult by a highly technical and cumbrous method of procedure. The general effect of these changes will be an immediate relief to the tithe payer of about 20 per cent. of his payments, and a further relief at the end of the next fifteen years if a further reduction shall have taken place in the average of judicial rents. On the other hand, the right of redemption now enjoyed by payers of ecclesiastical tithe rent-charge will be taken away. The relief to the tithe payer means, of course, loss to the Church Fund; but against that loss must be set the advantage the Fund will derive from the withdrawal of the right to redeem, and the consequent retention of the remaining ecclesiastical tithe rent-charge as a permanent source of income. Any attempt to strike the balance of gain and loss must be to some extent speculative, but on the supposition that if the Bill did not pass full and immediate advantage were taken of the present right to redeem by all payers of ecclesiastical tithe rent-charge, the Church Fund would probably be worse, off than if our proposals were adopted. So much for the provisions of the Bill with reference to ecclesiastical tithe rent-charge.

MR. DILLON (Mayo, E.)

Can the right honourable Gentleman give any estimate of the total capital loss involved in these changes?


It is very difficult to give a precise estimate, because it would depend upon a great many circumstances which cannot be foreseen. But before the Bill passes into law I will endeavour to lay before the House such an estimate as it is possible to make. But the payers of lay tithe rent-charge also have their grievance, and a very few words will suffice to describe it and the way in which we propose to deal with it. It appears that a serious legal difficulty has lately arisen out of a decision of the Appeal Court, the effect of which is that, owing to irregularities in the method of publication of corn averages in the Dublin Gazette the tithe rent-charge payer is practically deprived of his right to have the charge varied, and variations in tithe rent-charge based on those averages are held to be invalid The defect can only be cured by legislation, and the remedy we provide in the Bill is to apply to lay tithe rent-charge the same new standard and the same automatic method of variation as that which we propose to adopt in the case of ecclesiastical tithe rent-charge. In fact, if the Bill passes the two classes of tithe rent-charge will be once again on an identical footing, just as they were before the Church of Ireland was disestablished. I have now described the principal provisions of the measure. It contains in addition one or two other amendments of the law, but these are of minor importance, and of a technical character, and it is perhaps hardly necessary that I should enter further into them at present.

Motion made and resolution proposed — That leave be given to bring in a, Bill to amend the law relating to tithe rent-charge in Ireland."—(Mr. G. W. Balfour.)


said that on Tuesday last the Government availed themselves, most improperly as he contended, of the ten minutes Rule to introduce an extremely important and complicated Irish measure, which appeared to be the chief Irish measure of the Government for this session, and now they asked leave to introduce another measure of a highly contentions and complicated character under the same circumstances. This extreme development of this policy led him to the conviction that it was the deliberate intention of the Government, by gross misuse of the ten minutes Rule, never contemplated when the Rule was passed, to no longer allow debates, so far as Irish Bills were concerned, on their first stage. Now, there were characteristics of the present measure which made it, in his judgment, in the most extreme degree unsuitable for the application of the ten minutes Rule. In the first place, this was surely a contentious measure; and he maintained it was not the intention of the Government that this Rule was to be applied on Government days for the introduction of a, Government Bill, but was only intended for the introduction, of small and non-contentious measures. This was a highly contentious Bill, it was a complicated Bill, and it was, in the third place, a Bill dealing with financial matters, and a Bill almost setting up a new precedent in the financial prospects of the House, because it proposed to strike off a considerable amount—they were not allowed to know what that amount would be—which was secured to the Treasury of this country for large advances. They were asked to strike off a large proportion of that sum. Now, he desired at the very outset to direct the attention of the House to the last occasion on which it was proposed to interfere with the Irish Church Fund. The year 1894 was the last occasion on which the Government of the day proposed to take any sum from the Irish Church Fund. The right honourable Gentleman the Member for Montrose, who was then Chief Secretary for Ireland, proposed to charge upon the Irish Church Fund a sum of £100,000 for the purpose of assisting the reinstatement of the evicted tenants of Ireland. That was a Bill proposing only to charge £100,000 of the capital sum, involving an annual charge of less than £3,000, whereas the present Bill, so far as one could follow the brief and utterly insufficient statement of the right honourable Gentleman, would place upon the Church Fund a charge at the very least ten or fifteen times as great as that proposed to be placed upon it by the right honourable Gentleman. The Bill of 1894 was far smaller than the present Bill. Yet what was the procedure adopted? Did the then Chief Secretary have recourse to the ten minutes Rule? No, he introduced his Bill in the ordinary course, and the debate upon it consumed a whole night of Government time; and what made the contrast between the procedure on this occasion and the procedure adopted then the more striking was, that after occupying a whole night of Government time the Bill was allowed to be read a first time without a Division, whereas the First Reading of the present Bill would undoubtedly be challenged. He himself would take objection to it by dividing the House on it. Now he come to a very important passage, as bearing upon the present Bill, from a speech delivered upon that occasion by the present First Lord of the Treasury, who was then leading the Opposition. Speaking with the full sense of responsibility as having been recently Chief Secretary for Ireland, he said: Following the order of the right honourable Gentleman's explanation, I now come to the amount to be taken from the Irish Chruch Fund surplus in order to meet this amount. That amount, remember, was only £100,000, The First Lord, continuing, said: I have two observations to make upon that—first, when I was in office, and had official information on this point, I was assured that the Irish Church Fund surplus was mortgaged to the hilt, and the number of charges on it was such that if we had taken £1,500 for the Congested Districts Hoard nothing would have been left behind, and if we are to charge that sum of £100,000, and the Fund proves insufficient to meet the liabilities, it is impossible for the British taxpayer to fancy he will get off without having to meet the difficulty. That was the language of the right honourable Gentleman in 1894. He denounced the right honourable Member for Montrose for an attempt to place any fresh charge upon the Church Fund. Contrast the right honourable Gentleman the Member for Montrose's proposal with the present one. The former proposal was to place £100,000 upon the Irish Church Fund. But what was the proposal now? It was to strike off large assets of the Fund which were charged to the Treasury of this country for large advances already made, and that without having one single estimate placed before them to show if they were justified in making this singular deduction, and without any knowledge of the extent to which the deduction would go. What would have been said of the right honourable Gentleman the Member for Montrose in 1894 if he had introduced the Evicted Tenants Bill, making this proposition for £1 00,000, under the ten minutes Rule? There would have been motions for the adjournment of the House, and a debate would have followed in which the right honourable Gentleman would have been subjected to all kinds of denunciation. This Bill proposed to take from the Irish Church Fund, devoted by Mr. Gladstone, when he disestablished the Irish Church, to purposes of education and public utility in Ireland—it proponed to take from that fund, if there were any assets left to it—and he believed there were in spite of the declaration of the right honourable Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury to the contrary—those assets, and divide them between the supporters of the Government. A More scandalous and indecent proposal was never made in the House than this proposal to deal out eleemosynary aid to the supporters of the Government in Ireland. These people were said to be suffering under a grievance. Why, they got a quarter of a million of money last year, when he supposed they thought they ought to have got the whole of the Agricultural Grant for themselves. The Chief Secretary proposed in his Bill to divide the tithe payers of Ireland into two classes under the Bill. First he had the ecclesiastical tithe rent payer's and then the lay tithe sent payers, and the attempt of the right honourable Gentleman to draw any analogy between the two classes was absurd, and one calculated to mislead the House and leave it under a false impression. The grievance of the lay tithe rent payers had arisen from the neglect of the Castle and the neglect of the Government. When they come to the ecclesiastical tithe rent payers the proposals of this Bill wire the proposals of public plunder. The ecclesiastical tithe rent payers, by the Act of 1872, to which all the representatives of the land-lords were consenting parties, was passes by this House in order to revive a finan- cial structure on which the Established Church was disestablished, and was passed in view and after full consideration of the terms given to the disestablished Church, and they parted with their right, which they manifestly did not value at the time, to have their tithe reforms and their tithe rent-charges made a perpetual charge, subject to the right of redemption alluded to by the right honourable Gentleman. That tithe rent-charge now meant two sums, one in the shape of terminable annuities amounting to about £160,000, and the other in the shape of perpetual unredeemable charges amounting to a similar sum. The right honourable Gentleman proposed to cut off from those terminable annuities seven years, which would run close upon one million sterling, to be handed over to the ecclesiastical tithe payers. He then proposed to give an automatic revision and reduction of the tithe rent-charge, amounting to, roughly, about 20 per cent., to be increased at the termination of 15 years by another 20 per cent. or so. Twenty per cent. on £160,000 would amount to something like £35,000 of the perpetual tithe rent-charges, and he offered that

Acland-Hood, Capt. Sir Alex. F. Chelsea, Viscount Fletcher, Sir Henry
Aird, John Clarke, Sir Edward (Plymouth Folkestone, Viscount
Allsopp, Hon. George Coghill, Douglas Harry Fry, Lewis
Anson, Sir William Reynell Cohen, Benjamin Louis Giles, Charles Tyrrell
Archdale, Edward Mervyn Collings, Rt. Hon. Jesse Goldsworthy, Major-General
Atkinson, Rt. Hon. John Colston, Chas. Edw. H. Athole Gordon, Hon. John Edward
Baillie, James E. B. (Inverness) Compton, Lord Alwyne Gorst, Rt. Hon. Sir John Eldon
Baldwin, Alfred Cooke, C. W. Radcliffe (Heref'd) Goschen, Rt. Hn. G. J. (St. Geo's
Balfour, Rt. Hon. A. J. (Manch'r Corbett, A. Cameron (Glasgow) Goulding, Edward Alfred
Balfour, Rt Hn Gerald W. (Leeds Cotton-Jodrell, Col. Edw. T. D. Greene, W. Raymond-(Cambs.)
Banbury, Frederick George Courtney, Rt. Hon. Leonard H Gull, Sir Cameron
Barnes, Frederic Gorell [Hunts Cranborne, Viscount Gunter, Colonel
Barry, Rt. Hn. A. H. Smith- Cripps, Charles Alfred Hamilton, Rt. Hn. Lord George
Bartley, George C. T. Cross, Alexander (Glasgow) Hanson, Sir Reginald
Barton, Dunbar Plunket Cruddas, William Donaldson Hardy, Laurence
Beach, Rt. Hn. Sir M. H. (Bristol Curzon, Viscount Haslett, Sir James Horner
Bethell, Commander Dalbiac, Colonel Philip Hugh Hermom-Hodge, Robert Trotter
Bhownaggree, Sir M. M. Dalkeith, Earl of Hill, Arthur (Down, W.)
Biddulph, Micliael Dalrymple, Sir Charles Hill, Sir Edward Stock (Bristol)
Bill, Charles Denny, Colonel Hoare, Ed. Brodie (Hampstead
Blakiston-Houston, John Dickson-Poynder, Sir John P. Hoare, Samuel (Norwich)
Bousor, Henry Cosmo Orme Doughty, George Holland, Hon. Lionel R. (Bow)
Boscawen, Arthur Griffith- Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers- Hornby, Sir William Henry
Bowles, Capt. H. F. (Middlesex Doxford, William Theodore Howard, Joseph
Bowles, T. Gibson (Lynn Regis Duncombe, Hon. Hubert V. Howell, William Tudor
Brassey, Albert Egerton, Hon. A. de Tatton Hozier, Hon. James Henry Cecil
Brodrick, Rt. Hon. St. John Elliot, Hon. A. Ralph Douglas Hubbard, Hon. Evelyn
Butcher, John George Fellowes, Hon. Ailwyn Edward Hutton, John (Yorks, N. R.)
Campbell, Rt. Hn. J. A. (Glasgow Fergusson, Rt. Hn. Sir J. (Man.) Jenkins, Sir John Jones
Cavendish, R. F. (N. Lanes.) Finch, George H. Johnston, William (Belfast)
Cayzer, Sir Charles William Finlay, Sir Robert Bannatyne Johnstone, Heywood (Sussex)
Cecil, Evelyn (Hertford, E.) Firbank, Joseph Thomas Kenyon-Slaney, Col. William
Chaloner, Captain R. G. W. Fisher, William Hayes Kimber, Henry
Chainberlain, Rt. Hon. J. (Bir. Fitz Gerald, Sir Robert Penrose- Knowles, Lees
Chamberlain, J. Austen (Wore. Fitz Wygram, General Sir F. Laurie, Lieut.-General
Chaplin, Rt. Hon. Henry Flannery, Sir Fortescue Lawrence, Sir E. Durning-(Corn

compensation for right of redemption, which everyone of the tithe rent-charge payers had a right to exercise, but declined to exercise. They had an equal right of redemption, and only half of them have exercised that right. Therefore, they proposed in one way to give them £30,000 a year, and then they also proposed to take away the right which they had enjoyed for 25 years past. He proposed to conclude by moving the adjournment of the House, because he believed the introduction of this Bill was a gross abuse.


The honourable Gentleman cannot, under the Standing Order, move the adjournment.


Then it is within your discretion to put the Question of adjournment.


Yes, under Standing, Order 16.

The House divided on the question: "that leave be given to bring in the Bill."—Ayes 205; Noes 113. (Division List No. 141.)

Lawrence, Wm. F. (Liverpool) Murray, R Hn. A.Graham (Bute Simeon, Sir Barrington
Lecky, Rt. Hon. Wm. Edw. H. Murray, Charles J. (Coventry) Spencer, Ernest
Lees, Sir Elliott (Birkenhead) Murray, Col. Wyndham (Bath) Stanley, Hn. Arthur (Ormskirk
Leigh-Bennett, Henry Currie Myers, William Henry Stanley, Henry M. (Lambeth)
Leighton, Stanley Newark, Viscount Stanley, Lord (Lanes.)
Llewellyn, Evan H. (Somerset Newdigate, Francis Alexander Stephens, Henry Charles
Long, Rt. Hn. Walter (Liverpool Nicol, Donald Ninian Stewart, Sir Mark J. M'Taggart
Lopes, Henry Yarde Buller Northcote, Hon. Sir H. Stafford Strauss, Arthur
Lorne, Marquess of O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny) Strutt, Hon. Charles Hedley
Lowe, Francis William O'Neill, Hon. Robert Torrens Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)
Lowther, Rt. Hon. James (Kent) Orr-Ewing, Charles Lindsay Talbot, Rt. Hn. J. G.(Oxf'd Univ
Loyd, Archie Kirkman Pease, Herbrt. Pike (Darlington Thorburn, Walter
Lucas-Shad well, William Pender, Sir James Tritton, Charles Ernest
Macartney, W. G. Ellison Pierpoint, Robert Valentia, Viscount
Macdona, John Cumming Pilkmgton, Richard Wanklyn, James Leslie
Maclver. David (Liverpool) Platt-Higgins, Frederick Ward, Hon. Robert A. (Crewe
M'Calmont, H. L. B. (Cambs.) Powell, Sir Francis Sharp Webster, Sir R. E. (Isle of Wight
M'Iver, Sir Lewis (Edinb'gh, W. Pretyman, Ernest George Welby, Lieut.-Col. A. C. E.
M'Killop, James Priestley, Sir W. Overend (Edin. Wharton, Rt. Hon. John Lloyd
Malcolm, Ian Purvis, Robert Whitmore, Chas. Algernon
Martin, Richard Biddulph Rankin, Sir James Williams, Colonel R. (Dorset)
Melville, Beresford Valentine Rasch, Major Frederic Carne Williams, Joseph Powell-(Birm.
Meysey-Thompson, Sir H. M. Rentoul, James Alexander Wilson, John (Falkirk)
Middlemore, J. Throgmorton Richardson, Sir Thos. (Hartlep'l Wolff, Gustav Wilhelm
Milbank, Sir Powlett Chas. Jn. Ritchie, Rt. Hn. Chas. Thomson Wortley, Rt. Hon. C. B. Stuart-
Milner, Sir Frederick George Rollit, Sir Albert Kaye Wyndham, George
Milton, Viscount Round, James Wyvill, Marmaduke D'Arey
Monk, Charles James Royds, Clement Molyneux Young, Commander (Berks, E.)
Moore, William (Antrim, N.) Russell, T. W. (Tyrone) Younger, William
More, Robt. Jasper (Shropshire) Rutherford, John
Morrell, George Herbert Ryder, John Herbert Dudley TELLERS FOR THE AYES—Sir William Walrond and Mr. Anstruther.
Morton, Arthur H. A. (Deptf'd) Samuel, Harry S. (Limehouse)
Mount, William George Sassoon, Sir Edward Albert
Muntz, Philip A. Savory, Sir Joseph
Allan, William (Gateshead) Gladstone, Rt. Hn. Herbt.John Pease, Alfred E. (Cleveland)
Asher, Alexander Goddard, Daniel Ford Pease, Joseph A. (Northumb.)
Ashton, Thomas Gair Gold, Charles Pickersgill, Edward Hare
Asquith, Rt. Hon. Herbert H. Gourley, Sir Edward Temperley Power, Patrick Joseph
Austin, Sir John (Yorkshire) Gurdon, Sir William Brampton Reckitt, Harold James
Austin. M. (Limerick, W.) Haldane, Richard Burdon Reid, Sir Robert Threshie
Barlow, John Emmott Hayne, Rt. Hn. Charles Seale- Richardson, J. (Durham, S. E.)
Beaumont, Wentworth C. B. Hedderwick, Thomas Charles H Rickett, J. Compton
Billson, Alfred Hemphill, Rt. Hon. Chas. H. Roberts, John H (Denbigh)
Blake Edward Holland, Win. H. York, W.R.) Robertson, Edmund (Dundee)
Brunner, Sir John Tomlinson Horniman, Frederick John Scott, Chas. Prestwich (Leigh)
Bryce, Rt. Hn. James Hutton, Alfred E. (Morley) Shaw, Thomas (Hawick B.)
Buchanan, Thomas Ryburn Jacoby, James Alfred Smith, Samuel (Flint)
Burns, John Joicey, Sir James Soames, Arthur Wellesley
Burt, Thomas Jones, D. Brynmor (Swansea) Souttar, Robinson
Buxton, Sydney Charles Kay-Shnttleworth, Rt. Hon. Spicer, Albert
Caldwell, James Kitson, Sir James [Sir U. Steadman, William Charles
Cameron, Sir Charles (Glasgow Lambert, George Stevenson, Francis S.
Cameron, Robert (Durham) Lawson, Sir Wilfrid (Cumber.) Strachey, Edward
Campbell-Bannerman, Sir H. Leng, Sir John Sullivan, Donal (Westmeath)
Carmichael, Sir T. D. Gibson- Lloyd-George, David Tennant, Harold John
Causton. Richard Knight Lyell, Sir Leonard Thomas, Abel (Carmarthen, E.)
Channing Francis Allston Macaleese, Daniel Thomas, Alfred (Glamorgan, E.
Clark, Dr. G. B. (Caithness) M'Arthur, William (Cornwall) Thomas, David Alfd. (Merthyr
Colville, John M'Kenna, Reginald Trevelyan, Charles Phillips
Crombie, John William M'Leod, John Wallace, Robert (Edinburgh)
Daly, James Maden, John Henry Wallace, Robert (Perth)
Dilke, Rt. Hon Sir Charles Mendl, Sigismund Ferdinand Walton, Joseph (Barnsley)
Donelan, Captain A. Montagu, Sir S. (Whitechapel) Warner, Thomas Courtenay T.
Doogan, P. C. Morgan, J. Lloyd (Carmarthen) Wedderburn, Sir William
Douglas, Charles M. (Lanark) Norton, Capt. Cecil William Weir, James Galloway
Duckworth, James Nussey, Thomas Willans Whittaker, Thomas Palmer
Dunn, Sir William O'Brien, James F. X. (Cork) Williams, John Carvell (Notts)
Farguharson, Dr. Robert O'Connor, James (Wicklow,W. Wilson, John (Durham, Mid)
Fenwick, Charles O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool) Wilson, John (Govan)
Ferguson, R. C. Munro (Leith) O'Kelly, James
Fitzmaurice, Lord Edmond Palmer, Sir Charles M. (Durham TELLERS FOR THE NOES—Mr. Dillon and Mr. Davitt.
Foster, Sir Walter (Derby Co.) Palmer, George Wm. (Reading
Fowler, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry Paulton, James Mellor

said ho desired to ask the Chief Secretary what course he proposed to adopt with regard to the Second Reading of the Bill.


Order, order! There can be no further Debate at this stage.


said he simply wished the Chief Secretary to give an undertaking not to take this Bill until after Whitsuntide, and give the Irish Members fair and proper notice when the measure was to be brought on, instead of putting it down without notice.


said the Government had no desire to rush the Bill unduly, and the Second Reading would not be taken before Whitsuntide.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Gerald Balfour, Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr. Attorney-General for Ireland, and Mr. Solicitor-General for Ireland.