§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ The MINISTER of AGRICULTURE (Mr. Edward Wood)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
In rising to move the Second Reading of this Bill, I am sure that I will command the assent of those who have studied this question of tithes when I say that there is no more difficult and complex question to which the House could be invited to address its attention, and I think that in one respect the question of tithes occupies a rather peculiar position among the rather wide range of problems on which from time to time it is the duty of this House to form and pass judgment. In our day-today work we are invited for the most part to deal with matters which follow from what may be called the natural evolution of civic society, and which, both in their character and in the mental background from which they spring, would have been largely unintelligible to our predecessors of five, six or seven centuries ago. But tithe is very different, and the distance that the modern mind has moved away from the mediaeval acceptance of a compulsory tithe contribution for religious purposes is the measure of how deeply the roots of the matter lie embedded in the past.
I will just add this further preliminary observation of a general nature. The acceptance by the community of such definite religious obligations follows naturally enough from the assumption of uniformity in religious belief and practice. As long as the civil and spiritual order were merely regarded as twin expressions of a single human society, titheing the land was held to be not only elementary Christianity but also—and to our ancestors the distinction scarcely existed—good citizenship as well, and it follows that while land was the principal, if not almost the sole, source of wealth, it was naturally upon land that this obligation was imposed, and it has been subject to this obligation that from time to time the land in question has passed from hand to hand through all its 832 successive ownerships. Those days have passed away, and it is in this very different atmosphere of the twentieth century that the House is called upon to consider those matters which are a direct legacy of the practice and ideas of an earlier age.
Before I come to the Bill may I remind hon. Members in a sentence or two of what have been the principal features in tithe legislation? I will just give the landmarks. Up to 1836 tithes were still collected, in theory if not in practice, in kind. That is to say, by taking a tenth of the titheable produce, though in fact in most cases a composition sum was arrived at and paid in satisfaction in place of the contribution in kind. But for various reasons that was not a very satisfactory arrangement. Indeed, I think that the main advantage of the old custom of collecting in kind was to endow the countryside with the old tithe barns that may still be seen in many parts of the country, and add to its picturesque features.
In 1836 it was decided that all tithes, with some trifling exceptions, should be commuted for a money payment equivalent to the average value of the tithes. But then, as now, there was much discussion as to whether a gold price or a commodity price was the better basis on which to effect the change. Ultimately it was decided that the better course was to commute the tithe for a sum which would be arrived at by the ascertainment of the money value from time to time of a certain number of bushels of wheat, barley and oats. I will not detail the machinery by which that was done, beyond saying that it was desired to produce on these figures a £100 commuted tithe rent charge, and in the calculations from which and by which that figure was arrived at the price of oats is by far the most material factor. In each succeeding year after that the average price of corn for seven years was taken, and the value of the tithe rent charge was calculated on those averages.
The anticipation of those who were responsible for that legislation was that the rise and fall of tithe rent charge would pretty accurately follow the rise and fall in the cost of living, and on the whole it has done so. A seven years' average works very slowly and it would not be difficult to point to cases in the 833 past in which there has been a 50 per cent. drop in the prices of a single year which has been responsible for an immediate change in the value of the tithe rent charge of little more than 1 per cent., but on the whole the arrangement worked very well until the War came with its abnormal prices and its abnormal cost of living. It worked fairly well in spite of the fact that, as a great many hon. Members will remember, when tithe rent charge fell, as it did in 1900, to something like £66 it was very difficult to persuade the incumbent in those days that the £66 represented as much to him as did the £100 par commodity value.
Then came the War, when corn prices, even though controlled, rose to such an extent that, on the 1836 basis, tithe rent charge would have risen in 1922 to the figure of £172 for every £100 tithe rent charge, and the House ought not to forget that the Church was the first to accept the view that though, theoretically, the cost of living might have risen proportionately the Church was not justified in taking advantage of her full rights under existing legislation.
It should be remembered to the honour of the Church that, in the days when there was a good deal of taking advantage of war prices and conditions going on, she deliberately withstood that temptation, if temptation it were, and came forward with an invitation to arrive at a fair basis of measurement by which that might be avoided. It was accordingly at the instance of the Church that in 1918 tithe was stabilised for seven years at the figure at which it now stands, at £109 3s. 11d., and that, of course, meant a very considerable sacrifice to tithe owners. That sacrifice has been estimated, and I think rightly estimated, at a sum of not less than £4,000,000 and that after allowing for the concessions which they obtained later in regard to rates. The only compensation that was given for this in 1918—and it represents but a very small proportion of what the Church then gave up—was an extension of the period of seven years average to a period of 15 years' average in order that, when stabilisation ceased, the favourable effect from the point of view of the Church of the high war prices, although spread over 15 years, should be brought in for a few years to influence the price in justice to the tithe owner.
834 When the Church accepted that heavy sacrifice, it was not realised that corn prices were not the only things that were rising. At the moment Parliament was restricting tithe, the devaluation of money consequent upon the War was responsible for causing the rates to soar. Incumbents therefore found that their restricted incomes from tithe rentcharge were being largely reduced by unprecedented demands for rates. The result was that they were granted by Parliament in 1920 the measure of relief represented by the Ecclesiastical Tithe Rentcharge (Rates) Act of that year, which gave relief especially to those in occupation of poorer benefices and also to the ecclesiastical corporations, or in other words, the Cathedral establishments. But that relief was limited to the period during which the tithe rentcharge was stabilised, that is to say, up to the end of this year; and it is only fair in that connection to add that in acquiescing in that measure of partial relief from rates the Church never abandoned what had been her claim throughout, that in equity she should be exempted totally from rates.
I have asked the House to allow me to remind hon. Members of those landmarks in order to bring the position up to date. Those two Measures, the Tithe Act of 1918 and the Act affecting rates of 1920, were responsible for establishing a stable condition in tithe for a fixed period. We are now getting to the end of that period, and it is very important that the House should clearly apprehend what would be the position in default of any legislation. The first result would be that tithe next year would rise to something like, I think, 131, with an estimated rise to 137 in 1930, the rise to 131 next year being approximately a rise of 20 per cent. Without any sure prospect of a compensating rise in corn prices, that could hardly fail to be a very dislocating element in what we may hope to be the more stable poise of agricultural economics at the present time. On the other hand, while the tithe owner would gain on the swings he would lose on the roundabouts, in that his original liability for rates would be revived. The Ecclesiastical Tithe Rentcharge Bates Act of 1920 would disappear. There is another more general consideration to which I would like to direct hon. 835 Members' minds. Tithe is a legal obligation on laud in no way differing from any other charge, and, as I have said, the charge which it imposes has no doubt for generations past been discounted in the value of the land when it has passed from hand to hand.
§ Mr. WOOD
I am very glad to have the right hon. and gallant Gentleman's assent to what I have hitherto regarded as a very elementary proposition. All of us are aware that human reason is not always strong enough to control human feeling, and, although such cases may be and I think are comparatively rare, it is idle to close our eyes to the fact that one effect of the break-up of large estates has been to multiply the possibilities of friction between the incumbent and the parishioners from whom he has to collect the income to which he is by law entitled. Therefore, I do not know that there is any field in which the whole House, irrespective of party, would be more anxious to avoid occasion for controversy than in that kind of area where the spiritual and the secular spheres overlap; and, for all those reasons, I think there will be a wide measure of agreement among men of all parties that it is on general grounds desirable to bring to an end the direct relationship between the incumbent as tithe owner and the owner of land as tithepayer, and at the same time, in doing that, to stabilise these sharply fluctuating payments on the basis of what may be arrived at as their fair perpetuity equivalent. The real difficulty in handling this matter is to arrive at a fair perpetuity equivalent. That is the problem with which the Minister of Agriculture has had to deal for the purposes of redemption ever since 1920, and the figure has been fixed for redemption since 1922 at £104. Before arriving at that decision those responsible for the Ministry at that day obtained the advice of a Committee consisting of Sir Charles Longmore, Sir Henry Rew, and the late Mr. Le Fanu, the Treasurer of Queen Anne's Bounty.
§ Mr. WOOD
No, they did not represent the Treasury. There was no occasion 836 for them to represent the Treasury. They were not dealing with Treasury money. If the right hon. and gallant Gentleman will allow me to finish this part of my argument, he will see that there was no public money involved. That Committee heard a great deal of evidence—it was, of course, of a conflicting nature, inasmuch as it was bound to be largely of a speculative character—as to the probable trend of corn prices. That evidence has been considered by my Department, who have also taken into consideration the more recent fluctuations in prices, and, on their advice, I had come to the conclusion in my own mind that the figure should be not less than £104 and not more than £106, or thereabouts. Before deciding on the figure I decided to consult Sir Charles Long-more again. He was the only Member of the original committee whom I could consult, because Sir Henry Rew had identified himself with the Tithepayers' Union and was therefore not in a position to dissociate himself from that side of the question, and Mr. Le Fanu, as I have said, was dead. It really is of vital importance to read the reply Sir Charles Longmore wrote to me:
§ "DEAR MR. WOOD,
§ I feel bound to accede to the request contained in your letter of the 16th instant as to the stabilisation of tithe rentcharge, but you will no doubt appreciate that a forecast of corn prices over the long period which must be taken into consideration in dealing with the value of tithe rentcharge is not a matter on which unanimity of opinion can reasonably be expected.
§ When I sat in 1920–1–2–3 as Chairman of the Committee appointed by your predecessors to advise them as to the figure to be adopted for redemption under the Tithe Act, 1918, I had the privilege of hearing the views of many persons whose opinions on this subject carry considerable weight, but those views were rather widely divergent. I have since then brought up to date my knowledge of the actual Gazette prices of wheat, barley and oats, and amongst other recent pronouncements on this subject. I have carefully considered Mr. J. M. Keynes' memorandum prepared for the use of the colleges in which he elaborates his views as to the future prices of cereals and commodities in general.
§ On the whole material before me, I have come to the conclusion that the fair figure to adopt for stabilisation of the rentcharge, which would otherwise be dependent on the 15-year average of corn prices, is the sum of £105.
§ Yours sincerely,
§ CHARLES LONGMORE."
§ I know of no one—837
§ Mr. WOOD
That was the perpetuity value of the varying figure arrived at from the corn prices. I know of no one more competent to form a judgment on this very difficult problem, a judgment both valuable in itself and wholly unbiased and impartial, and therefore I have placed the figure of £105 in the Bill. The next point to which I had to address my attention was as to the degree to which a general and compulsory extinguishment of tithe rentcharge should be required. I have said enough, I hope, to indicate the general grounds upon which the extinguishment of clerical tithe rentcharge, even at a comparatively remote date, is desirable, but of course the House will appreciate that extinguishment involves an additional payment by the tithepayer in the way of sinking fund, and I had to consider what he can reasonably be asked to pay in addition to the £105. I came to the conclusion that it would not be unreasonable to invite him to pay another £4 10s. by way of sinking fund, which would bring his payment up to £109 10s., as against £109 3s. 11d. which he pays at present. This sum, if accumulated at the current available rates, which have been taken to range from £4¼ at present to £3¼ in the rather remote future, will suffice in 85 years to produce the net income that will cease when the tithe rentcharge is extinguished.
It is, therefore, proposed that £109 10s. shall be paid for all clerical tithe rent-charge, and that at the expiration, of 85 years the tithe rentcharge will automatically cease to exist. In the case of ecclesiastical corporations' tithe rent-charge, the net income will be rather smaller than in the case of clerical tithe rentcharge, and the period will be slightly reduced to 81½ years. During the currency of these periods the tithe rentcharge will continue to be deducted in the assessment of the land charged, and consequently no increased rates during that period will fall upon the land. The accumulation of the £4 10s. obviously necessitates the introduction of some central authority to be the collecting and accumulating body, and Queen Anne's Bounty seemed to be the appropriate body. It is, therefore, proposed that Queen Anne's Bounty shall collect and administer the whole annual 838 payments, including the payments on account of sinking fund.
I have no doubt that some incumbents, who are fortunately placed as regards the collection of their own tithe, will urge that such an arrangement will involve them in unnecessary expense. To them I would say two things: first, that it would be inconvenient to the point of impossibility to have two collections, one of tithe rentcharge proper by the incumbent and one of the sinking fund portion by someone else. In the second place, in a general scheme such as is here proposed, it is necessary to balance the cases where collection is easy against cases where collection by the incumbent is difficult and sometimes invidious. I, therefore, hope that the Church will accept the principle of central collection, and will consider whether the wide powers of Queen Anne's Bounty will not meet the difficulties arising from its application to special cases. I do not believe that the expense of collection will seriously reduce the incumbent's income, and I hope that the Church will realise that some small sacrifice is worth making in order to achieve the severance between the tithe payer and the tithe owner, which the scheme proposes.
With regard to the lay tithe rentcharge, I have formed the view that the general feeling of tithe owners was that any scheme which under existing circumstances the Government were likely to propose, was not very likely to be one which would benefit them, and the tithe payers seemed to be luke-warm as regards a general compulsory redemption of such tithe rentcharge. The Bill, therefore, contains no scheme for the compulsory general redemption of lay tithe rent-charge. It does effect a certain alteration, but not one of first-rate importance in the case of lay tithe rentcharge, and one which, I hope, will be of some value to the lay tithe owners.
Queen Anne's Bounty, therefore, will become the owners of the whole clerical tithe rentcharge under the Bill, and will get £109 10s. for every £100 nominal. The next question is as to the disposal of that £109 10s. That brings me to the question of the rates to be paid, and perhaps I may say a word about the general rate position. Incumbents strongly urge that the practice under which they have been rated on their tithe rentcharge is illegal and inequitable. I 839 do not profess to be able with any assurance to appraise the strict legal merits of their claim. The matter reaches back to the Act of Queen Elizabeth, and I think it must now be accepted that the long-established practice, and a certain amount of recognition of the practice in later Acts, makes it difficult, if not impossible, for the incumbents to establish their claim to exemption in the Courts. The contention that the practice is inequitable has always seemed to me to stand on much stronger ground, and has been frequently recognised by authorities on various sides of political thought.
The whole problem of the liability of this tithe rentcharge to rating was very fully considered by the Royal Commission on Local Taxation, who in 1898 recommended that partial relief should be given without stating exactly the amount of the relief. I shall not weary the House with their recommendations, because they are available to anyone who is interested. The result was the relief to the extent of half-rates that was given by the Act of 1899. But this has never been accepted by the Church as a final settlement. Further temporary relief was also given by the Ecclesiastical Tithe Rentcharge Rates Act of 1920. That gave total exemption from rates in the case of poorer benefices, and proportionate relief in other cases, but—this is a very important point—laid the whole obligation of making up the deficiency thus caused in rates on the general body of ratepayers in the parish concerned.
The Government have very carefully considered this question and have come to the conclusion that an equitable settlement of this very controversial matter is that the rateable obligation to tithe rent-charge should be put at £5 out of every £109 10s. received. Let me give the effect of that. In respect of tithe attached to benefices, substantially the same sum will be paid towards rates as is paid now, but if this stood alone, the general body of ratepayers would continue to be liable, as they are to-day, for the extra burden imposed by the Act of 1920. That extra burden is very far from negligible. Although I voted and spoke in favour of that Act when it was passing through this House, as did many of my hon. Friends, I rather doubt whether the Parliament of 840 1920 fully realised the implications of its action. The effect of that 1920 Act has been an addition to the rates in some parishes of between 2s. and 3s. in the £.
The Government accordingly take the view that, while it is not prepared to accede to the Church's claim for total exemption from rating, it is reasonable not to exact a higher payment for rates from the incumbent than he has been paying, but that it is not just to lay this charge upon the ratepayers. Accordingly the Exchequer will make itself responsible for that burden, which since 1920 has rested upon the shoulders of the general ratepayers in the country. Let me sum up what I have said on that head. The distribution of the £109 10s. will be this: £4 1ds. to the sinking fund, £5 to a fund for defraying rates on these tithe rentcharges, and £100, less cost of collection, to the incumbent.
§ Mr. WOOD
It is about £270,000, but I will come to that later. The case of the ecclesiastical corporations who have enjoyed a lesser measure of relief under the Act of 1920 has also been considered. On their £100 tithe rentcharge they have been paying about £16 in rates. That we propose to continue. On behalf of ecclesiastical corporations Queen Anne's Bounty will pay into the fund for defraying rates a sum of £16 instead of the £5, in respect of every £109 10s. received for clerical tithe rentcharge. The lay tithe rentcharge is merely stabilised. There is no sinking fund in the case of lay tithe rentcharge. The whole of the rates will be defrayed by payment by the Commissioners of Inland Revenue, who will, as regards half rates, continue to deduct the amount which is at present paid from the Local Taxation Account under the 1899 Act, and will find the balance of the other half, less the contributions of £5 and £16, out of the Consolidated Fund. It is estimated that these payments, thus thrown on the Exchequer to prevent an additional burden being thrown on the ratepayers, will be between £250,000 and £300,000 a year.
§ Mr. WOOD
Yes, and the right hon. Gentleman may assume that it is pretty accurate, because very full materials are available for the formation of a judgment. I sum up by saying this. The Bill aims, while seeking to frame a permanent and final settlement, at doing this in terms which are just to tithe-payers and tithe-owners alike, and, as far as may be, to do it on the lines of the existing status quo. Under the Bill the tithe-payer will pay for a definite period of years the same sum within a few shillings that he pays to-day, and he will know that the alternative to legislation from his point of view is the 130, or the 131 next year. The ecclesiastical tithe-owner will secure a stable income. He does not gain anything. Indeed, many of them will say that they lose. But he secures a stable income, and he will be relieved of personal responsibility for collection. After the tithe-owners have made what is practically their existing contribution to rates to Queen Anne's Bounty, they will enjoy the balance rate free—free from the contested rate obligation. Therefore, only to the ordinary ratepayer is the status quo varied, and that to his advantage, in that he is relieved by the Exchequer of the extra burden that was thrown upon him in 1920, and he incurs no new burden in consequence of what, in my judgment, is a fair recognition of the Church's equitable claim in respect of rating.
I am well aware in a matter of this kind that it is, by the very nature of things, impossible that a Bill of this nature should win general approbation. When the various parties who have been negotiating have failed to reach agreement it would be unduly sanguine to suppose that any Government would immediately and automatically succeed. I am told on the one hand that the Bill exacts a vastly too heavy payment from the tithe-payers and inflicts great injustice on the owner-occupier or owner of land who is called upon to pay such a high figure. On the other hand I am told with equal vehemence that we are imposing grave sacrifices upon tithe-owners—upon incumbents and poor parsons. I notice yet a third line of criticism adumbrated in the Amendments appearing on the Paper to-day in the names of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite. The first Amendment which is in the name of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme 842 (Colonel Wedgwood) suggests, as might be expected from his association with it, that the principal object of the Bill is to increase the value of agricultural property. I do not at all quarrel with the right hon. Gentleman for putting down that Amendment, I should be disappointed if he did not give us in this House what I am sure is a re-echo of the most eloquent speeches which he frequently makes outside. I have come to regard this argument as not the least interesting item in the stock-in-trade with which he perpetually delights us.
I venture to ask him, before he moves his Amendment, if he will explain to us how it is suggested that, in fact, what he anticipates is to be done. The only demand made upon the general taxpayer is that he should relieve the general ratepayer of a burden which is comparatively small in relation to the whole scheme, a burden which Parliament, I think, never intended to lay upon him. The rateable liability of both tithe-owner and tithe-payer, as such, remains unaffected. The beneficed clergyman receives exactly what is estimated to be the fair actuarial equivalent of that to which he is legally entitled; the tithe-payer over a period of years relieves his land from the statutory charge at present resting upon it, by a compulsory contribution for 85 years of his own money. I confess I do not easily see how the value of agricultural land is increased at the expense of the general taxpayer. I am the more interested to see the relation which that Amendment bears to an Amendment which is adumbrated by the friends of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman who sit behind him. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman says the Church is defrauded for the benefit of the landowners and the hon. and learned Gentleman beside him (Sir H. Slesser), I take it, accedes to that view, but hon. Members behind say that the Church is being provided with more benefits from the taxpayers. They must make up their minds before we get very far with this Bill whether they think the Church is being robbed or is being benefited.
At present they rather suggest to me what is perhaps the position of some of our number who are not here to-day, having gone to another engagement in the neighbourhood—where being unable to make up their minds which of two or three 843 horses they will back, decide unwisely, as I think, to back the three equally. That may not lead to heavy losses, but it does not make for extensive gains, and I commend to hon. Gentlemen opposite the suggestion that they should make quite clear on which leg they mean to stand in this matter. For myself let me frankly state that in the battlefield of politics as distinct from the battlefield of war, it is not always a sign of unsound dispositions to find yourself the centre of some cross firing, in which the attacks from one flank may sometimes tend to discount the danger of attacks from the other. Indeed I am rather encouraged by the fact that I shall, no doubt, be the target of varying attacks—perhaps from some hon. Gentleman behind me as well as from other hon. Gentlemen in other parts of the House—because it leads me to suppose that, on the whole, the solution which I suggest to the House is as near fairness and equity as can reasonably be found.
On behalf of the Government I can only say that, confronted with a problem of quite exceptional difficulty, I have sought to reconcile these conflicting interests on a basis that each side could consider reasonable, and if from one side or the other it can be shown that we have failed to hold the scales evenly, I shall welcome the co-operation of hon. Members, in whatever part of the House they sit, in attempting to evolve a settlement which is equitable as between all the interests concerned. In my efforts to find a solution I have been profoundly impressed by what I think is the new temper which prevails between the different parties, as has been shown during the unofficial conversations which have taken place between the interests concerned in the last 18 months. Those who could speak with authority for tithe-payers have been very ready to recognise the real sacrifice we are demanding from the present generation of incumbents, many of whom are well advanced in years, many of whom have given long and unstinted service for a very meagre material reward, and who had been looking forward to a substantial accretion to their tithe income in 1926. On the other hand, those who might claim to speak for the tithe-owners have not failed, I think, to recognise that some sacrifice of their immediate interests was inevitable 844 if due regard was to be had to the general level of agricultural prosperity and to the wider and more permanent interests of the spiritual society whose servants they are. That is the temper that exists to-day between those directly concerned with the receiving and paying of tithes, and I have no doubt that will also be the temper with which this House will discuss the proposals which I now recommend to hon. Members for Second Reading.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
I beg to move to leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof the wordswhile anxious to stabilise tithe at a reasonable figure, this House declines to proceed with a measure which adds to the price of agricultural land at the expense of beneficed clergymen and the general taxpayer.The right hon. Gentleman who so lucidly introduced this Bill said, quite frankly, that the question was one of great complexity and the House will agree—at least those hon. Members who have studied the Bill in detail will agree—as to the complexity of the Bill itself. This question, however, does involve economic problems of great complexity. There is to-day, not merely a struggle between the tithe-owner and the tithe-payer, between the landlord and the parson, as to how much each shall get out of the rental value of the land but there is also the question of the interest of the State in that land, in the shape of rates and the proportion of the rental value taken by local authorities in that form. If this were merely a question between the parson and the landlord whether the landlord should pay more or whether the parson should obtain less, it would be a simple question for such a Committee as the right hon. Gentleman's predecessors set up to arrive at some equitable solution of the problem. But we have also to consider the interest of the State. I think hon. Members on this side of the House often forget that the interests in the land are not solely those of the landlord. The State is, economically, a large owner of land value in this country.
There are, in fact, three owners of land, the landlord, the tithe-owner and the State. The tithe-owner and the State are in the position of preference shareholders without voting power, without any control over the management of the 845 land. Indeed, they might be better described as participating preference shareholders, because as the value of land goes up so does the return from the rates and so does the share of the parson in tithes—or so it has done up to now. I have tried to find out in what proportion these shares are held to-day, and it may interest the House if I give them the figures as far as they can be obtained. The rent of agricultural land in England, excluding Scotland and Ireland, not merely the land, but the farmhouses as well—in fact, the new agricultural value of land which has sprung into being and which will play such an important part in the future—seems to work out at about £40,000,000 a year. That is the rent from agricultural land. The tithe-owners—the parsons—for clerical tithes get £2,000,000 a year and the lay tithes amount to about £1,000,000 a year. There you have £40,000,000 a year for the landlord and £3,000,000 a year for the semi-landlord, the preference shareholder, while the State, in rates and in Income Tax under Schedule A, is the owner of a prior charge on the land to the tune of £28,000,000. So the State is, to-day, a very considerable part-owner of the land of the country.
For the last three centuries there has been a constant effort on the part of the landowner, the man who has the directing of the property, to shift the hereditary burden carried by the land on to the body of the general taxpayers. It is well known that it began in the reign of Charles II, when the burden was commuted into a perpetual land tax, and it has been going on with increasing frequency. The taxes were shifted off very largely, and would have been more so if it had not been for Sir William Harcourt's Budget of 1894, and, of course, the enormous rise in the amount of Income Tax under Schedule A, but latterly the struggle has been one in connection with the rates. In 1896 half the rates on agricultural land were shifted off the landlord and on to the general body of taxpayers. That is to say, there was a general movement to relieve that particular interest of one of the hereditary burdens incident upon the land, at the cost of the general taxpayer. That has gone on since with accelerated speed, and we reduced it two years ago, I think, to one quarter. At the same time, the other 846 shareholder in the land, the parson, also, I think it was in 1899, got his burden lifted off and transferred to the ordinary body of taxpayers, which was another hereditary burden moved on to the general taxpayer.
The right hon. Gentleman spoke of that as a great act of justice, and indeed, in the latter part of his speech, he rather reproved us for complaining of a further shifting of what he estimates as being a quarter of a million from the other shareholders on to the back of the public. That gift, I think, was £150,000 a year, if I remember aright. That, I think, was the cost to the taxpayer of the halving of the parson's tithe. [An HON. MEMBER: "Double that!"] At that time I think it was £150,000 a year, but in any case the right hon. Gentleman will remember that the whole of the Liberal party at that time protested with the utmost vigour against that gift to the parsons, on the ground that it was unfair to relieve a particular interest at the expense of the general body of taxpayers, and what I want particularly to call the attention of the House to is the remark made at that time by Lord George Hamilton. I daresay the right hon. Gentleman may remember it. It was quoted, I think, on every Liberal platform over and over again as a clear indication of what this Measure meant. Lord George Hamilton is reported to have said:Why do you complain of this gift to the parsons? We were quite right to help our friends.I am afraid that that is a thoroughly bad Tory principle. It is not fair to the general body of taxpayers to use your majority, whether you be a Liberal majority or whether you be a Conservative majority, to help your friends at the expense of the general body of taxpayers, and I do not think anyone to-day would care to contest the general principle that Parliament and the Government are not entitled to give presents to any particular body or vested interest at the expense of the community. The right hon. Gentleman talks of this gift of £250,000, as it is now, or £150,000, as it was in 1899, as being a mere trifle, but we must remember that these gifts are not to be measured by the mere annual amount of the contribution. We must take at least 20 years' purchase of that contribution as a reflection of the true benefit given to the owners of real estate by the reduction of the 847 annual charge. In fact, 20 times a quarter of a million amounts to £5,000,000, which is taken from the public and transferred to those who own real estate.
I have said that for the last 50 years we have seen a continual series of these efforts on the part of the landed interests to shift their hereditary burdens on to the taxpayer. This is merely the latest illustration of the practice, but two nights ago we had exactly the same thing, another effort to shake themselves free and put themselves in a privileged position, and I think it is high time that any Opposition in this House tried to call a halt to this habit. Every economist knows that it is increasing the burden on the producers to the advantage of the non-producers. Every economist, from Harold Cox down to the wildest Socialist, will tell you that this is unjust and unfair, but there is much more than that in this opposition. It is not merely a question of whether the public is being robbed for the benefit of a limited class, it is a question of whether, in this solution that you have come to, one party to the bargain is getting a fair deal. I think, myself, that the parsons are coming off extremely badly by this arrangement.
The right hon. Gentleman complained that we were not united, but I think we are united in this sense, that there, is a great deal to be said for the Church in this Bill. It is to the advantage of the Church that the horrible business of a parson having to go round and collect his tithe personally from the various tithe owners should come to an end. It is all for the dignity as well as for the good repute of the Church that that system should be done away with and that the collection should be done in the form of the straightforward tax of the Queen Anne's Bounty. It is to the advantage of the Church, perhaps, that the richer parsons in the future should really get a substantial advantage, but the right hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that it is the small parsons who are going to be hit by this change. Under the Act of 1920 the parson whose income was less than £300 a year escaped having to pay rates altogether, and the man whose income was between £300 and £600 had his rates reduced from one half 848 to one quarter, I think; that is to say, wherever the benefice was of this value the rates were reduced, independent of whether a man had a private income. But the man whose benefice was worth more than £500 a year still continued to pay the half rates to which he got it reduced in 1899.
Under this scheme they are all to be on the same footing. If this Bill goes through, all the parsons will get the £100, less the cost of collection, but there will be no longer any preference for the small parson. There may be something to be said financially for the incumbent with a living of £1,000 a year, because, taking a long view, if he is a. young man of twenty-five, it is possible, though I do not say it is probable, that the tithe may again fall, and that he is making a good bargain, but I think it improbable that the small man is, because many of these parsons are so poor that they cannot employ an agent to collect their tithe, and they have to do it themselves, and under this scheme they have compulsorily to employ an agent. It may be only 2½ per cent., but it means a lot to a very poor man, and I think this scheme, forced upon that class of parson, does require some criticism, apart altogether from the wider aspect of whether we are justified in trying to square this struggle between the parson and the landlord by a subvention from Treasury funds.
In regard to the figure, I think that is where the parsons are most unjustly hit. If we do not pass this Bill—and I sincerely hope we shall not pass it—tithes will rise to £131. Who will be injured? Solely the landlord class. I am not saying whether it is wise or wrong, but do let us get away from the idea that it is anybody else who is going to be hit. I am a landlord, and it is coming on me, not on my tenant farmer. It is simply a question of whether the parson is to suffer or whether the landlord is to suffer, and I cannot understand why we should pass a special Act of Parliament to relieve landlords at the expense of parsons. The argument in favour of it is that parsons do not know their own business best, and that in 50 years' time the value of tithe will have fallen from the £109 3s. 11d. at which it stands to-day to £70, and they will be much worse off, but the cost of living will have fallen at the same time, if it does fall. 849 Is there, however, any sort of evidence that we are going to have that colossal reduction in the price of food, in the cost of living, that is apparently estimated by the people who imagine this figure? I do not see any signs of a fall in the cost of living.
The figure I should like to have from the right hon. Gentleman is what would be the actual figure of tithe at present prices. Suppose the present prices were a 15 years' average, what would that figure be? I am told it would be something like £105. There is no reason for thinking that the price of oats and wheat will fall any more than there is for thinking it will rise next year. If the public generally were as certain that the price of wheat and oats was going to fall as is the man who devised this figure, what fortunes they might make on the Stock Exchange dealing in futures! You cannot tell whether the price is going up or whether the price is going down, and you are inventing a fall, and on that you are basing an argument to deprive parsons in this country of what they are legitimately entitled to next year. The right hon. Gentleman brings forward his Bill really because he thinks it is intolerable that there should be a 20 per cent. increase in this charge on the agricultural landlords of this country. I do not think it is intolerable at all. It does not matter one halfpenny to the producer whether the landlord gets it or whether the parson gets it, and, if it comes to that, if he says: "Well, if we do not pass this Bill now, not only will tithe rise to £130, but the poor parsons who have been getting these reductions and who have been able to escape rates altogether will find their benefit at an end," we will extend that. We are quite prepared, on this side, to grant that extension, but do not let the right hon. Gentleman use that as an argument for the necessity of passing this Bill in the interests of the poor parsons.
There are other suggestions. If the right hon. Gentleman must stabilise tithe for all time, let him bring in a Bill, an agreed Bill, in which both the interests will be definitely consulted, a Bill agreeable not only to the big dignitaries of the Church, but to those representing the small men, who, I say, are going to suffer under this Bill. Let him bring in an agreed Bill of that sort, which does not 850 come upon the taxpayers of the country, and then there will be no sort of opposition to it. However complicated the Bill he introduces, he will find that it goes through without trouble. I do not think a Bill like this, which is contrary to all the principles that true economists have professed in the past, which does go out of its way unfairly to penalise one party to the bargain, which cloaks its schemes under the plausible plea that agriculture will be hit if tithes go up, should be hurried through the House, but should be very carefully considered before it becomes a statute binding upon all parties.
§ 5.0 P.M.
§ Mr. HERBERT FISHER
My right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture has performed an unenviable task with great eloquence and lucidity. I say his task was unenviable, because I cannot imagine a Measure more controversial in itself, more technical in its details, or more difficult to present in a clear and attractive form to this House than a Measure dealing with this subject of tithes. We have already been apprised of one line of objection which may be taken against this Bill. The right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken has told us that this is a Bill for the benefit of the landlords, and he has intimated that the interests of the parson are being sacrificed to the interests of the land-owning class. If I may venture to offer my own opinion, it is that the parsons do not come off at all badly under the Measure of my right hon. Friend, though it is perfectly true that they would come off a good deal better if he were not so generous to the land-owning class. But I do not myself propose to cover the broader aspects of this Measure. I rise to speak on behalf of a group of corporations, blameless, meritorious corporations, who, under the operation of the lethal instrument, which has been wrapped up in so much silken and seductive eloquence by my right hon. Friend, will suffer a severe diminution of their resources. I speak for the charitable corporations, for a group of bodies, of which some of the principal colleges of Oxford and Cambridge may be taken as typical—Trinity College, Cambridge; King's College, Cambridge; my right hon. Friend's college at Oxford, Christ Church; New College, Magdalen College, Eton College, Christ's 851 Hospital, Holy Cross, Winchester, and many other foundations of the same kind. These corporations, which render, as I think everyone in this House will realise, very conspicuous service to the Commonwealth, suddenly find themselves threatened with a very serious loss of revenue, under the operation of this Bill, if it passes in its present form.
To take the case of Oxford alone, the universities and the colleges of Oxford find themselves threatened with an annual loss amounting to £3,150 gross, or £2,200 net. They find themselves threatened with a loss in the redemption value amounting to £35,508, and, if I may speak of the college with which I am most particularly connected, that is menaced with the immediate conversion of a favourable into an unfavourable balance. It, therefore, will not surprise the House if in Oxford and Cambridge—and the feeling is reflected among other charitable corporations—a very considerable measure of anxiety exists with reference to the Tithe Bill of my right hon. Friend. And when I speak of this gross loss of £3,150 and this net loss of £2,200 to Oxford, I am comparing an income which these institutions now enjoy with the income which they will receive if my right hon. Friend's Tithe Bill passes in its present form. But, of course, that comparison does not exhaust the equities of the case, because the rate fixed in 1918 was, as we all know, an artificial figure, fixed at a point far lower than that at which tithe would have been valued had the value been calculated upon the average value of the three principal cereals, and it is common knowledge that if the Government were to do nothing but leave the tithe upon the terms, granted in the Act of 1918, to come into operation in 1926, the value of tithe would not be £109, as it was fixed in the Act of 1918, nor would it be £105, as it is proposed to fix it under the Bill of my right hon. Friend, but it would be £131 or £132, and would rise to a higher figure in the following years.
That is a very great disparity. The disparity between the sums which my right hon. Friend is offering these charitable corporations, and the sum which they would be entitled to receive, if they were allowed to enjoy the benefits promised them in the Act of 1918, would amount, in the case of Oxford alone, to a gross 852 annual sum of about £15,000. Again, it will be readily appreciated by Members in all quarters of the House, that the Oxford and Cambridge Colleges do not contemplate this very heavy loss with equanimity. I hope it is quite unnecessary for me to enlarge on the services, both educational and eleemosynary, which are performed by the charitable corporations for which I speak. As far as Oxford and Cambridge are concerned, they have recently been looked into by a Royal Commission most carefully, and the only gravamen which that Commission could bring against the two ancient Universities was that the tutors worked too hard and were underpaid. Indeed, the Commission was so deeply impressed by the financial needs of those Universities that they recommended that they should receive an annual sum of Parliamentary money of £110,000, and the Chairman of the Commission, in alluding to the Commission's Report, reminded the House that this sum was a minimum sum. The two Universities so far have only received £85,000 each. I do not complain of that. I think it is desirable that the sum of £110,000 should be gradually worked up to, but I do submit, in all seriousness, that it is grotesque finance for the State, on the one hand, to subsidise the ancient Universities, and, on the other hand, to withdraw some of their existing property under the operation of the Tithe Bill.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) has alluded to the figure of £105 which has been taken in this Bill. I quite appreciate the very great difficulty which confronted my right hon. Friend in his effort to arrive at an equitable figure. I am sure he has done his best to do so, but he was confronted, of course, with conflicting interests, and there is one great difficulty which besets any Minister who desires to arrive at an equitable figure for the stabilisation of the tithe rentcharge. However modest and unassuming the Minister may be—and we know my right hon. Friend is modest and unassuming—he is bound to clothe himself in the august raiment of a prophet. The sum of £105 is based upon a prophecy as to the level of corn prices in the next few decades. I venture to think my right hon. Friend's prophecy, in spite of the letter which he has read 853 to the House from the distinguished expert whom he has consulted, is quite fantastic. It may be thought by some hon. Members that this is an extravagant thing to say. They may remind me that, as George Eliot said, "Of all forms of error, prophecy is the most gratuitous." They may say that one guess is quite as good as another. In this case, one guess is not as good as another, and for this reason. My right hon. Friend's figure of £105 assumes a very considerable and a very abrupt fall in corn prices. It assumes that corn prices will fall 20 per cent. in the next five years, will reach their pre-War level at the end of eight years and will be maintained at the pre-War level ever afterwards. I say with confidence that that is a fantastic prognostication, and I say it for the reason that, assuming such a fate, or any fate resembling it, were to overtake corn prices, then the Government would be forced to do something to remedy the situation.
No British Government faced with responsibilities as to debt and so forth, with which succeeding British Governments are likely to be faced, could contemplate with equanimity such a fall—so rapid, so extensive—in corn prices, so great an appreciation in the value of money, so great an aggravation in the burden of debt, without taking immediate steps to correct the disastrous tendency. Consequently, I am quite confident in saying that my right hon. Friend's prognostication will be found to be a castle built on the sands. I do not think that any Committee composed of competent economists accustomed to study, in a broad way, the course of economic phenomena and the interaction of economic and political forces, would come to the conclusion that there would be in the next decade so great a fall in the price of our three leading cereals. Yet that is what my right hon. Friend's figure asks us to assume.
I cannot, for this reason, profess to feel myself satisfied with the figure of 105 which stands in the Bill. I know that my right hon. Friend has had great difficulties with the various interests; I assume that he has reached this figure as a compromise between many conflicting forces, and that he may, therefore, find it difficult to accept an alternative. So 854 far, however, as the corporations for which I speak are concerned, we are not principally affected by the gross figure: we are affected by the net figure. We note that the right hon. Gentleman is stablising tithes but that he is not stabilising rates. He could meet the particular grievance of the charitable corporations without altering his figures by one of two courses. He could either grant them a reduction of one-third of the rate or stabilise the rate by paying from the Treasury any rate charge exceeding 20 per cent. of the tithe. By either of these methods he could, at any rate, shelter Oxford and Cambridge and the other charitable corporations from the considerable loss to which they are now exposed. I earnestly trust that when this Bill goes into Committee my right hon. Friend will not adopt an adamant attitude, but will exhibit a willingness to make some concessions to bodies which have never done this or any other Government any harm, and are not conscious of any particular peccadillo which deserves to be expiated by the severe penalties put upon them by the Bill. I have already detained the House too long, but I venture to make one last observation. If the right hon. Gentleman finds himself unable to accept either of these expedients I have suggested, I trust that he will, at any rate, consent to consult an impartial body of economists as to the figure to be adopted in the stabilisation of the tithe charge.
§ Sir H. CAUTLEY
I cannot help thinking that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the English Universities (Mr. Fisher) who has just spoken might have taken just a little slightly different view on the question of the fluctuations of the tithe had he given more consideration to the law of averages. Looking back into the past we have seen tithe up to 112 and down to 66. I should like to have heard the right hon. Gentleman's views as to how those concerned were likely to fare when tithe stood at 66. In the period between 1836 and 1914 the variations have been so great, and the drop has been so severe, that though I feel that in the next 25 years we are not going to see any substantial change or reduction from the present price of tithe, I can visualise in the future a possible return to pre-war prices and pre-war values of tithe rent- 855 charge. A more serious objection to the Bill was raised by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) when he stated that the taxpayer has been called upon to expend £270,000 a year—as he put it £5,000,000 in all—to subsidise one of these parties. He should have said to subsidise rates which were formerly paid by the Church. He was inaccurate to that extent in his description of the Bill, and he also forgets the debt the State owes to these two bodies in turn.
During the War—or I should begin earlier—the basis on which tithe was fixed really was that being payable in kind the amount of tithe receivable should vary with the commodity prices. In other words, that it should vary with the cost of living. Various commutation Acts endeavoured to carry that out. So it was that we got so low a price of tithe as 66, owing to the low price of corn and the low price of commodities. Even then it did not fully approximate to the cost of living. During the War everything the occupier of land produced was controlled. The Church volunteered to accept a reduction, but the State, by controlling the pricey saved itself very many millions of pounds and purchased all the corn grown, thus saving the taxpayers' pockets. The difference between the controlled prices of 72s. or 75s. per quarter and the higher prices that might have been got for wheat, which went up to 110 and 120 shillings, would have gone into the farmers' pockets, and their proportion to the Church as tithe owners. The net result was that during the War many millions of money was saved to the State. Even on the argument addressed by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman, if there is some repayment to make to the rate from which the clergy were exempted, more particularly the poorer clergy, it is a mere fleabite compared with the benefit the taxpayers received during the War.
I support the present Bill, but giving the best judgment I can I am satisfied that the Church is being paid too much and that the landlord or occupier is paying too much. I quite agree that no compromise has been arrived at, but I am certain the Minister has tried to 856 arrive at a figure that would approximate to the demands of the tithepayers and the tithe receivers. I do think that the public interest is such that we ought to get rid, and get rid once for all, of this irksome matter of tithe which is constantly arising and causing differences and disputes in all parts of the country. My objection to this Bill, perhaps the principal one, is that it does not include the whole of the tithes and leaves out of the Bill the tithe that is possessed by the colleges and the lay impropriators. While we are doing this thing it would be very much better to clear off the whole of the tithe of the country. I sincerely hope that in Committee it may be found possible to do it.
So far as the terms proposed by the Bill are concerned, obviously it is right that the tithe payer should pay the £4 10s. out of the £109 10s., and I do not think the House need trouble itself about that, because if the tithe payer is going to redeem and get rid of his obligations he is getting the best terms on the credit of the State. This smaller amount of £4 10s. is to be allowed to accumulate and at the end of 85 years is to be used as a redemption fund. We, therefore, do wrong if we decide that it is inadvisable or unnecessary to require the tithe payer to pay this redemption of tithe, and get rid of it once and for all. As the House will be aware, the present Act of Parliament relating to the stabilisation of tithe comes to an end this year. I think hon. Members will probably agree that it is very desirable that we should now deal with the matter once for all. If that is so, the main question is whether 105 is a fair price. There you get back to the law of averages which I have described. The Minister has told us how he has arrived at the figure. Nobody can say that the figure is accurate. But under the law of averages it is a reasonable figure, and the one objection which I have to it is this, not that you are stabilising—although that comes in—but that we are fixing, and fixing for no less a period than 85 years the payment of 105 by the landowner. I feel this rather strongly, and I disagree with the right hon. Gentleman opposite in his forecast of prices. I can picture to myself, and quite reasonably, I think, that in 30 or 40 years' time we may quite possibly find the value of the £ what it was prior to the War, and I 857 can foresee that such a reduction will cause immense unrest among all tithe-payers of that day, and there will be a demand to reopen the question, which would be a very awkward thing if it should happen. In view of these apprehensions I would urge the Minister to see whether he cannot improve his Bill by giving a premium for redemption at any time by the present tithepayers. Make it worth their while to redeem, so that we may get rid of tithe.
There is only one other point to which I would like to call the attention of the House. The parties who represented the Church, on the one hand, and the tithe-payers, on the other, got very near to an arrangement in their negotiations. I believe the arrangement was something like this: that there was to be a payment of £109 for 60 years. The present payment is £109 10s. for 85 years. I believe the second arrangement is rather better for the landowners than they have thought it is. Under the old terms that they were offered—on which there was agreement, or almost agreement—tithe would have been bought outright, would have been divorced from the land, and the landowner would at once have ceased to get a reduction for his tithe in his assessment under Schedule A for Income Tax purposes, or, if he were the occupier of the land, a reduction for tithe in respect of rates. By the system adopted in the Bill, the tithe is transferred to Queen Anne's Bounty and is kept alive for 85 years. The practical effect of that, so far as the landowner is concerned, is that the amount of tithe he pays will be a deduction from his Income Tax, and a deduction from his rates if he is the occupier of the land.
To make this clear, I will give the House a concrete example. Assume a farm let for £100 a year, on which there is a tithe of £10 a year. The assessment to Income Tax under Schedule A would be £100, less the statutory deductions allowable and lees the £10 for the tithe payable on it. That would reduce the assessment to something less than £90. The value of that reduction of £10 in assessment, with the Income Tax at 4s. in the £, will be £2 a year, and that the tithepayer will be entitled to have for the next 85 years; whereas, if the old terms of paying £109 for 60 years had been accepted, he would have had 858 no power to make that deduction. The rateable value of the land to-day is the rental value, less the tithe. Under this proposal, the occupier of the land will be able for 85 years to deduct the tithe in arriving at the rateable value, and, although the rateable value, owing to concessions in the rating of agricultural land, has been reduced to 25 per cent. of the annual value, the deduction, in the illustration I have given, would be at least 2s. in the £, and on £10 that would amount to another £1. Therefore, the landowner will have a saving of £3 a year for 85 years, and I am perfectly convinced that he is in a better position financially under these terms than he has realised. For these reasons, and I am speaking not only on my own behalf, but on behalf of the Conservative Agricultural Committee, consisting of a very large number of Members of this House, we have decided to support the Bill, not because we like it, and not because we do not think it is possible, although I see great difficulties in doing it, to arrive at some different figures in Committee, but because in the public interest it is desirable to get rid of tithe.
§ Mr. CECIL WILSON
The hon. and learned Member (Sir H. Cautley), who has just spoken, has laid a good deal of emphasis on the position of the Church and on the tithepayer, and it seems to me the position of the taxpayer and ratepayer is being very largely forgotten. The whole question of tithe is causing and has caused a great deal of anxiety. A considerable part of the population of the country have felt they were subject to a very considerable injustice. It would be well to go back to the origin of tithe and to remind ourselves, as Blackstone said in his Commentaries, thatAt the first establishment of the parochial clergy the tithes of the parish were distributed in a fourfold division, one for the use of the bishop, one for maintaining the fabric of the church, a third for the poor, and a fourth to provide for the incumbent.Subsequently bishops were otherwise endowed. Then the tithes were divided into three parts. Now the poor are entirely left out, and I think there can be no settlement of the tithe question which does not recognise the way they have been left out in the legislation which has been passed from time to time. In introducing the Bill, the Minister said there was a 859 claim that in equity tithes ought to be entirely exempted from rates. When he said that, I think he must have forgotten what is stated in the Act of 1836, where it is provided thatWhenever the said tithes shall have been demised or compounded for on the principle of the rent or composition being paid free from all such rates, charges, assessments, or any part thereof, the said commissioners or assistant commissioners shall have regard to that circumstance and shall make such an addition on account thereof as shall be an equivalent.And it was further enacted thatThe tithe rentcharge shall be subject to all Parliamentary, parochial and county and other rates, charges and assessments in like manner as the tithes commuted for such rentcharge have heretofore been subject.It was made perfectly clear in the Act of 1836 that the rates were included, and that it was intended that in future they should be paid, and not be an additional burden upon the ratepayers or the taxpayers. In 1889, Lord Justice Bowen, in a ease before him, said this:Tithes were rateable under the Statute of Elizabeth, and it had become well-established law that the parson was to be treated for the purpose of rating as the occupier of the tithes.It seems to me that the position which was arrived at in 1836 has been very largely departed from, and a claim is being made now that, in equity, there should be a complete reversal of what took place in 1836. If, after 90 years, this is to be reversed, there is no justification why, at some time in the future, a further reversal should not take place. Lord John Russell, in introducing the Bill in 1836, said:It would be more satisfactory to the several parishes and counties if under the new arrangement the clergy were rendered liable to rates, by which means they would have a common interest with their neighbours in diminishing their amount.I cannot think that, taking the clergy as a whole, they can regard it as satisfactory that they should be placed in this different position from everyone else in the parish. They occupy a difficult and undesirable position in having to collect these tithes, a position in which, I think, they ought not to be placed, and when we remember what took place in 1920, and the effect of that in so far as the rating of the parishes was concerned, we cannot be surprised at there being very strong feeling, not only on the part of the collectors themselves, 860 but on the part of the ratepayers; because the effect of the change in 1920 was in no sense to make things any easier for the poor, but rather to increase their difficulties. We find that in a part of the Walsingham Union in Norfolk it meant an increase of 3s. 8d. in the £, and in one of the parishes in Essex, and another in Suffolk, it meant an increase of 2s. 7d. in the £, and in another parish in Essex of 2s. 5d. In a number of cases overseers felt it necessary to put on the demand note some explanation why there was so considerable an increase in the rates. Immediately there was an outcry, because it was made clear that it was in consequence of the Act of 1920, with the result that the Ministry of Health of that day wrote to the overseers telling them that such a statement was not to be made on any future demand note.
The increase in the rates undoubtedly caused a feeling of considerable injustice and annoyance, and nothing we now propose will remove that feeling; the only difference now being that instead of it being a matter of rates alone it concerns also the contributions to the National Exchequer. While the ratepayer may gain the taxpayer does not join in that gain. The effect of the Act of 1920 was very considerably to increase the demand upon the National Exchequer, and it is estimated that the new demand is going to amount to not less than £800,000 a year from the Exchequer. While that is being done we are giving no real relief to the poor who need it most, and this is really perpetuating a very undesirable injustice. I want to recognise in the fullest possible way that there are many parishes where the parson is living upon far less than he ought to be having, and that is not at all creditable to any church.
I do not, however, think that anyone in these days thinks it is desirable that a stipend should be supplemented by the nation rather than by those who have called him to his great and high calling and to the extremely important position which he occupies. It is an extremely distasteful thing that the people of this nation, many of whom do not take the view that the parson holds with regard to religious matters, should be called upon to contribute in that way. On the other hand, we have in so many of these cases the position of the poor Nonconformist parson or local preacher who, out of the 861 slenderness of his means, is called upon to contribute to something in which he does not believe. It does seem to me that, whatever is done when this Bill becomes law, we are simply perpetuating an injustice which it ought to be our object to endeavour to remove.
It is with considerable diffidence that I venture to intervene in a Debate in this House for the first time on a subject of such a complex nature. I do so because the matter under discussion is one of deep interest to all persons connected with agriculture. One of the main objects of this Bill is eventually to afford very considerable relief to agriculture generally throughout the country. It has been mentioned by one right hon. Gentleman that the present incidence of tithe can only be described as extremely clumsy and cumbrous, and a source of very great irritation, and when this Bill comes into full fruition, we shall have one of the greatest sources of friction removed. I would like to remind the House that this Bill is the result of the labours of two Committees which sat for a considerable time and represented all the interests involved, including the farmers, the landowners, and the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, and they put forward certain unanimous recommendations. The first recommendation was that they generally recognised the desire to end tithes. The second unanimous recommendation was that this should be done by a compulsory scheme on an annuity and redemption sinking fund basis.
There is another point which I also hope will be embodied in this Bill. The Committees recommended that all tithes less than 20s. per year in amount should be redeemed outright. As the House is aware, the tithe is connected with the land, and in many urban parishes it has become so sub-divided that it is now very small. There are some parishes in the country to-day with livings of about £200, and they are collected in sums less than Is. in amount, and there are a great many tithes as low as 5d. and 9d. and other small sums. It was one of the recommendations put forward by these two Committees that all these small amounts should be redeemed in one payment, a plan which would be convenient both to the tithepayer and the titheowner.
862 Another recommendation was that when the tithes were allocated to any central authority, like the Queen Anne's Bounty, they should be placed on an ordnance map basis, and I think that would be an immense convenience. Many of these tithes are shown on very old maps, and they are not accurately described, and to have the whole of these charges once and for all definitely placed on an ordnance map would be extremely convenient in the future to anyone who had the administration of the fund and to those who have to pay the annuities.
For the rest, I think we must bear in mind what we have heard from various speakers. The Government have been forced into the position of having to arbitrate in this matter, and I think the more we hear of this Debate the more we are confirmed in the opinion that in the difficult role of arbitrator the Government have acted very equitably and very well. We had both the tithepayer complaining that he was going to pay too much, and we had the titheowner saying he was gong to receive too little, but I think there is every probability that the Government actuaries have now arrived at a fairly just figure. If the Government would carry out the two minor recommendations to which I have referred, it would be a great convenience to the Queen Anne's Bounty, to the small tithepayer, and to the small titheowner.
§ Sir R. SANDERS
I am very glad that it falls to me to have the honour of congratulating the hon. and gallant Gentleman (Captain Henderson) who has just sat down upon having made a maiden speech which has conveyed much useful and helpful suggestion with regard to a subject which I know he has studied deeply, and I am sure his services will be of considerable use to his party. I think everyone recognises that this is a subject which has got to be dealt with, and I want to congratulate the Minister of Agriculture on the fact that he has taken the bolder and more difficult course of dealing with this question on a permanent basis, instead of taking what would have been the easier but less courageous course of bringing in some makeshift arrangement stabilising the existing state of things for a little longer.
The reason this whole question of tithe is so difficult and complicated is that 863 it has been dealt with in a makeshift and piecemeal manner by one Government after another. It has always been a troublesome question and knotty points have arisen, and whatever Government has tackled them has only just tried to tide over the present. This is the first time since 1836 that it has been dealt with on anything like a permanent or statesmanlike basis. I notice that under this Bill the duty of collecting the tithes has been removed from the hands of the incumbent of the parish. That was always a most invidious task to put upon a man whose duties are of a totally different nature. It is quite true it may be a less disagreeable thing than it was in the old days before the Commutation Act of 1836. There are many notorious stories told in regard to what happened in those days. In one case, which is the most remarkable I have read, the incumbent had claimed tithe on turkeys and also on the partridges which were said to be reared on land which came within his parish, and the decision, with regard to both those species of birds, was that tithe was not to be exacted upon them because they were ferœ naturæ.
The tithe has been commuted, and the incumbent does not now deal with such knotty questions as that, but he is still put in the invidious position with regard to his parishioners that he is the person who exacts the tithe from them.
As to the actual terms of this Bill, there will no doubt be a certain amount of contention as to how far they carry out the recommendations of the Committees that dealt with the subject. Those Committees very nearly reached agreement, and each side seems to think that the terms obtained are a little less favourable than they expected. When each side thinks that, it is fair evidence that the compromise and balance arrived at are not very far out, and that justice has been done to both sides. The actual terms will, no doubt, be argued in Committee, but the subject is such a very intricate one that I think my right hon. Friend need not expect such a difficult time in Committee as the importance of the subject might otherwise justify. I am hoping that he will be able to get the Bill through Committee without any very great difficulty, and I think the course of this Debate, and, on the whole, the 864 general good will that has been shown towards the Bill, justifies my hope in that direction.
No doubt this subject of a grant-in-aid of rates will meet with a certain amount of opposition such as is foreshadowed by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman (Colonel Wedgwood) who moved the rejection of the Bill, and who always does move the rejection of any Measure by which anything is done in relief of rates to anyone. I would remind the House, however, that it is neither the tithe payer nor the tithe owner who gets the benefit of this Government grant in relief of rates; it is the other members of the parish in which the incumbent is relieved of his rates, on whom, since the Act of 1920, the burden of those rates has been falling. An hon. Member who spoke just now referred to the burden that would fall on the Exchequer for this reason as one of £800,000, and a similar figure occurs in a reasoned Amendment which has been put on the Paper. I do not know where that figure came from. It was particularly because it appeared on the Paper, and because, no doubt, it will be advertised in the Press of the country, that I ventured to ask my right hon. Friend what the exact figure was, and he gave it as somewhere between £250,000 and £300,000. I hope, therefore, that we shall hear no more of this entirely fictitious figure of £800,000, which only exists in the imagination of some hon. Members opposite.
A good many of us have received telegrams protesting against the terms of the agreement in this Bill. I would remind those who send us these telegrams, and those on both sides of the House who object to the terms of the Bill, that, if nothing be done, tithe, at the end of this year, will go up automatically to over £130, and that, if those people, on whichever side they are, who object to the Bill, say that it would be better not to deal with the subject at all, then they have to face the fact that automatically tithe will rise to that figure. My own belief is that, if that were to happen in six months' time, we should have such an outcry, both by the clery, who would find it very difficult to get their tithe, and by the tithepayers, who would find it even more difficult to pay it, that Parliament would be compelled to do in a hurry 865 what I now hope it will do with a fair amount of leisure, and will do well.
§ Sir BEDDOE REES
In opposing the Bill, I should like to say at the outset that it is not because I am not in sympathy with the ministers of the Church of England, but there is another point of view which has not so far been emphasised this afternoon, at any rate, from my particular angle. A deputation was received by the Minister of Agriculture recently, and he gave them a promise which I hardly think is carried out in the Bill. That deputation laid before him the point of view of the Free Churches and other societies that are not included in the Church of England, and, as we understood, it was promised then that, when this question was before the House, it would be upon a Bill that would be more or less a compromise upon the two extreme points of view. All that I can see has happened is that an attempt has been made to reconcile the difference between the tithepayer and the tithe owner, but I think there has been left out of account entirely that large volume of opinion which disagrees with any further endowment for State religion; and I think there will be an outcry against this further endowment which the Minister tells us amounts to £250,000 a year.
That must be added to a sum of £415,000 which the State is now contributing as the result of the 1899 Act. The ratepayer, for the last five years, has been paying £250,000, and that is to be transferred to the taxpayer; but the taxpayer has already been paying, under the 1899 Act, a sum of £415,000. At least, that is what it was in 1922; I have not the figures for 1923 and 1924. I think I can help the right hon. Baronet the Member for Wells (Sir E. Sanders). The £800,000 is, I agree, a wrong figure, but the figure is made up by the addition of the £415,000 paid as a result of the 1899 Act and this £250,000, which is the amount that it was thought was being paid by the ratepayer as the result of the 1920 Act. That, I think, is how the figure was made up.
I take up the point of view that tithes have always paid rates. Ever since the Commutation Act of 1836 it has been understood that they were assessable for local rating. The Commissioners that 866 were appointed as a result of the Act of 1836 reported to Parliament at various times, and in 1838 various returns were presented to Parliament showing the sums which had been added to the rentcharge as an equivalent of rates and taxes under the Commutation Act of 1836; and ever since then it has always been considered that tithes were subject to rates, and they paid them right down to 1899. Then, as the result of agitation, an allowance was made of 50 per cent. of the rates levied, and that was paid out of the National Exchequer. That has been growing in volume from some figure, which, I am told, was £150,000, and it is now somewhere in the neighbourhood of £400,000 a year. That is a charge upon the National Exchequer. Then came the Act of 1920.
The Act of 1899 was a temporary Measure. It was never intended that it should be permanent, and, in fact, many statements made in the House are on record to the effect that it was merely a temporary Measure. It is still, however, on the Statute Book. Coming down to 1920, the Act of that year, also, was never intended to be a permanent Measure; it was to expire at the end of this year, and it went through the House because it was a temporary Measure at an abnormal time. Those in the country who disagree with State endowment allowed it to pass without very much opposition because it was a temporary Measure, but now it is going to be made permanent, and you are going to ask, not the ratepayer, but the taxpayer, to pay the sum of £250,000 a year in perpetuity. Surely, one has a right to say that that is a further endowment of State religion.
§ Sir B. REES
I do not know whether the Sinking Fund will cover the amount that is going to be paid from the National Exchequer in relief of rates; we have not had that point stated; but, if you calculate it, it is a very handsome sum. If £132 were paid for every £100 of rent-charge, and the State would not be called upon to pay anything by way of rates and taxes, I should be more satisfied than with putting the value at £109 10s. I am quite agreeable if the two parties, the payer and the owner, come to an agreement; what I object to, and the point of view of my friends, is that we certainly 867 see no necessity, in these days, for adding further to State endowments. I should like to know what would happen if one of the Nonconformist bodies came to this House with an appeal that the State should pay the rates and taxes on the houses in which their ministers live? This is quite the same; it would be quite as exceptional. I say that if you are going to help one denomination, although it may be State established, you must also take into account the effect that that is going to have upon other religious bodies that are not helped in any way at all. I hope, therefore, that there may be some opportunity of amending this, as I consider it, rather serious position. You are going to raise the old controversy of State establishment of religion, and I assure the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill that it is a point of view that we must treat seriosuly. It is a point of view that will be canvassed very largely between now and the Third Reading of this Bill, and I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to see what can be done to remove entirely the charge that will be made that it will be a charge upon the ratepayers to endow religion.
§ Mr. RAWLINSON
I should like to call the attention of the Government to two classes of people who certainly will be very seriously affected by this Bill. The first, the lay tithe owner, including the charitable tithe owner, has been dealt with in detail by my right Eon. Friend the Member for the English Universities (Mr. Fisher), and I do not wish to add anything to his very clear, complete, cogent and convincing speech on the matter. The House will remember that my right hon. Friend pointed out the enormous loss which this Bill will cause to these charitable institutions. He told us that there would be an annual loss of £3,000 a year in the case of Oxford alone, and that will be the case, not only with Oxford and Cambridge, but with all the various charitable institutions that own tithe throughout the country. That is a very serious loss, and I hope the Government will see their way to deal with it between now and the Report stage of this Bill. Everything, however, has been so strongly put by my right hon. Friend that it would only be waste of time to try to add arguments on that point.
The second class that will be very seriously injured by this Bill is the clergy. 868 The clergymen who at the present time are receiving incomes of under £300 a year, and have been led to hope for better things when the Act of 1918 came to an end, will, under this Bill, suffer a very considerable loss. At the present time they are getting £109 a. year. Under this Bill they start by getting nominally £100 a year. From that various deductions will be made. It may seem a comparatively small sum to make a fuss about, but to these men small sums are very big sums. I get letters from these men—I should not like to say how many—about this Bill. We are doing by it, intentionally or unintentionally, a very grave injustice to that portion of the clergy who are less able to defend themselves than any other. We talk about agreements. They are not the men who attend meetings or make their voices heard.
From the £100 a year has to be deducted the cost of collection. In future, it is to be carried out by Queen Anne's Bounty. At what expense? How many officials are to be appointed to collect the tithe and deal with it in different parts of the country? I asked a question the other day, and the right hon. Gentleman told me frankly he had not the slightest idea, and he had mo estimate to give at all. Therefore, you will have the most expensive possible way of collecting the tithe. Imagine a small tithe in the fen country or some place a long distance from a station. It is collected now either by the clergyman himself, or else he can pay a small percentage to a local agent who knows the place. Can Queen Anne's Bounty, acting from London, possibly collect as cheaply as that, leaving alone the different charges which a big Department necessarily makes, and every penny of which has to be deducted before the money comes into the hands of the clergy? Not only that, but Queen Anne's Bounty are to deduct Income Tax from the clergyman's tithe before it is sent to him. I cannot understand the reason. I know the difficulty of getting back Income Tax in respect of investments. These are matters which these men feel very deeply indeed.
I am afraid I am a lawyer, and, if a person enters into a contract, I still believe there is something in carrying it out. In 99 cases out of 100 people bought their land at some time or another subject to tithe. They paid a less sum for 869 it, because it was subject to this mortgage. The mortgage was not a fixed sum but a fluctuating sum. Was it such a foolish form of mortgage that our ancestors started in this way? Instead of paying 5 per cent. in perpetuity, you had to pay a certain percentage varying according to the price of cereals during the past seven or 15 years. My hon. Friend the Member for East Grinstead (Sir H. Cautley), in reply to the hon. Member for Sheffield (Mr. Cecil Wilson), said, "I wonder what the colleges could have done when it was down to 66." The answer is clear. The colleges paid less for their bread, their barley, and their corn. That is the reason why they could pay perfectly well when it was down to 66, and that is the reason why they require more when the price of the commodity is up to 132. You have this sliding scale. When these commodities are expensive probably the thing is expensive. In 1918 we looked on this as a temporary measure. In 1920 it was pointed out that the tithe would go up to 132.
I am not interested myself as a tithe-owner or a tithe-payer. I am only interested to the extent of an enormous amount of correspondence from people who are disappointed with this Bill. Are the Government going to get absolute peace from it? Is it to be the end of the tithe question? Let us look at it. Hon. Members opposite object to paying this £250,000 a year as the price of peace. We hear also that the landed interest is to be contented, but my right hon. Friend the Member for Wells (Sir R. Sanders) has referred to a circular which has been freely sent round the House from the Farmers' Union in which they state thatthe Tithe Bill at 105 does not contain the elements of an equitable and permanent settlement and if enacted tithepayers will at once have to commence an agitation for repeal.Is that the peace for which we are praying? I do not blame the Government. I know the difficult position they have been put into. It is not a trouble of their own making. But is it necessary? It seems somewhat hard that every single class for whom they are trying to do their best is distinctly dissatisfied with the Bill. It is a very hard thing, because I realise the trouble that has been put into this matter. Committees have met and attempted to come to an agreement, but so far they have not come to an agreement. You are 870 not satisfying anyone, and you are doing a grave injustice to the bodies of people I have mentioned before. Would it not be well to let economic laws act properly? There is something after all to be said for carrying out a contract. There is something also to be said for the danger of trying to interfere between various conflicting interests such as we have at present. I hope I have not made too hostile a criticism of the Government. I simply want to put before them what people are putting before me, and I hope they will think twice before they carry the Bill in its present form.
§ Sir HENRY SLESSER
I have listened to this Debate with considerable bewilderment, caused by the fact that I have learnt, since I have been a Member of the House, that the party opposite have prided themselves upon the doctrine of sanctity of contracts. We have been told over and over again that the rights of private property must not be impaired even when they conflicted with the public interest. When we consider the matter, we must be quite clear that if there be one class of private property which is more certainly private property than another it is the parson's right to his tithe. From the earliest times, and certainly since the time of the tithe commutation, the right of the parson to receive his tithe out of the land has been laid down in the Law Courts in one case after another as an absolute right of ownership of property, just as sacred, just as clear, as the right to a dividend from a company or any other right which accrues from the possession of property. Therefore, I ask the House to start from this position, that before the Act of 1918, the parson had an absolute right to his tithe, which was enforceable by process of law, and that the amount of that tithe was fixed by Statute under the Commutation Acts. That is the position, and no one at the time would have gainsaid it, and, whether the price was 70, 80, 90 or 120, it was the parson's price, and if it is said, as it sometimes is—and I am not quarrelling necessarily with the statement—that if shares appreciate in value the owner of the shares is entitled to the benefit, surely it is equally true that if the tithe appreciates in value the parson is entitled to the benefit.
Then we come along to the year 1918. It is true that at that time, owing to the exceptional conditions of the War and 871 to the control of food prices, a temporary Measure was passed which fixed the tithe at a certain price—far too low a price from the point of view of the Church. They were entitled, as I think the right hon. Gentleman admitted, if they had not made a considerable sacrifice, to far more than they were receiving, but they did not make the sacrifice in perpetuity. They made it in the exigencies of the War, and you have no more right to call upon them now to continue to make the sacrifice—not to the State but merely to the landowner—than any other class of the community. I hope no one will assume that this is a case of the contending claims of the private individual and the State. This is a question simply and solely as to whether the landlord, on the one hand, or the person owning the property in the tithe, or the parson, on the other, shall possess the property. We have had one speech after another from hon. Members opposite in favour of the proposition that it is a very bad thing, as between one private individual and another, to favour one against the other when the other has a proprietary right. Whatever view we may have of the claims of society against individuals, we, none of us, wish to favour one class against another when the other has a proprietary right.
Here all the rights are with the parson, and I have been so bewildered because I have heard over and over again in this Debate this sort of remark. An agreement was made, or an agreement is to be made. Both parties must make some sacrifice. The parson must give up something and the landowner must give up something. The landowner has nothing whatever to give up in the matter. The land is charged with an obligation, just as much as if it were a mortgage or any other legal charge. It is one of the oldest obligations recognised by the law—recognised by the common law, by the canon law and by the statute law an absolute, certain, firm charge, and to talk of the landowner making negotiations with the parson is as if one were to talk of a burglar making negotiations with the householders. The one owns the property and the other does not. I hope the House will be quite clear on that point. We do not flinch from the proposition that at present, apart from the Act of 872 1918, which was merely intended to be a temporary Measure and a sacrifice on the part of the Church, the parson is as much entitled to be paid at the rate of 130 or 131 as anyone else is entitled to be paid in consols or dividends or rents or any other kind of property. Therefore, I am bewildered when I see how the general doctrine of property is mutilated and distorted in this Bill. Therefore we oppose the Bill.
I do not propose to deal with its details because we consider the whole Bill is bad. It is true that if a really representative body, representing not only the wealthier clergy but really substantially the poor clergy, were to come forward and make an agreement, of their own voluntary act, with the landowners, no one could have any objection, but we object to imposing a law which will take away about a third I think—a very considerable sum at any rate—of the amount which the priest is now entitled to by law. That is the position. It is true that there is offered the inducement of this relief of rates out of taxation, but, so far as the general principle is concerned, we will do nothing to relieve the landowner of the obligation which he has in law, or would have apart from this Bill after the expiration of the 1918 Act, to pay that which is due to the parson out of the tithe.
If this Bill, contrary to our wish, is to receive a Second Reading, I would say that the machinery of Queen Anne's Bounty has not been sufficiently considered in connection with the payment of all these moneys. If you are going to pay all the priests and all the calls out of these tithes from a central fund, you are embarking upon an enormous and difficult undertaking. Scattered parishes throughout the country require a great deal of difficult investigation, and the Queen Anne's Bounty, Which is a small corporation, existing solely for the purpose of implementing the insufficient stipends of curates and the like, is a body which never was intended to perform this difficult national function, and I believe it will break down if it is attempted to be used for this purpose. We have heard a great deal in certain quarters of the dangers of bureaucracy. I think a large new bureau will have to be constructed for the. purpose of administering these moneys. Of that I am satisfied. Queen Anne's Bounty was never intended, and is in- 873 competent to perform this function. I have looked in vain throughout this Bill, in Clause 10, which deals with the powers of management of Queen Anne's Bounty, for any recognition of, at any rate, the machinery to bring to each parson his proper tithe from the central fund.
What we plead for is, that the 1918 Act be allowed to lapse and that, for the moment, at any rate until the parties of their own volition come to an agreement—it is admitted that no real agreement has been come to between the parties, and that this is going to be imposed upon them by Statute, and that neither side is really satisfied—the priest is entitled to his property as much as anybody else. If the majority of this House by passing this Bill take away this large amount of the income of parsons to which they are now entitled as their property, I hope that never again shall we hear from the other side anything about the inalienable rights of contract and private property. I shall be tempted, unless I am ruled out of order, when next some hon. Member on the other side speaks about the rights of private property, to shout out "Tithe!" and then sit down.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for WAR (Sir Laming Worthington-Evans)
The hon. and learned Member (Sir H. Slesser) who has just sat down complains that the Government is endeavouring to take away from the parson some property or income to which he is entitled by his existing contracts. That was repeating in rather more legal language a statement made by the right hon. and gallant Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) who moved the Amendment, when he said that this Bill was a Bill for robbing parsons. He also said that it was a Bill for robbing landowners. I will deal with that later. We are not dealing with this question for the first time. We have succeeded to the position which was created an 1918, when the amount of tithe was stabilised.
§ Sir L. WORTHINGTON-EVANS
Yes, temporarily. It was stabilised because during the War by Act of Parliament the price of corn was stabilised, to the enormous advantage of the taxpayers. Ever since then, that temporary position has been considered by those most closely 874 interested, and many attempts have been made at coming to an agreement for the future. These conferences have resulted in a large measure of agreement, and I think the right hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite will find as this Bill goes through Committee that it does contain an agreement which the landowners and the clergy, the tithe owners, will be willing to support. What we are doing is altering the tithe which was payable in a corn currency into what we believe to be a more stable currency, a gold currency, which is the currency of the country. The fluctuation of the corn prices in the past has been, not in war time, from 86, and if they had been allowed to rise during the War and had not been stabilised, as in 1918, they would have risen to 172. That fluctuation is not good either for the landowner, the tithepayer, or the tithe-owner. The whole attempt here is not to tear up the contracts, not to do something unfair between two classes of people, but to express in a more steady currency a liability which exists, and to translate into modern terms a very ancient property.
There is no suggestion that we are endeavouring to rob the parson of anything to which he is entitled. The right hon. Member for the Combined Universities (Mr. Fisher) pointed out that there was a loss to the lay titheowner; I could not follow his figures. No doubt, when the Bill is in Committee, we shall have further opportunity of considering the figures. In the case of an individual parson who would benefit by tithes being allowed to run up to, say, 130, and who would therefore enjoy a high rate for a few years, it is possible for such a tithe-owner to suffer in his own individual case under this Bill; but it is not possible for a corporation, with a perpetual life, to suffer if, in fact, 105 is a correct translation of the fluctuating curve of prices. My right hon. Friend may say that my figure is wrong.
§ Sir L, WORTHINGTON-EVANS
I understand that argument. I am not trying to shirk it. I can only say that the figure has been arrived at on the best advice that is open to the Government. If he says it is wrong, then as a corporation he is in a special position of 875 advantage over someone who may run the risk of a drop in the future, but may in the immediate present enjoy a high rate. I will take a further point which was made by the right hon. and gallant Member who moved the Amendment. He said that the public had been robbed for the benefit of a. limited class. He said that £5,000,000 were being taken from the public for the benefit of the landowner. He arrived at his figure of £5,000,000 by rather ingeniously multiplying by 20 times the £250,000 a year which is being transferred from a charge upon the rates to a charge upon taxes. He analysed that, and found this £5,000,000 was coming from, as far as I could see, nowhere, because the mere transfer from rates to taxes of £250,000 is supposed to make a present of £5,000,000 to the landowners.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
If the right hon. Gentleman will put it the other way he will see it more clearly. Suppose you were to take from the landowner £250,000 of tithe every year for the benefit of the general taxpayer, would not the right hon. Gentleman then be the first to get up and say that it was not merely taking £250,000 a year, but reducing the value of their property by £5,000,000?
§ Sir L. WORTHINGTON-EVANS
The right hon. and gallant Gentleman is in this dilemma, that he cannot show that the same people are gaining the so-called benefit from the transfer of rates to taxes. I would ask the right hon. and gallant Gentleman to answer this question, if he can. Can he say that it is fairer to leave this charge upon the rates than to put it upon the taxes? The hon. Member for Attercliffe (Mr. Cecil Wilson) gave us some examples of the effect in particular parishes in Suffolk and Essex. It threw a very undue and uneven burden upon certain parishes. Surely it is better that there should be a relief—
§ Sir L. WORTHINGTON-EVANS
No, not to the landlord, but to the ratepayers, who may or may not be the particular owner who has had to pay the tithe—a relief to the ratepayer of that very uneven burden, and that it should be spread over the taxpayers. To say that the transfer to the taxpayer is a gift to 876 the landowner seems to me an entire misrepresentation of the position. There is a charge on the taxpayer, but, as was pointed out by the hon. and learned Member for East Grinstead (Sir H. Cautley), the taxpayer during the War, by the stabilisation of the corn prices which necessitated the limitation of the rise in tithe, benefited to an extent infinitely greater than anything that can be said now about the transfer from rates to taxes.
Let me deal with the point made by the right hon. and learned Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Rawlinson). He said that the poor parson whose benefice was under £300 a year at present pays no rates upon his tithe, and that the poor parson was certainly losing by the proposal in this Bill. I agree with him that, however small the sum may be, whether it be only £2 or £3 a year in any individual case, having regard to the extreme poverty—it is nothing else but poverty—arising from the low incomes of many of the clergy, even a few pounds have to be taken into serious account by this House. We have tried to do that. In Clause 4 (a) there is a provision which will benefit such cases.
§ Mr. RAWLINSON
In the first five years £4 10s. will mot be deducted, but he has to make it up afterwards.
§ Sir L. WORTHINGTON-EVANS
The provision enables the redemption to be postponed, so that a relief of £4 10s. can be applied for every £100 of income. That is a considerable sum when we are comparing it with a small sum.
§ Sir L. WORTHINGTON-EVANS
I agree that it is only for five years, but, at any rate, an attempt has been made there to meet the case of the poorer livings. We have another proposal in Clause 11, which enables Queen Anne's Bounty to prepare a scheme to apportion the cost of the collection of the tithe rent-charge and to make a differentiation that will relieve some of the expense on the poorer benefices. Those two provisions will, I hope, at least reduce the difference between what the poorer parson would have got under the present temporary provisions and the permanent provisions of this Bill. The exemption from rates at the present moment depends 877 upon the temporary Act which expires at the end of this year.
§ Mr. RAWLINSON
Under the temporary Act he gets £109 10s.; under this Act he will get less than £100. If this Bill were not passed, he might get something like £114.
§ Sir L. WORTHINGTON-EVANS
He would then have to pay half the rates. As my right hon. and learned Friend knows, the question of whether the £105 is right or wrong depends on the view which you take of the future course of prices. If you take one year, the figures' of my hon. Friend are correct, but unless we are to go on from hand to mouth making temporary patchings of an extremely difficult problem, we have to take a view of the future, and it is because we want to make a permanent settlement of a question which has been tinkered with from time to time, and which ought to be put on a permanent footing, that this Bill has been introduced. I hope that this House will give it a Second Reading. It does provide what I believe to be a real benefit both to the titheowner and the tithepayer, a stabilisation of value and a permanency in price, so that they may know what they are respectively to pay, and to receive. It also provides for a complete redemption of the tithe in a period of 85 years in a way which I believe is fair as between the titheowner and the tithepayer, and, moreover, it provides for the collection of the tithe in future without putting on the clergy the distasteful and often undignified duty of collecting small sums of tithe from members of their congregation.
§ Mr. BARR
I desire to thank the Minister for the way in which he introduced this subject. He seemed to discern a great cleavage on these benches that, while some were objecting to the benefits which this Bill would bestow on the landowner, others were dwelling on the advantage which would be gained by the parson. He used an illustration of certain men going to the races and, because they were not very sure, backing no fewer than three horses. I need not assure him that I do not back horses at all, and that I am not here this afternoon to back either the landowners or the clergymen in this regard, either the tithe-payers or the titheowners; but I do wish to emphasise first, on this question of 878 rates that in Blackstone, who is not only a great authority but an authority who is very friendly to the Church, we find the reason why the payment of rates was associated with the tithe from the very beginning.
It is because one of the objects of the tithe was the support of the poor, and therefore, he says, it was thought in the Parliament of 1601 that at least the tithe receiver should be made liable for the rates to that extent, and particularly for the poor rate. In 1836, in connection with the commutation, it was not only definitely laid down that the titheowner or tithe receiver should be under the obligation to pay rates, but the whole rentcharge was definitely fixed with this in view. Not only so, but we find returns to this effect made to Parliament for several years after that date. I may, for example, take the case of Sible Hedingham. The net amount of the tithe was £960 6s. 3d., and the rates paid by the landowner £542 1s. 2d. The aggregate of the two was £1,502, and, accordingly, the rentcharge was fixed at £1,500. A return was given of the various sums that had been added to the tithe in respect of rates after 1836, so as to make up the full land charge, and the amount was no less than £244,000 per annum. The clergyman received tithe under this condition, and now he is being relieved of this obligation. I admit that what was done in 1918 in fixing the charge at 109, and in other regards, was, if not on the initiative, certainly with the agreement of the clergymen of the Church of England, and I would like to read words used by the Archbishop of Canterbury to show that he was well satisfied with the conditions. He said:This Bill, as drawn, makes every endeavour to be studiously fair both to the tithepayer and the tithe owner, and will be found to be an advantage both to owners of tithe' and to tithepayers. It was wisely and well-drawn on the whole, and would confer a benefit on both the parties for whom it was intended.In regard to the 1920 Act reference has been made to the burden put on the ratepayers, and various figures have been given. I think that we should bear in mind, in addition to the figures which have been stated in connection both with the Exchequer and from parish rates, there is also the fact that this Bill in the matter of relief of rates, so far as the 879 clergymen are concerned, goes beyond the 1920 Act. It not only takes in those who are under £300 or those between £300 and £500, but it is generally shifting the onus of rates from the clergymen. In regard to this shifting of the burden, whether to the ratepayer or to the Exchequer, we have often contended that tithe itself is a burden on the whole community. Mr. McCulloch, the political economist, says:Tithes are a burden which falls equally on every individual in the Kingdom, on the poorest beggar as well as on the richest lord, in proportion to their respective consumption of the articles from which tithe is levied.Now you are shifting it largely from the ratepayer on to the taxpayer. That does not alter the fact that the whole community in this regard does support one particular Church. In connection with this Bill, privilege, whether in the case of landowners or of the established clergy, grows by what it feeds on, and ever new privileges are being claimed. My right hon. Friend on the Front Bench spoke of the claim that there was on the part of the clergy as an absolute claim in this regard. We recognise the claim which there is by law, but we do not recognise any claim in equity. Various speakers have spoken as if these were private property. From all sides of politics you can quote numerous authorities to the opposite effect. Lord Melbourne said:The tithes and landed property in the hands of clergymen did not belong to them but were a portion of the national property.The Eight Hon. W. H. Smith, Conservative Leader of this House in 1890, said:While I regard tithe as national property I Ho not regard it as fit that the owner or occupier of the land should appropriate it to himself.So that while we recognise the law we do not recognise the equity. Take the case of the Nonconformist minister. He does not receive any payment of tithe, and it would never be proposed in this House that he should be relieved of his rates in any shape or form. I do not know any argument by which you can give it and continue it in the one case, and not justify it in the other. There may be certain different doctrines and certain forms of government, but you would find, if you put forward a claim of that 880 kind, that you would have numbers of denominations able to show that their claim is as strong and as scriptural as that which is put forward from any other source. In this respect I wish to thank the Minister for his statement as to uniformity of religion, and as to its being out of date to have any compulsory impost of this kind nowadays in matters of religion.
I think that it must be admitted that greater security is given to the clergy under this Bill and a better understanding.
You had the Church Rate, and you know what trouble it caused in this country. Then in 1891 it was put on to the shoulders of the landowner, and we had the words used by Lord John Russell in 1836 "that the landowner was most likely to pay it with the least reluctance to the clergy." Now we are shifting it from the ratepayer to the taxpayer—to the Consolidated Fund. I wish to say a further word in regard to the subject of redemption. I do not think the House understands the bearing of the redemption under this Bill. It will make it much more difficult at any time in the future to attempt the disendowment of the Church. It takes the national funds away from all public control. I grant that it does not go so far as the Church Bill for Scotland in this regard, because the funds are still recognised as being held in trust for the incumbent. But that is the objective of the Church generally, and in "The Guardian", of the Church of England, we have this put forward. I might quote from the statement in "The Guardian" of the 1st June, 1923:If the Church of Scotland can without loss of its patrimony obtain from Parliament, as it will, complete and unfettered possession of its endowments, why not the Church of England also?
§ 7.0 P.M.
§ Mr. BARR
My hon. Friend cheers, and I agree with him in this regard, that, if it be right to do it in the Church of Scotland, it is equally right, and we have set a precedent, for the Church of England. But I hold it to be wrong in either case, because it is an appropriation of a national sum, as I hold it to be, a capitalised sum in this case of not less, 881 in the aggregate, than £100,000,000. It is a new entrenchment of the Establishment; and I appeal to all who stand for civil justice and for spiritual freedom and religious equality to join in making opposition to the Second Reading.
§ Mr. LAMB
I quite realise that there is a desire that this discussion should not be protracted. I promise I will not take very long. I am not one of those people who are in the fortunate position, or perhaps unfortunate in this case, of being a titheowner. Neither am I a tithepayer. So I am quite independent personally on this matter. But I am a Churchman and, as a Churchman, I am particularly desirous that there should be a settlement of this question. I believe the friction in the past, on the question of tithes has been, and I am afraid in the future will be. very much to the detriment of the Church, and it would be much better if we could eliminate it. If we are to obtain a settlement, that settlement must have some chance of permanency if it is to be satisfactory. The basis of the present Bill is not one which is going to give any hope of permanency of settlement. For that reason, I am not in agreement with this Bill. I do not for one moment question the morality or the legality of the tithe, It is a charge upon land, a just charge, and one which should be recognised. I am not going to follow the line some speakers have taken and raise any question about the right of property in tithes. I do question the equity of fixing the tithe at the present time on the old basis. I believe that has a bearing upon this question. Under modern conditions, I do not think the fixing of the value of the tithe upon corn prices is as just as we might expect. I know it is one which has been recognised since the inception, but I do not think under present conditions it is a fair way of arriving at it.
The first reason I will give is this. The price of corn to-day is not fixed by the cost of production in this country, that is to say, the ability of the land in this country to pay, but it is fixed very largely by the price of corn in other countries. That is a new element which has crept in since the inception of tithes. That has brought us to this point, that the cost of production of corn to-day is very much nearer the price at which it is being sold. In some cases, we contend there is no profit. The margin between 882 the cost of production and the selling price is very much less than in the old days. Those are a few considerations which should be thought of when we are trying to fix a value of the tithe. The right hon. and gallant Member for New-castle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) said that this was a question where large sums were to be paid to large landowners, and I believe he used the words, "It was a gift to the landlord." I do not agree with that statement. While I believe that possibly the bulk of the money is paid to the landlord, I believe that the present conditions, and conditions which I think will be continued and accentuated, mean that the bulk of the payers are not large landowners but are men in small circumstances, many of whom have had to buy their own farms. The number of payers is very much in the hands of the smaller men.
§ Mr. VARLEY
May we not take it that the Farmers' Union are land users, and how does the hon. Gentleman square what he now says with the nature of their telegram?
§ Mr. LAMB
I said I was speaking for myself, but, if the hon. Member asks me the question, I believe I am speaking on behalf of the Farmers' Union also, but I have not received the telegram to which he refers. Perhaps they thought it unnecessary. Under the Bill, we know that the payment is to be £109 10s., minus £4 10s. redemption fee, for 85 years. Five pounds goes towards the rates, so that it will leave £100 as the basis for the tithe receiver. Without the Bill his position would be this: He would probably have a right to 883 get about £130—£129 first and then £130—as the value. In addition to that, he would have the difficulty of collecting the tithes. That, I do feel, is a question which has not been emphasised sufficiently this afternoon. The difficulty which there will be in collecting this tithe in future will be felt very greatly. They are prepared to make great sacrifices for the purpose of getting rid of the ordeal of having to make the collection.
As to the position of the tithepayer, he is to be very much worse off under this Bill, because under the Bill he has one course, and that is he must remain on £109 10s. for 85 years. At the end of the year he will have two alternatives. He can pay the £129 or the £130 and get the relief of the reduction in his rates, and the relief of Schedule A for having paid the higher sum of £130. He would also get the proportion of the relief in rates on the part to be paid by the incumbent. In the second alternative he could redeem, if he so wished, on quite as good circumstances and conditions as he could under this Bill. I am informed he will be able to redeem at £105, and, if he waited for two years, having paid the £130, he would get the advantage of the relief of rates at the higher rate of £130.
By this I think I have proved that the tithepayer will be worse off under a Bill than if he was left alone. That means he is not an anxious buyer. There is a difference between an anxious buyer and an anxious seller, and that should have some effect on the fixing of the value of the commodity over which the transaction is being made. It is quite true, and this cannot be denied, that even years ago when the tithe was down as low as £66 if a tithepayer wished to redeem he could not redeem at £66, but had to redeem at £100. That shows that even titheowners recognise that there is a difference between a willing seller and a willing buyer. I believe that if the value of the tithes were accepted and fixed by the clergy and by the titheowner at £100 instead of £105, as now, it would be possible so to arrange the Bill that redemption could take place in 65 years, and I believe that on those terms a settlement could be arrived at. I cannot support the Bill in its present state, because I do not believe under its present conditions it is a settlement. If the suggestion I have made 884 were adopted, a settlement would be arrived at very much to the benefit of the tithepayer and receiver and to the benefit of the Church.
§ Sir CHARLES OMAN
As one who is interested in the history of the tithe, there is one word I want to say. All through history those who have commuted services for definite sums have come out very badly in the end, as, for instance, when the King commuted his Death Duties on knights' fees, when the tenths and the twentieths were commuted to definite sums, and when the copyholders settled with the Lord of the Manor. With regard to the Universities, at the present moment I can only say I consider it is absolutely certain that in some future year those of us who have consented to receiving whatever the sum of money would be, whether £105, £109 or £112, will not be blessed by the managers of our institutions who come after us for commuting something which has reference to the value of the proportion of anything for a definite sum of money. The sum of money always grows less and the sum which represents a proportion has grown more. I know the Government is anxious to do its best, but I have the gravest doubt whether from the point of view of the Colleges this is a good bargain.
I would like to say a word on behalf of the landowners. After all, the landowner has to bear very heavy burdens, and not only does he have to bear them, but we have people in this House who wish to put extra burdens on him. They cry out and say, "Let the land produce more; let us help the agriculturist." I do not think that they help the agriculturist by the taxes and burdens now put on him. Not only does the landowner have to bear the usual burden of taxation, but also the land tax, and now the tithe. We are a nation governed by history, and we like to go back to history. I would remind the House that, after all is said and done, these tithes came to the incumbents as a gift in the first instance. That is the fact, no. matter how far you go back in history. Tithes were a gift to the Church in the first instance. They received only canonical sanction, and it was not until the Edict of Edgar, in A.D. 960, that what had hitherto claimed only commercial sanction now claimed 885 legal sanction. To show how, as time went on, the parson who received the tithes stretched out his hand to get more and more, we find that in 1305 A.D. Incumbents claiming tithes on fisheries, rivers, ponds, trees, cattle, etc. These claims were often carried into the courts, and were the cause of endless friction between the parson and his parishioners. That was not a very good thing from a religious pont of view. I have been approached on this matter by a good many parsons, who urge that the parson should not be rated on his tithe. Why should not the parson, be rated on his tithe? Under the Act of 1601, the occupier was rated upon the value of his occupation but the parson was omitted. Now with all due deference to Sir Trustram Eve I venture to point out that as the parson more often lived apart from the land from which he drew his tithes, it was impossible under this Act to term him an occupier. We cannot however get away from the fact that tithe is a charge dependent on the value of the output of the land, and as such the parson is and always has been rightly rated on the income so received. My right hon. Friend
§ the Member for Leeds accuses us on these benches of inconsistency, because we are depriving the parson of his just rights, but on the other hand he has been excused from paying his just debts.
§ We now come to the lay impropriator and with regard to him I should like to have the assurance of the Government that they intend to treat him on the same basis as the incumbent. The right hon. Member for the English University (Mr. H. Fisher) made a wonderful forecast as to the future price of corn for years ahead. I would advise him to go to Chicago, where he would be able to make his fortune in the Wheat Pit in a very short time. Lastly I should like to see the whole of the Tithe question settled, for ever by compulsory redemption for only in that way do I believe we shall get rid of what is a source of great irritation and interference with agriculture itself.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 209; Noes, 120.887
|Division No. 191.]||AYES.||[7.23 p.m.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Christie, J. A.||Greene, W. P. Crawford|
|Ainsworth, Major Charles||Churchman, Sir Arthur C.||Grenfell, Edward C. (City of London)|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S.||Clarry, Reginald George||Gretton, Colonel John|
|Applin, Colonel R. V. K.||Clayton, G. C.||Guinness, Rt. Hon. Walter E.|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. O.||Gunston, Captain D. W.|
|Atkinson, C.||Cockerill, Brigadier-General G. K.||Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Cohen, Major J. Brunei||Hammersiey, S. S.|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Colfox, Major Wm. Phillips||Hannon Patrick Joseph Henry|
|Balniel, Lord||Conway, Sir W. Martin||Harvey, G. (Lambeth, Kennington)|
|Banks, Reginald Mitchell||Cope, Major William||Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Courthope, Lieut.-Col. Sir George L.||Haslam, Henry C.|
|Barnston, Major Sir Harry||Craig, Ernest (Chester, Crewe)||Henderson, Capt. R. R. (Oxf'd, Henley)|
|Beamish, Captain T. P. H.||Craik, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||Henderson, Lieut.-Col. V. L. (Bootie)|
|Bellairs, Commander Carlyon W.||Crooke, J. Smedley (Deritend)||Heneage, Lieut.-Col. Arthur P.|
|Bennett, A. J.||Crookshank, Col. C. de W. (Berwick)||Henn, Sir Sydney H.|
|Bentinck, Lord Henry Cavendish||Crookshank, Cpt. H.(Lindsey, Galnsbro)||Henniker-Hughan, Vice-Adm. Sir A.|
|Berry, Sir George||Cunliffe, Joseph Herbert||Hilton, Cecil|
|Bird, E. R. (Yorks, W. R., Skipton)||Curzon, Captain Viscount||Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.|
|Bird, Sir R. B. (Wolverhampton, W.)||Davidson, Major-General Sir John H.||Holbrook, Sir Arthur Richard|
|Blundell, F. N.||Davies, A. V. (Lancaster, Royton)||Holland, Sir Arthur|
|Boothby. R. J. G.||Davies, Maj. Geo. F.(Somerset. Yeovil)||Holt, Capt. H. P.|
|Bourne, Captain Robert Croft||Davies, Sir Thomas (Cirencester)||Hope, Capt. A. O. J. (Warw'k, Nun.)|
|Bowater, Sir T. Vansittart||Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)||Hopkins, J. W. W.|
|Bowyar, Capt. G. E. W.||Dean, Arthur Wellesley||Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley)|
|Brass, Captain w.||Doyle, Sir N. Grattan||Hudson, R. S. (Cumberland, Whiteh'n)|
|Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Clive||Drewe, C.||Hume, Sir G. H.|
|Brittain, Sir Harry||Edmondson, Major A. J.||Huntingfield, Lord|
|Brooke, Brigadier-General C. R. I.||Ellis, R. G.||Hurd, Percy A.|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C.(Berks, Newb'y)||Elvedon, Viscount||Iliffe Sir Edward M.|
|Bullock, Captain M.||Fairfax, Captain J. G.||Inskip, Sir Thomas Walker H.|
|Burman, J. B.||Falle, Sir Bertram G.||Jackson, Lieut.-Colonel Hon, F. S.|
|Burton, Colonel H. W.||Fielden, E. B.||Jacob, A. E.|
|Campbell, E. T.||Forestier-Walker, L.||James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert|
|Cassels, J. D.||Foxcroft, Captain C. T.||Jones, G. W. H. (Stoke Newington)|
|Cazalet, Captain Victor A.||Fraser, Captain Ian||Kindersley, Major Guy M.|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Sir Evelyn (Aston)||Gates, Percy||King Captain Henry Douglas|
|Chadwick, Sir Robert Burton||Gee, Captain R.||Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Ladywood)||Gilmour, Colonel Rt. Hon. Sir John||Lane-Fox, Lieut.-Col. George R.|
|Chapman, Sir S.||Glyn, Major R. G. C.||Lister, Cunliffe-, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip|
|Loder, J. de V.||Perkins, Colonel E. K.||Styles, Captain H. Walter|
|Looker, Herbert William||Perring, William George||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser|
|Lord, Walter Greaves||Peto, Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid|
|Lougher, L.||Pownall, Lieut.-Colonel Assheton||Sykes, Major-Gen. Sir Frederick H.|
|Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Vere||Preston, William||Tasker, Major B. Inigo|
|Luce, Major-Gen. Sir Richard Harman||Radford, E. A.||Templeton, W. P.|
|Lumley, L. R.||Ramsden, E.||Thompson, Luke (Sunderland)|
|Macintyre, I.||Reid, D. D. (County Down)||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)|
|McLean, Major A.||Remnant, Sir James||Tinne, J. A.|
|Macnaghten, Hon. Sir Malcolm||Rhys, Hon. C. A. U.||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Makins, Brigadier-General E.||Rice, Sir Frederick||Vaughan-Morgan, Col. K. P.|
|Manningham-Buller, Sir Mervyn||Ruggles-Brise, Major E. A.||Ward, Lt.-Col. A. L. (Kingston-on-Hull)|
|Margesson, Captain D.||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)||Warner, Brigadier-General W. W.|
|Marriott, Sir J. A. R.||Rye, F. G.||Waterhouse, Captain Charles|
|Mitchell, S. (Lanark, Lanark)||Salmon, Major I.||Wells, S. R.|
|Mitchell, W. Foot (Saffron Walden)||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)||Wheler, Major Sir Granville C. H.|
|Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)||Williams, Com. C. (Devon, Torquay)|
|Moles, Thomas||Sandeman, A. Stewart||Williams, Herbert G. (Reading)|
|Moore, Lieut.-Colonel T. C. R. (Ayr)||Sanders, Sir Robert A.||Wilson, R. R. (Stafford, Lichfield)|
|Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C.||Scott, Sir Leslie (Liverp'l, Exchange)||Winby, Colonel L. P.|
|Morrison, H. (Wilts, Salisbury)||Shaw, Lt.-Col. A. D. Mcl. (Renfrew, W)||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Murchison, C. K.||Shaw, Capt. W. W. (Wilts, Westb'y)||Wise, Sir Fredric|
|Nall, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Joseph||Skelton, A. N.||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Neville, R. J.||Slaney, Major P. Kenyon||Womersley, W. J.|
|Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)||Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)||Wood, Rt. Hon. E. (York, W. R., Ripon)|
|Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)||Smith-Carington, Neville W.||Wood, E. (Chest'r, Stalyb'dge & Hyde)|
|Nield, Rt. Hon. Sir Herbert||Stanley, Col. Hon. G. F. (Will'sden, E.)||Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.|
|Nuttall, Ellis||Stanley, Lord (Fylde)||Young, E. Hilton (Norwich)|
|Oakley, T.||Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westm'eland)|
|O'Connor, T. J. (Bedford, Luton)||Steel, Major Samuel Strang||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Hugh||Stott, Lieut.-Colonel W. H.||Commander B. Eyres Monsell and|
|Oman, Sir Charles William C.||Strickland, Sir G.||Captain Douglas Hacking.|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fife, West)||Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Shetland)||Saklatvala, Shapurji|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. Vernon||Salter. Dr. Alfred|
|Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro')||Hayday, Arthur||Scrymgeour, E.|
|Ammon, Charles George||Henderson, Right Hon. A. (Burnley)||Scurr, John|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Henderson, T. (Glasgow)||Sexton, James|
|Baker, Walter||Hirst, W. (Bradford, South)||Shaw. Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)||Hudson, J. H. (Huddersfield)||Shiels, Dr. Drummond|
|Barnes, A.||Hutchison, Sir Robert (Montrose)||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)|
|Barr, J.||John, William (Rhondda, West)||Slesser, Sir Henry H.|
|Batey, Joseph||Johnston, Thomas (Dundee)||Smillie, Robert|
|Beckett, John (Gateshead)||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)||Smith, Rennie (Penistone)|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Snell, Harry|
|Briant, Frank||Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd)||Spencer, G. A. (Broxtowe)|
|Broad, F. A.||Kennedy, T.||Stamford, T. W.|
|Bromley, J.||Kenyon, Barnet||Stephen, Campbell|
|Buchanan, G.||Kirkwood, D.||Sutton, J. E.|
|Cape, Thomas||Lamb, J. Q.||Taylor, R. A.|
|Charleton, H. C.||Lansbury George||Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)|
|Cluse, W. S.||Lawson, John James||Thurtle, E.|
|Clynes, Right Hon. John R.||Livingstone, A. M.||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Collins, Sir Godfrey (Greenock)||Lowth, T.||Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. C. P.|
|Compton, Joseph||Lunn, William||Varley, Frank B.|
|Connolly, M.||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Aberavon)||Viant, S. P.|
|Cove, W. G.||Mackinder, W.||Walsh, Rt. Hon. Stephen|
|Day, Colonel Harry||MacLaren, Andrew||Warne, G. H.|
|Duckworth, John||Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)||Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)|
|Duncan, C.||March, S.||Webb, Rt. Hon. Sidney|
|Dunnico, H.||Maxton, James||Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. Josiah|
|England, Colonel A.||Mitchell, E Rosslyn (Paisley)||Welsh, J. C.|
|Fisher, Rt. Hon. Herbert A. L.||Morris, R. H.||Westwood. J.|
|Forrest, W.||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Whiteley, W.|
|Garro-Jones, Captain G. M.||Murnin, H.||Wilkinson, Ellen C.|
|George, Rt. Hon. David Lloyd||Oliver, George Harold||Williams, C. P. (Denbigh, Wrexham)|
|Gillett, George M.||Owen, Major G.||Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)|
|Gosling, Harry||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||Ponsonby, Arthur||Windsor, Walter|
|Greenall, T.||Rees, Sir Beddoe||Wright, W.|
|Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne)||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)|
|Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Riley, Ben||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Groves, T.||Ritson, J.||Mr. Charles Edwards and Mr.|
|Guest, Dr. L. Haden (Southwark, N.)||Robinson, W. C. (Yorks. W. R., Elland)||Hayes.|
|Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)|
Bill read the Third time, and passed.