§ Further Considered in Committee.—[Progress, 19th May.]
§ [Captain BOURNE in the Chair.]
Question again proposed,
That for the purposes of any Act of the present Session to extinguish tithe rent-charge and extraordinary tithe rentcharge, and for other purposes (hereinafter referred to as 'the said Act') it is expedient to pro-vide—
For the purposes of this Resolution the following expressions have the meanings hereby assigned to them, that is to say:—
'Agricultural proportion' means, in relation to the amount of a rentcharge, the proportion which ninety-one pounds eleven shillings and twopence bears to one hundred pounds;
'Present value' means, in relation to any contribution towards losses of rating authorities issued out of the Redemption Annuities Account on any date, the value of that contribution at the first day or October, nineteen hundred and thirty-six, determined on the basis of interest at three per cent. per annum;
'Redemption annuities' means annuities in respect of all land out of which rentcharge issued before being extinguished by the said Act, such annuities being charged for a period of sixty years, at an amount—
'Redemption Annuities Account' means an account to be established under the
said Act into which are payable all sums received on behalf of the Crown in respect of redemption annuities;
'Redemption stock' means stock to be issued for compensation in respect of rent-charges extinguished by the said Act up to an amount in the case of extraordinary tithe rentcharge, equal to the capital value thereof, and in the case of tithe rent-charge such an amount as will yield interest equal in amount to the aggregate of the gross annual value of all such rent-charges, less deductions in respect of cost of collection and management, land tax, rates and uncertainty of collection, and any additional stock to be issued for compensation in respect of rentcharges which were free from income tax;
'Rentcharge' means tithe rentcharge and extraordinary tithe rentcharge, but excluding any tithe rentcharge or extraordinary tithe rentcharge where, immediately before the second day of October, nineteen hundred and thirty-six, it and the land out of which it issued are vested in the same person, having been so vested on the twenty-sixth day of February, nineteen hundred and thirty-six, and continuously thereafter;
'Urban proportion' means, in relation to the amount of a rentcharge, the proportion which one hundred and five pounds bears to one hundred pounds;
'Capital value' means, in relation to extraordinary tithe rentcharge, the capital value thereof as ascertained under the Extraordinary Tithe Acts, 1886 and 1897;
'Gross annual value' means, in relation to a rentcharge which issued out of land which comprised agricultural land, the agricultural proportion of the amount thereof, and in relation to a rentcharge which issued out of any other land—
§ 11.6 a.m.
§ Mr. LOFTUS
Last Tuesday my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture stated that the object of framing the Financial Resolution in the present form was to give security to the Treasury; that because the Treasury was guaranteeing £70,000,000 it must have security. There will be security for the Treasury only if the Financial Resolution achieves a final settlement. I do not mean a settlement accepted without criticism, without grumbling, but it must be a generally acceptable settlement and a final settlement. In the discussion of the Resolution I was somewhat astonished to hear my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Spens) and my hon. and gallant Friend the Member 1538 for Petersfield (Major Dorman-Smith) suggest that the terms embodied in the Financial Resolution might be acceptable as a step forward towards a settlement, but not as a final settlement. I would suggest that once we carry out the terms of this Financial Resolution, once we get the £70,000,000 of stock issued, once we get personal liability instead of the liability of the land in question, we affect such a complete change that no modification is possible in the future, and no help can be given to any section in the future except by one method, and that method will be by grants from the Treasury.
Therefore it is of immense importance that we should to-day scrutinise this Financial Resolution with the utmost care and attention. We all desire that there should be an end of this long, wrangling controversy, which does so much harm to the good feeling in the countryside. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture desires that as passionately as any individual in the country; but I regret to say that I think the terms embodied in the Financial Resolution will not make an end of the controversy. There is a possibility, without adding any financial burden to the Treasury, within this Resolution, with Amendment, by so altering it as to achieve the basis of a settlement. Why is this Resolution before the House? Why is it that we are spending long hours considering this problem? There is one cause and one cause only, and that is an agitation from five or six counties, a bitter cry, a demand for redress from what might be called the distressed areas of tithe. It is not a problem going all over England and Wales. It is a problem confined to a few areas where the burden of tithe is an impossible one.
I regret very much that this consideration has not been recognised as the basis of the Bill and the Money Resolution. I also regret that the Royal Commission did not concentrate on these distressed tithe areas. The Minister will say that the National Farmers' Union in their evidence suggested a general form of relief. I think that was a mistake, and that the relief should have been concentrated where the burden hurts. That has not been done. The key to the whole problem is Schedule B. The Financial 1539 Resolution suggests the payment of one-third, and while it would be out of Order for a private Member to move any Amendment which would involve an increased charge on the Treasury, I hope the Minister will consider reducing that one-third to one-fifth, without imposing any additional charge on the Treasury. The Royal Commission recommended 40 years as the period of redemption. The Money Resolution alters it to 60 years. A period of 40 years did hold out an inducement to people that in their lifetime they would see an end to this matter, but what does it matter to a man burdened with tithe whether the period of redemption is 60, 80 or 90 years? With all the emphasis I possess I would suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that he should extend the period of redemption to 80 or 90 years, and use the money so saved to reduce the fraction in Schedule B from one-third to one-fifth. Then I believe the Bill might bring a final settlement of this problem without any injustice to anyone.
There is one further point on Schedule B, and that is the question of growing tithe. Everyone who has studied this question has recognised that growing tithe is an evil, and yet with the one-third fraction remaining in Schedule B we have the danger of growing tithe. If a man improves his property up goes his assessment under Schedule B, and up goes the tithe. I suggest that it is possible to give a concession, again without costing the Treasury anything, that the present level of Schedule B for the purposes of tithe should be taken, and that there should be no growing tithe in future. In considering this problem and this Financial Resolution, and how they are going to affect individuals, I am not thinking of the big farmers or the big estates, but of the smallmen in my own constituency. There you have small-farms which have been inherited—60 or 80 acres of heavy land, so heavy that it is almost impossible to get a motor down the lanes in winter. These small men are struggling with tithe at 6s. 6d. and 7s. per acre. In one parish the tithe is more than the assessment of the land. I am thinking how this Measure will affect these small men who are struggling to make a living. I know that there will be a reduction, that the one-third 1540 will reduce the tithe from 7s. or 6s. 6d. to 5s., but I can assure my right hon. Friend that that is not enough. A 5s. tithe per acre on this poor, heavy land, on the family farm, is too heavy a burden, and if the Bill is forced through as it is at present, the Measure will not bring a final settlement and peace; it will not restore that good feeling in the countryside which we all so much desire.
I beg the right hon. Gentleman to consider the suggestions I have put forward. I am convinced from my knowledge of the country that as we must have a settlement we can only get a final settlement by reducing the one-third in Schedule B. I cannot support the Money Resolution in its present form, and I hope the Minister will amend it so as to provide a real settlement, and bring to an end the bitter controversy which has existed, and restore good will in the countryside.
§ 11.21 a.m.
§ Mr. TURTON
I want to ask your ruling, Captain Bourne, on a point of Order. Can you give a ruling now as to whether the additional Amendments which have been put down on the Order Paper since our last Debate are in Order? It would simplify and perhaps curtail the discussion if we knew what Amendments were to be called. Also, can you give a ruling now as to whether the Amendment to leave out lines 48 to 109 is in Order? The Chairman in the previous Debate said that he had not yet made up his mind as to whether he would call that Amendment. It is the Amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Central Leeds (Mr. Denman) and myself.
With regard to the first point, I shall be grateful if the hon. Member will repeat his question at the end of the next speech. I have seen these new Amendments only ten minutes before the Committee met, and as it is a very intricate Resolution I should like a few minutes longer to consider them. With regard to the second point, I am quite clear that it will be impossible to leave out the definition in lines 48 to 109 without increasing the charge on the Treasury and, therefore, the Amendment is out of order.
§ 11.23 a.m.
§ Mr. AMMON
Your decision, Capt. Bourne, raises once again the constitutional difficulty and position concerning the control of this House over finance. I do not apologise for again emphasising this question, because it is of vital importance. It is clear that, do what we may, we cannot do anything which will in any way alter the finance of the Bill, and it seems rather a mockery that the matter is brought before the House or sent to the Committee upstairs. Whatever attempts we may make, the Financial Resolution is so narrowly drawn that it is impossible for us to make any Amendment, particularly in view of the ruling of the Chair, with which, of course, we do not quarrel, because it is based on the terms of the Financial Resolution. The decision of the Chair is that we can do nothing to increase the charge or what is contrary to the King's Recommendation. If that be the position, there is little or nothing that the Committee can do with regard to the alteration of this Money Resolution. The House ought to give consideration to this matter, as indeed it did the other night. It is perhaps well that the matter can be raised on what is in no sense a party Resolution. It is to the credit of the Committee that hon. Members on all sides were very much concerned the other night with this particular aspect of the question. The noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) and other hon. Members opposite were as much concerned as could be any hon. Member on this side as to the position brought about by the drafting of this Resolution.
I ought to remind the hon. Member that when this point was raised in the previous Debate it was necessary to move to report Progress in order to discuss it. In view of the decision taken on that occasion, I shall not again accept a Motion of that kind.
The hon. Member is not in Order. He would have been in Order if he had raised the point 1542 on the last occasion on the Motion to report Progress, which was moved specifically to enable the point to be discussed. Now he is out of order, because I cannot again accept a Motion to report Progress.
§ Mr. AMMON
I bow to your decision, and will now come to the point which concerns the majority of my hon. Friends on this side of the Committee. Our objection to the Resolution, in the first place is that the period of time given is too long, and, secondly, that the compensation is too generous. On those two main issues we wish to make a protest against the Resolution. The difficulty that arises is that neither in the Committee here nor in the Committee upstairs will it be possible for us to move Amendments that will in any way alter the position. The Money Resolution is drawn on such lines that it is actually in excess of the time proposed both in the Majority Report of the Royal Commission and in the Minority Report. Therefore we are precluded in any way from making any contribution on that line. As far as the finance of the Bill is concerned, it is based on the 1925 Act which was altogether wrong and the forecast of which was totally erroneous. In that connection it is as well to note that in his Minority Report, Sir Leonard Coates was very explicit and clear, when he drew attention to the fact that this is based hypothetically on the price of corn, but thatCorn growing no longer occupies the position in relation to agriculture in this country which it did in 1836, and, as a measure of the farmers' ability to pay, corn prices are also deficient in that they bear no reasonable relation to his present costs and profits. The dominant consideration in any revision should in my opinion be the needs and position of agriculture, and in attempting to reconcile these with the reasonable demands of the tithe-owner the aim should, I think, be to secure that, whether for purposes of continuance of extinguishment, Tithe Rentcharge should not operate as a deterrent to enterprise and the introduction of new capital.I venture to suggest that the Money Resolution imposes and maintains that handicap on agriculture. What is more, so far as the tithe-receiver is concerned, I suggest that he will be in a very much stronger and better position in future than he has been in the past. At present the contributions are very erratic, but in future he will have what 1543 is practically a gilt-edged stock which will secure for him for at least 60 years a very definite income. All the sources of income of the tithe-payer have been taken into consideration, but consideration should equally be given to the other side, that of the tithe-receiver. One gathers that there is certainly enough money going into the Church increasingly from all sides to enable the Church to meet all the necessary charges and claims made upon it so far as its clergy are concerned. But all the considerations seem to be based on one side, and the agriculturist alone will be the person who will suffer.
As long ago as 1837, Lord Melbourne suggested that it would not be outside the province of Parliament even to annul completely the tithe rentcharge, but the Committee at present finds itself in the position that it has to accept willynilly the terms laid down in the Bill itself. I therefore suggest that it is impossible that we should spend time here discussing the Resolution, which will afterwards be sent to the Committee upstairs, when, with the possible exception of the provisions concerning Income Tax, there is no means whereby we can alter the charges imposed. If an alteration is made in the particular aspect to which I have referred, it will give no relief whatever to the small people. I would again ask, as did the hon. Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Loftus), that the Minister should, if possible, give further consideration to the matter between now and the Committee stage with a view to seeing whether or not some greater concession cannot be made to the tithe-payer, and I would press that the tithe should be diminished and that the amount of money should be less at par value than it is at the present time.
§ 11.23 a.m.
The DEPUTY - CHAIRMAN
I have now had an opportunity of giving long and careful consideration to the Amendments on the Order Paper. The first Amendment that I should propose to take, if the hon. Member desires to move it, would be that standing in the name of the hon. and learned Member for North Hammersmith (Mr. Pritt)—in line 1544 10, leave out "ninety-six" and insert "seventy-six." The next Amendment I should select would be that in the name of the hon. and learned Member for Ashford (Mr. Spens)—leave out line 22. The next would be that standing in the name of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Cornwall (Sir F. Acland)—leave out lines 23 to 28. With regard to the next Amendment standing in the name of the hon. Member for Barnstaple (Mr. R. Acland)—in line 24, leave out "aggregate" and insert "present value"—as I am inclined to think that it would increase the charge, I should riot select it. The next Amendment I should call would be that in the name of the hon. Member for Central Leeds (Mr. Denman) —line 60, leave out "of" and insert "exceeding." That Amendment and the consequential Amendment to it are the last which are in order.
§ 11.35 a.m.
I am not challenging your ruling, Captain Bourne, but I wonder whether you have considered the remarks made by your predecessor in the Chair on the last occasion when this Resolution was under discussion, and when the question was raised as to whether an Amendment reducing the contribution from the tithepayer would be in order, if taken with an Amendment which reduced the payment which had to be made out of the fund to the Church. Replying to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillsborough (Mr. Alexander) the Chairman of Ways and Means, said:That point was in my mind when I was considering the Amendment and I looked to see whether I could find another compensating Amendment which would have the effect to which the right hon. Gentleman has been referring, but I could not find it. This Amendment, standing by itself, undoubtedly creates a charge."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th May, 1936; col. 1139, Vol. 312.]I have put down an Amendment to line 87 which reduces the amount to be paid to the Church and I would ask for a definite Ruling as to whether that does not bring in order one or other of the Amendments to line, 51, which would reduce the payment to be made by the tithe-payer, provided that, in dealing with the Amendment to line 51, the Committee realised that it was committing itself to accepting the Amendment to line 87.
I have given this point careful consideration and the difficulty in which I find myself is this. The Committee might accept the first part of what I would call a composite Amendment and decline to accept the second part. The first part, in itself, imposes a charge and I cannot assume that the Committee would necessarily accept both parts. Therefore, I am bound to look at each separate Amendment on its own merits, and, regarded in that way, this Amendment is out of order.
I do not, as I say, challenge the Ruling which you have given in any way, but it seems to be a distressing fact that when the Government introduce a Measure which involves fixing a balance, it should be entirely outside the province of the House of Commons to discuss whether or not the balance has been struck at the right point. It appears to many Members to be a most distressing state of affairs that the Rules of Procedure are such, and the Government Resolution is so framed, that we cannot discuss whether the balance has been rightly struck or not. It would only require an alteration of the order in which these definitions are put in the definition paragraph to bring this Amendment in order. If the order were different, we could discuss, first, the Amendment which reduces the payment to the Church, and, subsequently, the Amendment which reduces the payment from the tithe-payer. Is it not the will of the Committee that this Resolution should now be withdrawn, and redrafted with these definitions in such an order that we can discuss the point I have raised?
I am afraid that once the King's Recommendation has been given, the Committee and I are bound by the form in which it has been given. Of course, it is always open to hon. Members to discuss whether the balance is a fair one or not, and to urge that as a reason why the Resolution should be withdrawn. What I am pointing out is that in this case they cannot move Amendments.
§ 11.39 a.m.
§ Sir ERNEST SHEPPERSON
I have two Amendments on the Paper. One Amendment on line 10—to leave out 1996 and insert 2036—seeks to increase the redemption period. I submit that that 1546 Amendment would decrease the cost to the Exchequer. It is coupled with an Amendment on line 51—to leave out £91 11s. 2d. and insert £85 9s. 8d. —which would decrease the payment made by the tithe-payer to the Fund. I submit that the two Amendments taken together would not increase the charge to the Exchequer, and that the first Amendment, which increases the redemption period, would be a decrease, and not an increase of the cost to the Exchequer.
I think the hon. Member has misapprehended the effect of Paragraph 1 of the Resolution. The effect of his Amendment would not be to increase the time of redemption, but would merely postpone the payment of cash for stock to the stock-holders. If it had any effect at all as far as finance is concerned—a matter about which I am in some doubt—the only effect could be to increase the liability of the Treasury because the Treasury would be liable for the guarantee of the interest on this stock for an increased number of years.
§ Mr. TURTON
May I ask whether the Amendment on line 47—to insert:VI. For an investigation of the finances of the Redemption Annuities Account on the first day of October, nineteen hundred and fifty-six, and thereafter every seven years, and for the distribution of the surplus, if any, so ascertained in equal proportions to the holders of Redemption stock and to the owners of land charged with Redemption Annuities."—in my name and that of some of my learned Friends and also the Amendment on line 97—to leave out £5 and insert £9 10s. —are both out of order, or whether you have decided not to select them?
The DEPUTY - CHAIRMAN
The Amendment on line 47 would no doubt be proper if this were a Resolution on which a Bill was to be founded. At the moment, without wishing to anticipate any views which the Chairman of the Committee upstairs may hold, it would appear to me that that Amendment is really one for the Committee stage and is irrelevant on the present Resolution. With regard to the Amendment on line 97, I have given that careful consideration, and if the hon. Member will examine it—it relates to subparagraph (iii) of Paragraph 1—he will notice that in point of fact it increases the difference between the agricultural proportion and the urban proportion, and 1547 therefore increases, under that paragraph, the liability of the Treasury.
§ 11.43 a.m.
§ Lieut.-Commander AGNEW
I would not have endeavoured so definitely to catch your eye, Captain Bourne, had not the hon. Member for North Camberwell (Mr. Ammon) said that under the scheme of this Resolution the sacrifices were all on one side. I challenge that as a definite misstatement of the position. The hon. Member can argue that under this scheme the tithe-payer may not receive what he believes to be sufficient relief from the obligations which he already has, but it cannot he argued that any sacrifice is being made under this scheme by the tithe-payer, because the scheme undoubtedly provides for some diminution of the burden which he is at present bearing. On the other hand, if we take the position of the tithe-owner —speaking only as regards the effect of the scheme on, the principal tithe-owning interest in the country, namely, the Church of England—it is undoubtedly true that when all the concessions which at successive stages of the presentation of this Measure have been outlined, have been credited to the beneficial side of the Church's account, there will be a net loss, as compared with the present position, of no less than £10,750,000 in the final position at which we shall arrive under the scheme. Therefore, if there is to be talk of sacrifices, those sacrifices are entirely on the part of the tithe-owning interest.
§ Lieut.-Commander AGNEW
I would not expect the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) to say that anyone was entitled to any property. We know the programme on which he was elected, but I am putting this point for the consideration of the other 614 Members who were not elected to bring in such far-reaching reforms immediately. I think it was the hon. Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Loftus) who suggested that by extending the period of the annuities, additional relief could be granted by remitting all payments above one-fifth of the Schedule B assessment. If the period of annuities is to be extended it will entail a longer period of payment by the tithe-payers, 1548 and I may say in passing that they cannot say with certainty whether their grandsons will object to such a course. It will have another effect. It would, of course, make the stress, or strain, or pressure upon the Treasury credit greater, because it must be remembered that the whole success of this scheme rests on the credit and resources of the State. It is those resources which enable, not State money to be handed out to any particular interest, but the necessary money to be borrowed at the favourable and cheap rates which prevail thanks to five years of National Government in this country, and, when these sums have been borrowed, for this great conversion scheme, as I call it, to be carried successfully into effect; and any question of extending the period of the annuities will put one more burden on to the credit facilities of which the State is able to take advantage.
That leads me to say that the system under this scheme by which the Consolidated Fund is used is a very wise one, because, by using it in the way that the Treasury have for carrying out the conversion, they have placed the whole credit of the State behind this scheme and, therefore, have been enabled to borrow the money at a far cheaper rate that would have been the case if they had adopted the alternative course of creating a huge new fund, not a State fund, into which the annuities would have been paid on the one hand and, on the other hand, out of which the tithe stock would have been paid. By making the Consolidated Fund the very centre and pivot of the whole arrangement, there has been an advantage, not only to those who will receive the interest on the tithe stock, but to those who are paying the redemption annuities, because they will have been enabled, in striking a balance, to pay a lower rate of annuity than would otherwise have been the case.
I would like to add to what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Central Leeds (Mr. Denman) about the preservation of life interests. It has always been a common axiom of the British idea of fair play that whatever changes or sacrifices you may be inflicting upon individuals for what you believe to be the benefit of the community, those individuals who are actually enjoying some kind of advantage or income to which they have any right or expectation should 1549 not themselves in any way be victimised at the time when you make the change. I must confess that in the early stages of the presentation of this scheme I was more than disturbed as to the position of one section of the tithe recipients, namely, the individual clergymen for whose income tithe is so largely responsible, whether they would not find themselves, having made arrangements and provisions for their mode of life and for their children, obliged absolutely to recast their whole lives and to ensure very great sacrifices. I was wondering whether, although I am approving the whole scheme of this extinguishment of tithe as making for greater peace, we were acting quite fairly towards this great mass of people, but I am very glad to join with the hon. Member for Central Leeds in thanking the Minister for the arrangement which he has promised to insert on the Committee stage, by which, as he said in moving this Financial Resolution:We have… found it possible to meet fully the life interests of existing incumbents."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th May, 1936; col. 1119, Vol. 312.]I think that will go a long way towards allaying what otherwise would have been discontent against this scheme. I have talked to people who have been actually tithe-payers and who did not like the position that, whereas they felt they were entitled to some relief as against the 1925 position, yet they did not want that relief to be at the expense of a comparatively few individuals when weighed up against the whole mass of the population, but nevertheless a very substantial number of people of strictly moderate means. That position is now safeguarded, and therefore I am able to give my approval to the whole arrangement which the scheme envisages. It is true that the Church is not the only tithe-owner, it is also true that agriculture is not the only tithe-payer, but, broadly speaking, certainly the contention and dissatisfaction, in so far as they have existed, were as between the Church and agriculture. I believe the scheme embodied in this Financial Resolution, with the promises that the Minister has made also embodied in it, will go the whole way to removing what has been a somewhat anomalous position since the 1925 Act and will make for lasting and real peace.
§ 11.52 a.m.
§ Mr. PRICE
The hon. and gallant Member for Camborne (Lieut.-Commander Agnew) has referred to sacrifices to be made by the Church 'as a result of this Financial Resolution. That is undoubtedly true, but I would p7oint out that the Church is getting something, to which he did not refer, which can be regarded as offsetting any reduction of receipts, namely, a certain measure of security. Everyone knows that for a long time past there have been difficulties in the collection of tithe in certain parts of the country. and no one can say now that tithe is really a gilt-edged security. The hon. and learned Member for Ashford (Mr. Spens) stated last Tuesday, and I think correctly, that tithe is no longer a gilt-edged security because of the insecurity of its collection, which has been so very apparent in recent years. Moreover, surely there is this aspect too: The hon. and gallant Member who has just spoken referred to the hard cases among the clergy which would be created as a result of the Financial Resolution. I think that some Measure is just what is required at the moment to enable the Church to reorganise its whole finances. This Measure does not go anything like as far as we on this side could wish, and, moreover, it is not bound up with the whole question of land ownership, which we deem so important, but at least it will, as a result of the reduction of the income of the Church, to some extent force the Church to overhaul its finances. That, I think, is a certain advantage, although I should like to see a much more vigorous and far-reaching Measure which would force the Church even farther than this Measure will.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Hillsborough (Mr. Alexander) referred on the Second Reading of the Bill to the Minority Report of the Tithe Commission. It is pointed out there how very large sums have accrued to the Church in the last 90 years as a result of the careful husbanding of Church resources and funds, some of which, I think, should go towards the relief of the clergy. I frequently come across this aspect of the question in the West of England and the part of the country that I represent in this House. There are a large number of very small parishes in which one incumbent is carrying on on a very small income. The churches are often nearly 1551 empty, only two or three people being present at the two services which Are held. One wonders whether there should not be a little rationalisation in the Church as there is in industry. I happen to know that some of the Bishops are not unfavourable to rationalisation along these lines. I cannot help thinking that funds can be found by Amalgamating parishes and increasing incomes in that way, even though it means a reduction in the number of services in order to meet the deficiencies of income.
We feel that we cannot approve the Financial Resolution in this form, because it tries to deal with the tithe problem in far too narrow a spirit. The Resolution provides sums for the payment of interest and redemption of tithes in 60 years; funds for relieving rating authorities for losses that they will sustain as the result of tithe extinction; a small sum towards relieving poor church livings; and, finally, arrears and cost of administration. My friends have no desire to alter the Resolution in such a way as to increase the charges upon the Exchequer, but we feel strongly that the figure of 91 at which the tithe is fixed is not fair to the tithe-payer. It seems to be a sort of compromise which has been arrived at. In 1925 the tithe was fixed at 105. A lot of things have happened since that date. There has been a heavy fall in agricultural prices. It is frequently argued that owners of land and owner-occupiers have only themselves to blame if they have not taken into consideration the incidence of tithe in the value of their land and in their general economy, but it is not fair to argue in that way. Tithe is now a much heavier burden than it was in 1925 for the simple reason that there has been a fall in the prices of agricultural products. It is true that they have risen in the last couple of years, but if they are compared with 1925, a charge which then seemed reasonable to the tithe-payers seems unreasonable now because of the change in the income of their property.
I have many cases in my division of small men who have struggled to hold their land, small occupiers, who are very often colliers, who own their little bit of land on the hillside, who have to pay tithe, and to whom the burden now is 1552 greater than it was in 1925 because of the fall in agricultural prices. Even to those who have larger holdings this problem is a serious one because agriculture has to be kept up-to-date to meet modern requirements. The time is coming when it will be difficult for milk to be said off farms which have not far better equipment than they have now. I look forward to the time when only Grade A milk will be produced on farms for liquid consumption, but nobody can ask for that to be done now by small owner-occupiers who bought their land when prices were high, sunk all their liquid capital in the purchase of their land, and are now faced with tithe payments which have been increased in actual gold values owing to the fall in agricultural prices. In the report on the Royal Commission on Tithes, paragraph 40, there is this important and significant statement:The result"—that is, of the situation in the last 10 years—has been to diminish the fund remaining after payment of normal costs of production, and therefore the capacity of the land to support payment of tithe rentcharge.I have worked out a series of figures showing what has happened in regard to agricultural prices in the last ten years since the tithe was fixed. I agree that it is not fair to take cereal prices alone, for cereal production forms only a small part of agricultural production and then only in certain parts of the country. I have, therefore, taken other commodities as well. Wheat has fallen 60 per cent. since 1925, barley 26, and oats 36. Let us take cattle and cattle products, which are of far greater importance to a large part of the agriculture of this country, particularly in the Midlands and the West. Fat cattle have fallen by 35 per cent., fat sheep 33, bacon pigs 2. Pork has actually risen. Milk has fallen by 4 per cent. At least 25 per cent. of the milk produced, however, goes to the manufacture of dairy products. Butter has fallen 48 per cent. and cheese 38; so that the final result in regard to milk is that the price has fallen by 11 per cent. Live poultry has dropped by 23 per cent., eggs 40, and wool 42. I will not refer to potatoes because they are a speculative quantity.
Taking the average, there has been a fall of at least 25 per cent, in agricul- 1553 tural prices since 1925. Against that, of course, the cost of repairs and upkeep has not fallen, but has risen by 75 per cent. since the end of the war. The figure of 91 is, therefore, an insufficient figure for dealing with this position. If we recognise the fall in agricultural prices as in the neighbourhood of 25 per cent. on the average, I suggest that the figure should be somewhere in the neighbourhood of 81. If possible, I should like to see tithe fixed on the basis of an index figure which would vary. In that way we should escape the constant uncertainties and difficulties attending its collection. We never know how prices are going to move. It may be that there will be a rise; certainly, if the international situation does not improve, everything points to a rise in the general level of prices; and then, perhaps, there will be unfairness to the receivers of the tithe or what is to replace the tithe.
But I recognise that at the present time there are difficulties in relating this payment to a sliding scale, and perhaps on balance it is better to have it as a fixed and final payment. In that case, however, surely it is unfair that the charge should go on for 60 years. Surely there is a case for reducing that term. The Tithe Commission recommended 40 years, but personally I think that is too long. In the extinction of other civil liabilities like ground rents and so forth 25 or 30 years is the utmost period of redemption, and in my opinion this tithe rentcharge should be wiped off in not more than 20 years. In consideration of a fixed payment which would not fluctuate with an index of prices there might very well be an arrangement to decrease substantially the period of re-demption. Therefore, I feel that this Financial Resolution is quite unsatisfactory. It does not do justice to the tithepayer and does not give that necessary incentive to the Church so to reorganise its finances as to make it a much more living concern in the countryside than it is at present. I know only too well of the ill-feeling produced among the tithe-paying community, both large and small payers, as a result of what has happened in the last ten years; and even now I am afraid there will be a feeling of grievance, a feeling that the Church is being placed in a privileged position in not having to face up to 1554 those issues which alone will make it a living organisation.
§ 12.8 p.m.
§ Mr. TURTON
After the very clever and persuasive speech of the Minister last Tuesday it was a habit of speakers to get up and offer him thank offerings in the shape of Amendments. I regret that I cannot do that, as of all the 14 Amendments I have on the Paper you, Captain Bourne—and I have no complaint to make—have ruled everyone of them out of Order. But I was rather surprised at the result which the Minister's speech had on the Committee. The hon. Member for Central Leeds (Mr. Denman) is not now in his place, but after the Minister had said that while giving no more to the Church he was yet going to enable the life interests to be preserved by taking the money from the stipends of future clergy, the hon. Member for Central Leeds was so delighted that he said he would take no further active part in the Committee's deliberations. I have heard of robbing Peter to pay Paul, but what the Minister is doing, surely, is robbing Peter to pay Peter, and Peter was so delighted that he got up and thanked the Minister for that very nice, gentlemanly robbery.
I think the Minister is very wise in preserving the life interests, but I do see this difficulty about it. It is quite all right in the case of the younger clergy in country parishes who have some ten years to live that when they die the stipend shall be reduced from a par value of 94 to 72; but what about the old clergy who have probably only one or two years to live? When they have gone the country parish. which probably has a very large rectory—most of these tithe parishes have—will have to support an incumbent who has suffered a drop of from 94 to 72, and that will be very difficult, because, unfortunately, the countryside does not now number people wealthy enough to pay when the hat is sent round. The landed estates have been broken up, and it is difficult to support the Church in the way that we should wish to see it supported. At the end of ten years the agricultural policy of the Government will possibly have enabled a new agricultural industry to come into being, and the then farmers will be able more readily and happily to pay their quota to the Church, but until that 1555 time arrives I do see a difficulty, and I hope the Minister will take that point into consideration—that he will consider the severe drop which the new Peter coming into a living in two years' time may suffer in his income.
There is one very great issue between the Minister and myself on this Bill. The Minister said on Tuesday that he was bringing forward a scheme for a solution at a time when, because of the cheapness of money, we are able to attack the problem with some chance of success, an opportunity which may not always be present." As we have found to our cost when trying to put down Amendments, what the Minister is doing is two quite different things. Under paragraph 1 of this Financial Resolution he is creating a redemption stock to enable the nexus between tithe and the Church to be broken at the earliest possible date, and for that purpose the cheap money position is a great advantage, but by later paragraphs he is creating annuities for a certain term by which the tithe-payer will be rid of his burden to pay tithe or tithe annuities and the prevalence of cheap money at the moment does mean that in that connection the tithe-payer will have to pay more in order to create the necessary sinking fund than would have been the case if money had not been so cheap. There can be little argument about that when we recall that under the 1925 Act the sinking fund charge was £4 10s. to redeem £105 in 85 years, and that under this Financial Resolution the sinking fund charge amounts to £10 11s. 2d. to reduce only £76 12s. 6d. in 60 years. There is a big disproportion between those two amounts.
Accepting my view on this point there seem to be two alternatives. In the alternative there would be at the moment no redemption of tithe annuities, the tithe redemption stock would be wiped out in 1996 under paragraph 1 of the Financial Resolution, but the tithe annuities would go on until the money rates change and farmers are sufficiently well off to get rid of their tithe obligations. If there were no redemption it would mean at once that the £91 11s. 2d. could be reduced by £10 11s. 6d. to £80. That would enable the Church to get the same and the Exchequer would not have to pay more.
§ Mr. TURTON
Perhaps the hon. and gallant Member for Camborne (Lieut.-Commander Agnew) d id not hear what I said. I said that because money is so cheap it is a bad time to redeem. That would mean that your annuities would go on for perpetuity or until money rates were dearer, and someone, this Minister or one of his successors, would come to the House and say, "Money rates, owing to some Socialist legislation, have crashed right up to six percent. Now is the time for tithe-payers to get out, and to get out at a very low charge for sinking fund, perhaps at something less than the £4 10s. under the 1925 Act." That is an important point. I see that my hon. and gallant Friend disagrees with me. It is quite clear that he, like the hon. Member for Central Leeds, is one who on Thursday morning was in a state which he described as more than disturbed, and that now he feels placid. The tone of his speech showed that he had a great deal of placidity in the views that he held on the Bill.
Either you must have no redemption, or you have the alternative of redeeming in a far longer period than the Minister is suggesting in this Financial Resolution. I cannot understand how the hon. gentleman the Member for the Forest of Dean (Mr. Price) can suggest with equanimity that at the moment of cheap money tithe can be wiped out in 20 years. He suggests that the charge for sinking fund shall be at even a higher percentage than is put in the Financial Resolution. I am sure that his proposal, if it was worked out mathematically correct on paper, would please neither the farmers whom he is attempting to represent, nor the Church in the parish in which he lives. But a longer period would do that. I shall not read our, my weekly mail, as did the hon. Member for Central Leeds, but I can say from my correspondence that a longer period would please the Church and a great number of farmers. The Bursar of St. John's College, Oxford in "The Times" of Tuesday, 15th May, put forward a scheme, which I understand is actuarially correct, under which the redemption period would be extended from 60 to 99 years. The 1557 amount paid by the tithe-payer would be reduced from £91 11s. 2d. to £85 9s. 8d., and the Church by that means, according to him, would get a gross annual value of £97 15s. Let us remember that that scheme is put forward by one who represents a body of tithe-owners and it is therefore a scheme that would weight the advantage in favour of the owners even more than the payers. But I do believe that we could have found a financial arrangement that would be less burdensome on the tithe-payers at the moment and more advantageous to the tithe-owners. I have en this first broad principle stated my view and shown where I am in disagreement with the Minister and the Financial Resolution.
Let me deal with one or two other small points. I regret particularly that under this Resolution there is no proviso to enable those payments made by ecclesiastical tithe-payers towards sinking fund, from 1926 up to to-day, to be taken into account.
§ Lieut.-Commander AGNEW
On the third or last but one page of the White Paper my hon. Friend will find that a debit is made of £1,000,000 or more for the sinking fund already paid; a debit against the capital value of the stock issued to the tithe-owner.
§ Mr. TURTON
My hon. Friend is telling me what I knew already, that the Church are not going to receive twice over the amount of £1,000,000 which has been paid, but if he had borne with me a little longer he would have seen that I was not complaining of the Church receiving something twice over; I was saying that the Government are not giving proper credit to the ecclesiastical tithe-payers for this amount. I dare say that my hon. and gallant Friend in his constituency will find farmers who are lay tithe-payers and farmers who are ecclesiastical tithe-payers. They may have adjacent farms. He will find that his ecclesiastical tithe-payer has been paying religiously £4 10s. each year in order to wipe out his debt in 85 years, but his lay tithe-payer has kept the money in his pocket and has not paid a penny. I should have thought that in common justice my hon. and gallant Friend would make a demand that the ecclesiastical tithe-payer should receive some advantage over the lay tithe-payer for that pay- 1558 ment. I do think that in this framework some allowance ought to be made.
Then there is the question of deduction for uncertainty of collection. I would like to know why in this Financial Resolution and in the finance of the scheme there is a 5½ per cent. deduction for uncertainty of collection for ecclesiastical tithes in the tithe-owner's receipts, whereas the lay tithe-owner has to bear a deduction of 10 per cent. for uncertainty of collection. It is a vast difference. I have had a letter from a collector of lay tithe who has been a collector for 28 years, and he tells me that the bad debts in the lay tithes he collected during those 28 years amounted to.8 per cent. Yet these lay tithe-owners are having to stand a loss of 10 per cent. I quite appreciate that my correspondence does not come from the county of Kent and that I am probably in a less heavily tithed area, but that is a point which merits some consideration from the Minister.
My last point is on the question of non-agricultural land. The Bill and the Resolution are framed for the relief of the agricultural industry because, as the hon. Member for the Forest of Dean said, prices have fallen so considerably since 1925 and all the outgoings have risen. The hon. Member for the Forest of Dean did not mention what to him is a delicate subject, that agricultural wages have risen. I am sorry he omitted that statement. Through the agricultural policy of the present Government we have got agricultural wages up by very nearly 10 per cent. as compared with 1925. That is a consideration to be borne in mind. But there is no case for the relief of non-agricultural land. The effect of the last 11 years has been to put up the value of non-agricultural land. The Minister has appreciated that, to the extent of making the value of tithe on non-agricultural land £105 and not £91 1s. 2d., but the owner of non-agricultural land is being given a very considerable dole under the ill. If he is an ecclesiastical tithe-payer at the moment, he is paying not £105 but £109 10s., in order to be relieved in 85 years under a sinking fund arrangement. The owner of non-agricultural land who is a lay tithe-payer, pays £105 in perpetuity. It is now suggested that the debt should be wiped out in 60 years. Why make him pay £105? Should he not pay £109 10s. at least?
1559 In some points I disagree with the Financial Resolution, but I am going to vote for it, because I believe it is a just attempt by the Minister to get a fair deal for the two parties, the tithe-owner and the tithe-payer. The other and unnamed party, the Exchequer, is getting too big an advantage out of it. The Minister has met the point which was expressed by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Maldon (Sir E. Ruggles-Brise) and myself by promising that the Exchequer shall make nothing out of this Bill. If the financial scheme is wrong, I hope the Minister will see to it that an adjustment is made during the Committee stage. For that reason, although I disagree on those other points, I believe that the Church, the lay tithe-payers and the farmers are convinced that the Minister's endeavours are quite unselfish in introducing this important scheme to give them more justice than they are now receiving, and that his desire is to do something that will be of real benefit to the State.
§ 12.28 p.m.
§ Mr. R. ACLAND
The hon. and gallant Member for Camborne (Lieut.-Commander Agnew) has made the case that the greatest sacrifice under the Bill will be made by the Church. I do not think that that case can be made out. The Church only make a sacrifice assuming that 1925 was a perfectly fair and just bargain. The £10,000,000 which they are losing is only lost in comparison with 1925. They are entitled, of course, to say that a bargain is a bargain and must be adhered to, but I hope to hear hon. Members in the course of the discussion of the Budget urging the inclusion of the same principle, in order that we should pay an instalment of the American Debt. The two cases are comparable. We say that circumstances are changed out of all recognition. The hon. Member for the Forest of Dean (Mr. Price) has pointed out that the Church is gaining in security because of the uncertainty of the payment of tithe. I believe he was referring to the uncertainty of payment year by year and month by month, but that is not a big point. That is not the reason why the Church as a whole knows that the Bill is a marvellous bargain from the point of view of the Church. The reason why the hon. and gallant Member for Camborne 1560 rejects at once the proposal of the hon. Member who has just; spoken that we should wait a few years before deciding upon redemption, is that he is very keen, like all those who take the point of view of the Church, that this bargain should be struck now, and stuck irrevocably.
§ Lieut.-Commander AGNEW
I am keen that a principle which has been reported on unanimously, namely, the extinguishment of tithe, and more or less agreed upon among all parties, should be given effect to.
§ Mr. ACLAND
Quite so. He is very desirous of the extinguishment of tithe, and that this final settlement should be struck now on the terms of the Bill rather than have anything left over, as it would be, under the scheme suggested by the hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton), that could be altered at any future time. Some hon. Members in the course of the Debate have suggested that this settlement is no more final than the 20 Bills dealing with tithe which have passed through this House in the course of the last 100 years, but that is a complete misconception. The Committee should realise that the Bill, giving to the Church negotiable securities, is absolutely final and cannot be reopened by any Government at any future time, not even by a Government composed of Members above the Gangway. It will be impossible for them to touch this settlement which is now being made.
That is the security which the Church are getting. How much security had the Welsh Church in 1906? It was not a case of difficulty of collection, but because the people of Wales were in the mood to refuse to pay for ever. We are not in that position in this country now, and equally we are not in the condition in which we were 200 years ago, when the Church was co-extensive with the State, and agriculture was co-extensive with industry. The Church is getting this enormous increase in political security. It is a tremendously big thing that we are doing now. We do not know whether certain things within the Church itself are open to criticism or not, because we know so little about them. We only know that a good many people believe that there are things within the Church which are open to criticism.
1561 I am not going to read the correspondence which I have received, although I have had correspondence from vicars in the Church of England dependent upon tithe, stressing very strongly the point that if livings were pooled as they fell vacant, the Church could carry on with her duties with a far smaller contribution from tithe-payers. That problem will not touch the question of the elasticity of the Church, its power of movement from tiny parishes in the country, where you have a congregation of 20 or 30, into the urban areas in the South-East of England, where the population is thriving and there is no Church at all.
§ Lieut.-Commander AGNEW
I do not speak as in any way representing the views of the Church finance authorities, although I happen to be a member of the Central Board of Finance of the Church, but when this scheme has been passed into law it will make possible, or very much easier, any desire for the pooling of benefice incomes, because it will provide a common thing to pool, that is, tithe stock, which covers nearly all or the greater part of the benefices.
§ Mr. ACLAND
I am glad that what we are doing will make that possible. I feel that the Committee would have had more confidence in this final settlement that we are now making if the possibility which the hon. and gallant Member has just mentioned had become an accomplished fact before the State parted with this capital sum of £50,000,000 in negotiable securities. There passes from our hands all control over the Church, which has been bound up with the State throughout these centuries of history. It seems to me that the discussions on the matter in the House have been at one time on much too small a scale, and at other times not on a sufficiently small scale. We have never discussed the big issue whether it is the will of the House, as representing the people of the country, that the Church should have this vast source of revenue, which will come to it in perpetuity, even though every man and 1562 woman in this country should join some other religion. We have never discussed that big issue, and, on the narrower issue, we have never been able to discuss, and I fear we never shall be able to discuss, whether the balance has been struck at the right point; our only way of showing our feeling that it has not been struck at the right point is by voting against the Financial Resolution or the Third Reading of the Bill as a whole.
The Government say that the farmers shall pay £91 11s. 2d., and the House is never going to have an opportunity of saying whether it would have preferred that the amount should be £91 11s. 1d. The tithe-owners are to receive £91 11s. 2d. less certain deductions, and we are never going to be given a chance of saying whether we regard that as the right figure or not. In reading the report of the Minister's speech—I regret that, owing to absence through illness, I was unable to be present to hear it—I was amazed at the skill with which he defended what is a piece of pure Cabinet dictatorship over the House of Commons. He defended it as if it were something which was required in order to guarantee and safeguard the right of the House to the control of finance; he defended a piece of machinery which denies—
I do not think the hon. Member was here earlier when the hon. Member for North Camberwell (Mr. Ammon) developed this point. It would require a Motion to report Progress, and, after the decision of last Tuesday, I shall not accept that Motion.
§ Mr. ACLAND
I appreciate your Ruling, and am grateful for the latitude which has been allowed me. I can only say that my hon. Friends and I will have to record our disagreement with the balance which has been struck, and more particularly with the great political security which is being given to the Church without discussion, in the only way in which we can record it, namely, by voting against this Financial Resolution and probably against the Third Reading of the Bill, although naturally we shall wait to see what alterations, if any, can be made, and are made, in Committee.
§ 12.40 p.m.
§ Mr. MAXWELL
I find myself in considerable agreement with part of the speech of the hon. Member for Barnstaple (Mr. Acland), but I cannot agree that we should discuss at any length in this Debate the internal affairs of the Church as they may be reorganised. It seems to me that the object of this Financial Resolution and of the Bill is purely to try to strike such a balance between the tithe-payer and the tithe-owner as will give the tithe-owner an alternative security which will be fair compensation for the security which he is now going to lose; and, although I agree with the hon. Member that much could be done to improve the internal arrangements of the Church's finance, I cannot see that that has any bearing on the present Resolution. I found myself, also, in a certain amount of agreement with the hon. Member for the Forest of Dean (Mr. Price), and, as representing an agricultural constituency, I was very pleased to hear a member of the party opposite championing that industry so very forcibly. But again I feel that most of the arguments he used have not very much bearing on the problem that we are discussing at the moment. Although it is true that the decreases in the prices of agricultural produce have been as great as, and possibly even greater than, he said, I do not think anyone would suggest that we should strike a bargain now between the tithe-payer and the tithe-owner on the assumption that agricultural prices are always going to be as low as they are to-day. At least, I hope that my faith in the present Minister of Agriculture is sufficient to make me feel that that will not be the case.
It seems to me quite useless to discuss at any length measures which are going to destroy the balance that is to be struck by the Bill, but I want to suggest that the balance has so far been struck definitely in favour of the tithe-owner as against the tithe-payer, and, although I welcome this Financial Resolution as the essential part of a Bill which is going to decrease the burden on the tithe-payer, I do not think its object in that direction has so far been sufficiently achieved. At earlier stages of these Debates certain hon. Members have suggested that the Church is losing a great deal of security, 1564 but, as the hon. Member for Barnstaple has said, it is obvious that it is only losing the security which it gained—as I think, wrongly—by the Act of 1925, and it cannot grumble at that loss. It is, however, getting a very great deal instead. An analysis of the bargain which has been struck will show that the figure of £91 11s. 2d. is a reasonable assessment, not too much and not too little. We may disagree about it, but at any rate it is an assessment which has keen arranged on an average of 80 years' corn prices. From that figure there have been deducted land tax, of which no one disputes the amount; rates, which have varied according to the class of tithe-owner, but about which, again, there is no dispute as to the amount; and £5 for the improvement of the security. I am prepared to admit that this figure is an arbitrary figure, and may not be the right figure, but at the same time there is no doubt about the improvement in the tithe-owners' security. I want to suggest that there is also a probability of improvement in their revenue, which has not been pointed out so far in these discussions.
Everyone has rather assumed that, once the tithe-owner has received this Government stock, he is going to stick to it, but, if hon. Members were in the position of trustees of a large estate, and they found that the assets of that estate consisted entirely of one particular Government security, they would not be likely to stick to that one Government security. They might retain certain portions of it, but undoubtedly they would sell some of it, and would make an effort to invest the proceeds in securities which would bring them in more income. Although it may be necessary for the tithe-owners to stick to trustee securities, there is little doubt that they would be able to improve the income from their security by, shall I say,⅜per cent. It is difficult to estimate exactly, but they could definitely considerably improve it and, if they do that, the net income of the Church will not be as we see it in the Royal Commission's report, but it will be increased by about £200,000 a year, and therefore quite a considerable improvement will take place in the position of the Church.
The tithe-payer has to be satisfied with a figure taken as the average for the last 80 years, but he also has to be satisfied with a complete change in his relationship to the tithe-owners. He 1565 has to be satisfied with a personal liability instead of a liability purely on the produce of his land, and I suggest that he is entitled to a very large compensation for that. It is true that this scheme extinguishes tithe rentcharge. Therefore, it is not a good argument to say that, because tithe used not to be a personal liability, the present system should not alter the intention but I think the tithe-payer is entitled to considerable compensation for it, and the only compensation he is getting is the redemption clause in this Resolution. How much value is there really in the redemption clause? In its original form tithe was to be redeemed in 40 years, and I think at that stage there was considerable value in it, because the farmer was able to look 40 years ahead and visualise the position. Now that it has been extended to 60 years I think most farmers would be much more concerned with having to pay a smaller annual redemption payment than feel that one day their grandchildren will get some benefit out of the larger payment that they are making now. Therefore, I suggest that the Government might consider the suggestion that has been made by several of my hon. Friends that this redemption question should be re-examined.
The other point that I want to make is about the one-third valuation of Schedule B. There is no doubt in my mind that the whole tithe problem is not so much a question of too much money having to be paid out by the land. It is much more a question of the unequal proportions of the tithe payers burdens. It seems to me very unfair that one landlord should pay tithe at an enormously high rate, and another should have very little tithe on his land, because the origin of tithe rentcharge in 1836 was based entirely on the false assumption that corn produce was going to be the only valuable produce from agricultural land in the future. Therefore, the original assessment is entirely wrong. I suggest that we might possibly decrease the liability of the heavily tithed land by using an expedient which the Minister has already used in the Bill when he left non-agricultural lands to pay tithe at the same rate as they have been doing recently, and it seems to me that, if you made an arrangement whereby the very lightly tithed land was to remain at the 1925 standard of payment 1566 and that the money thereby saved should accrue to the benefit of the very heavily tithed landowner, and thereby reduce the Schedule B clause from a third to a fifth or a seventh, we should have done something which would be very well worth while. I support the Resolution, hoping that some changes may be made for the benefit of the heavy tithe-payer. It is obvious that we should always support the Government when they have made a, resolute effort to tackle a very difficult. and complicated problem, which is necessarily a compromise between one party and another, and which in this case has; not entirely satisfied either party. I cannot help feeling that that probably is a very good reason for thinking that there is not as much the matter with it as we might suppose.
§ 12.51 p.m.
§ Mr. MacLAREN
I am convinced that everyone in the House will be unitedly of the opinion that this is a very complicated measure. Indeed, when the Financial Resolution came before the House it seemed not only to be a complication to the ordinary Member, but even to the Front Bench. One listened to succeeding speakers on the Government Bench trying to explain the Resolution and assuring us that we had liberty to move Amendments upstairs, but at the same time warning us that the complication and delicacy of the structure of the machinery was such that, were you at any point to remove any little part of it the whole structure would fall to the ground. In these circumstances we meet to-day trying within the structure of the Financial Resolution to amend it by making little deductions under point A and little increases under point B, and altogether I am sure the Committee is feeling that it has not the liberty that it usually has in discussing Bills and financial resolutions. The point that I am emphasising is the complication, the intricacy and the difficulty of this measure.. I say in all humility that truth is simplicity. Anything that is not true is complicated. Complications, intricacies, mazes, formulas—these are the characteristics of something that is based on a false promise. I see that some hon. Members seem to enjoy that point. If anyone doubts it, I hope he will have the courage to get up and meet it. It was the same with the famous Local Government Bill. We had a financial resolution 1567 covered by a formula full of complications. We had a Minister on the Government Bench not quite sure if he was explaining what the formula really meant, and the House not quite sure as to what it really meant. I remember that I said to him that, if Christ had come in Jerusalem and banded the Apostles a formula, Christianity would never have lived.
§ Mr. TURTON
I seem to remember Lord Snowden introducing a Finance Bill that contained provisions for the taxation of Land Values. The hon. Member for Burslem (Mr. MacLaren), I understand, believes they contained the truth. But they were very very complicated.
§ Mr. MacLAREN
My difficulty during that arduous period was to try to meet the complicated suggestions of those who asked for reliefs from the tax. The Chancellor of the Exchequer and I found that, when we were trying to meet the demands of various interested parties, our simple Bill was being made a network of complications, and I remember the Chancellor of the Exchequer finally saying to me one day: "Give them all the concessions they want, and chuck the Bill." But to get back to this Resolution, it is necessary that the House of Commons should be reminded of the fact that when you come to a Bill full of complications and intricacies you are getting very far away from a central truth, and here it is in all its vengeance.
What is this tithe? We are told that it is a contribution made for the upkeep of religion and religious services to the community. It was a tenth of the produce of the land. Time goes on, and by 1836 the clergy found it a little difficult to go round and market the stuff which they had collected. It was at least a free offering. After 1836 there comes the other difficulty. Having once attempted to express the tithe in terms of a standardised or stabilised monetary form, the difficulty was bound to arise which you are trying to face to-day. Tithe in its older form, payment in kind, would naturally rise and fall with the fortunes or the conditions of the land. But in 1836, by attempting to substitute tithe by a computation rent charge, you were bound in the nature of the case to standardise it in some shape or form. Then the trouble arose with which we are trying to wrestle with now of a stan- 1568 dardised fixed charge having no relation whatever to the fortunes of the land user. We know how the tithe rose to such a point that, in many cases, it absorbed the entire land value. Then you come along with another Bill, the complication is getting a little more difficult, and instead of removing the initial complications, Parliament set on its old policy of bending the knee to vested interests and trying to make the case meet the demand of the vested interests. Next comes another step, the Act of 1891, putting the check on the inroad of the tithe into the income of the land user and restricting it to two-thirds. We then come to a period which is most important to-day now that we are discussing this Financial Resolution. The War breaks out, and not a word has been dropped from the other side about the significant facts relating to that period. By the end of the War in 1918 tithe had jumped to 109.
§ Mr. MacLAREN
Yes, it was stabilised at 109. We have not been told what is the inner meaning of 109. I hear men speak breezily about the. War and the fortunes of war raising the prices of internal agricultural produce. What are the facts? It is true that the farmers were in a unique position, having the full impact of real protection for which they are always asking in this House. They had real protection during the War because the German submarines saw to it that there was no foreign competition. Having a restricted market, prices rose, and the tithe rose, but on the top of all that this House passed the Corn Production Act, 1917, giving to the farmers a guaranteed price for corn. This guaranteed price seems to have been no lesson to the Government. To-day they are still going on with that same fatal policy. What happened as the result of the guaranteed price which was fixed in 1917? The values of the land rose, and here is a fact which I should like hon. Gentlemen opposite, who are so keen about this Bill, to note. Landowners went to their tenants and compelled them to buy the land practically at the point 1569 of the pistol during the rule of the Corn Production Act. They told these people that they had either to buy the land or get out, and many of them who had been associated with land for years, bought the land at the high prices established by the Corn Production Act ruling at that time. It was one of the most vicious chapters in the history of landlordism in this country. The occupiers, taking over their land because there was no alternative except to get out, had to pay extortionate prices created by the action of this House in passing the Corn Production Act.
When we removed the Corn Production Act in 1922—I was in the House at the time—down came the value of the land. The security given to the landlord disappeared and the value of the land dropped, but these small men were held to the price they had promised to pay and were mortgaged up to the hilt. They were faced not merely with the high prices which they had to pay for the land which was heavily mortgaged, but with the heavy indemnity of the tithe rentcharge. Parliament comes in again in its usual fashion not to make things simpler and easy, but to increase the complexity of the problem once again. The stabilised prices were to run to 1925, and again what do they do—stabilise again instead of wiping out the old iniquity. Once again bending the knee to the vested interests, they stabilised income at 105.
I wish that the Minister of Agriculture were in its place at the moment. I do not know what has come over him recently. I remember him in Glasgow as a mere boy. We were both boys together there, but he is not the same fellow that he used to be. He has openly twitted the economists in this House and elsewhere for giving the House false advice in 1925 in connection with stabilising the tithe for that year. I noticed that he had great pleasure in twitting the economists. It is becoming fashionable in this House to regard the economists as a bit of a joke. There is a good deal in that because there are a lot of men parading as economists who are difficult to take seriously. But the right hon. Gentleman should have been mindful of the fact, and so should those who tendered him the advice, that they were attempting to stabilise tithes which could not possibly operate owing to the 1570 fall in the values of land with the rescinding of the Corn Production Act. I will not follow this argument as the right hon. Gentleman is not in his place.
We listened to a, most enjoyable speech by the Noble Lord the Member for Oxford University (Lord H. Cecil). It is always a delight to listen to his speeches in this House. He is the saviour of all the antiquated ideas, delicacy and beauty of the 18th century. I look upon him as the antique of the House. He is something like a well-fashioned and varnished ornament on an Adam's mantel-piece, very interesting and beautiful. He told us, reviewing the Bill from that period, that we were now proceeding under the policy of the Bill, along the road of American gangsters. We were robbing the Church. We were creating a redemption fund, and the redemption fund was being drawn out of the pockets of the men who were to receive. He suggested that we have the psychology of the underworld. The more I look at the Commission's report, the more I look at what is happening, and the more I look at what the House is now proposing, the more clear it becomes that the statement of the noble Lord is an inversion of the facts. If I may say so without disrespect, it is he and his colleagues who are the gangsters in the case, and not we in this House.
We are proposing not to standardise tithe but to put an end to the existence of tithe by the method so long adopted in this House of compensating the brigands who have been filching money out of the public pockets all these centuries. This is a very serious affair. If the truth were spoken bluntly in this House, it is not the tithe-owners who should receive compensation but the people who for all these years have been paying tribute to those gentlemen. The tithe has had many owners in its time. The Minister of Agriculture told us that we must not go back to Leviticus. I wish the House would go back to Leviticus:Thou shalt not sell the land, for the land is mine, but thou shalt redeem the land every fiftieth year, and thou shalt return the land to the common people.That doctrine would go very hard for the men who believe in tithe. Therefore, we are told that we must start with 1925. Yes, because it is safer. It is always safe to keep God's truth out of politics in this House. So here to-day we are faced with 1571 one of the most damnable pieces of villainy that has ever come into this House. We are handing over millions of pounds to the tithe-owners. Who are they? Who appointed them to cast tribute on their fellow-men? As I have said, the tithe has had many claimants in its time. In the Middle Ages at least there was something to be said for it, when the monastery door was open, when the poor were helped by devoted hands, when out of their funds they built noble monuments to the honour and glory of God and to testify to lives of faith, and not simply to what they could get out of men. There must have been some living sympathy in the hearts of men, and they were willing to pay something to the upkeep of religious services. Then Henry VIII and his merry men came along. [HON. MEMBERS: "And his ladies."] I will not mention his ladies. Those merry men are the claimants who have been the claimants up to now. What services do they render, these gentlemen who are claiming the tithe to-day? They rooked, ruptured and ruined the Church before, and now, like cuckoos in the nest, they are claiming all the tithe, although it never really belonged to them.
Then there is the lay tithe gentleman. What an anachronism that we should have to discuss the lay tithe-owner. What spiritual service does he render to his fellows Yet he is to be compensated under the Bill. Is it any wonder that a great Conservative writer, Herbert Spencer, said, in a book which he afterwards had to withdraw at the instigation of the Athenaeum Club and the Tory party:When I am asked to compensate the landowner, I look back on my country, at its slums, its misery, and the horror and disease that grow out of it. I look at those conditions and I say to the landlords who created those conditions: 'Who are you to ask for compensation; rather, you should compensate the people you have outraged.'Here we are again, compensating the landowners with a lump sum, and we are told that we must do it quickly. We must do it quickly, because when the thing is in being and running the people will not notice it. This business is costing millions of pounds. If the Minister of Agriculture were in his place he would say: "These millions will not matter, because what we are doing is that we are making the tithe-payers pay 1572 the tithe-owners. It will not be a surcharge on the State. Therefore, do not worry about it." All I have to say, knowing the fight that, has been put up by the tithe-payers, is that they will be fools of fools if they carry this hump on their backs for another 60 years. I hope that every tithe-payer in the country will oppose this Measure as long as it is on the Statute Book.
The difficulty is that when the House has passed the first clause in the Financial Resolution and redeeming tithe, Parliament is to be left with the baby. Then the fight will be between the tithe-payer and Parliament, and the landowners will have walked off with the spoil. A greater piece of villainy I do not know. I would warn the miners to look out. This business is correlated to their case. A royalty and a tithe is of the same nature. Let the miners look out. The Tories will come along before long and say, "On the principle of tithe we will create a fund and pay the landowners out, instead of shooting them out." I mean shooting them out not by violence but another method with which I am associated. [Laughter.] Do not let us joke about this matter. It is far too serious. It lies very much at the bottom of what is going on in this country to-day. I warn those who are expecting something to happen with regard to mining royalties to look at the precedent established in this Bill.
I thank the House for the toleration that it has given me so far. Once I get going against this basic monopoly which is crushing the life out of every country in the world, I forget what I am talking about—I mean so far as the Bill is concerned. Let me come back to the Bill. There is a paragraph in the Financial Resolution with regard to rates now payable in respect of tithe. I should be glad if hon. Members would look seriously at the proposed innovation. It is an innovation of a most disastrous kind. There is a rate leviable on what is deemed to be the corporeal property of the tithe rentcharge. Those rates amount to many thousands a year, and there is difficulty of collection. Then the State, with its usual complacence, comes along and pays these rates, and now under this Bill the rate claim is sustained and Parliament is being called upon to safeguard by some method or other the losses which the local 1573 authorities will sustain or suffer through the tithe rentcharge disturbance during the extinguishment under this Bill. It is suggested that not merely shall we extinguish the tithe and give handsome compensation to the tithe-owner but that we shall remit back to the local authorities sums commensurate with the sums they would have lost had the extinguishment been carried out without regard to the rating.
On these benches are men and one woman who come from Divisions where the rates are crippling the local industries. Rates stalk like a veritable ghost into every workman's house. Rates and rents are the first charges on the income of poor households. Take the distressed areas, Yarrow, where there is scarcely a man who has worked for years, devastated, and decimated hereditaments falling into decay; no rates realisable on them. The representatives of distressed areas have appealed again and again to the Government to do something to stop the moral and physical decay of men and women in these areas. What is the reply? A sum of £1,000,000 to start confectionery shops or newspapers shops, and then they are told not to worry because the Minister of Labour is going to provide some sugar in which to coat the pill of unemployment. Rates in these devastated areas are not realisable owing to the economic devastation. Is there a member of the Government who has ever had the idea in the back of his mind that the Government should on a given day contribute a vast sum of money to local authorities in these distressed areas in lieu of the rates which they have lost by the decay and devastation of hereditaments? No. I have been in South Wales, in Durham—rates throttling every possible activity in these areas, but no question of compensation to the local authority because of the condition of such a place as Dowlais. But in this Bill compensation—that is what it really is—to local authorities if we agree to the precedent instituted in this Bill.
I want hon. Members to watch most carefully what is happening in this innovation, a very dangerous innovation, and if hon. Members opposite vote for it we shall take care that the innovation is used when we get on the other side of the House. If they are going to support the innovation in this Financial Resolution of compensating local authori- 1574 ties because they are losing rates as a result of the removal from their rating and taxing control of hereditaments, if this is the new device let them be quite conscious of what they are doing. What does it mean in this Bill? We derated the landlords' land by the Act of 1929. They are not paying one penny of local rates. Then under this tithe rentcharge we are remitting the rates and the State is to pay the rates for them. The agricultural landlord interests of this country are not paying one penny rates except on their own houses, but they know that if the tithe rentcharge disappears the rates will still have to be levied somewhere. They are not going to have them levied on their houses and, therefore, they come to the Government and ask for compensation for the tithe which is lost.
It is an agreed principle in law that if the State extinguishes a right—an absolute right—the State must compensate. I put this question: What right are we extinguishing under this Bill? What right of local authorities are we extinguishing which demands compensation? I want a reply to that question. What precedent is there in any Act that has ever been passed by this House which warrants the Government paying or remitting back money in lieu of rates lost on hereditaments. We are not extinguishing any right so far as local authorities are concerned, but under the Financial Resolution the Government are being asked to pay enormous sums of money by way of compensation. Local authorities will still have the same powers as they had hitherto, but local authorities in agricultural districts, which are dominated by the gentlemen we all know, the county councils, are going to resent every attempt to increase their rates, and what they will lose by this extinguishment is to be recouped by a guaranteed compensation sum from the State every year. What will be the net result after you have redeemed these tithes? I know the Bill will be passed because hon. Members opposite are not men who deliberate and reason. They do not say, "Before I vote for this am I in my heart and conscience doing what is right?". No; when the whip cracks they go like so many automatons into the Lobby to support their Government.
§ Mr. MacLAREN
I never do that, and that is why the right hon. Gentleman who now supports the Prime Minister thought that I was a thorn in his flesh during the time he was with the Labour party. This is the charge I make against the Government—and I challenge the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture to deny it: That the extinguishment of tithe means a net increase in the value of the land to the landlords of the amount of the extinguishment. Landowners are now in the position that they are not merely claiming these enormous sums by way of compensation for a right which they never had, and which they never should have had, but that after this extinguishment has been carried out, after these 60 long years have run, with the tithe-payer carrying the hump on his back all the time, they are claiming that every penny of this extinguishment shall be reflected in an increase in the value of their land of the amount of the extinguishment. Can the Parliamentary Secretary deny it? I should like an answer to that point. That is my major charge against the Bill. It is no good the hon. Member smiling. If he can treat this matter as a smiling matter he has no right to sit on that bench. I am having no fun about this matter. I challenge the hon. Member to deny what I have said, and if he cannot, then my charge stands.
The hon. Member below the Gangway who was once a member of this party, is now supporting everything that is reactionary. Apparently he is so pleased with himself, he has got all he wants, that he is not going to take part in our deliberations. I am sorry about that, because I would like to ask him also whether he denies that the landlord's land will be increased in value by the extinguishment of the tithe. Dare he, Christian as he is and defender of the Church as he is, get up in his place and deny that what you are doing now is robbing the taxpayers of the country in order to carry out this extinguishment which will increase the value of the landlord's land? No, he will not get up and deny it.
§ Mr. DENMAN
If the hon. Member had taken the trouble to attend the Second Reading Debate and had heard the opening paragraphs of my speech, he would know precisely what are my views on the subject.
§ Mr. MacLAREN
Has the hon. Member answered my question? If not, let him try. In all sincerity I ask the hon. Member, Does he deny that the value of the landlord's land will be increased with the extinguishment of the tithe? Is there any hon. Member who will deny that? If hon. Members do not, they are nothing but deceitful hypocrites when they say that this Bill is for the good of the State, knowing that they are filching public money to enhance the historic and vested interest of landlordism. That is my charge against hon. Members opposite to-day. Despite the fact that I was told that one has not much freedom in opposing this Bill, I have had all the freedom I want. Moreover, there is this to be noticed about what I have said, that I have not said anything which the ordinary man-in-the street does not feel in his heart of hearts. There is no complexity in anything I have said, and no formulas were required to make it clear. Hon. Members may talk about civilisation and even talk about their religion; they may talk about how much they can do to bring the religious and moral well-being of the people into a higher state of development; but in listening to them talking about such things, I cannot understand how they are able with such complacency to carry through such villainy as they are now laying their hands to in this Bill.
§ 1.28 p.m.
§ Sir J. LAMB
I will not attempt to follow the hon. Member for Burslem (Mr. MacLaren) in his passionate speech and historical record of what took place many years ago. I shall confine myself, so far as I can, to the matter which we have in hand, that is, the Resolution before the Committee. I support that Resolution, but my duty towards myself compels me to say to the Minister that I am doing so with very great reservation. I am one of those who opposed the last Tithe Bill because al the time I did not consider it was on a lound and fair basis, and I knew it was one which would not last very long. To-day also I feel that this Bill is not a solution of the problem which has been with us for years, and which, I am afraid, will be with us for a considerable time longer.
My first complaint is that the value of £91 11s. 2d. is too high. I made the 1577 same complaint on the last occasion, when I said that the value of £109 was too high. One point on which I agree with the hon. Member for Burslem is that the price was fixed at a time when agricultural values were very much higher. Unfortunately subsequent events have meant that we have had to make another demand for a revision of what was at the time thought by some to be a final solution. I am afraid that the position will be exactly the same at the present time. We are told that the sum of £91 11s. 2d. cannot be reduced because of the varying factors which go to make up that amount. I would like to say a few words about those factors. In the first place, I believe that the amount which is included in that figure for redemption would have been very much better left out. After 20 or 30 years redemption values do not actually exist, and if the redemption value had been taken out, it would have enabled the price to be lower without any reduction in the amount which is to go to the Church in compensation.
The next point with which I would like to deal is compensation for rates. I take a different view from that taken by the hon. Member for Burslem. I believe there should be compensation to the local authorities for the rates. The local authorities are now working under very great pressure to provide social services, which are possibly more necessary than they ever were, and they are finding it difficult to provide the money. Consequently, I believe that compensation should be given to the local authorities for loss of rates. There is a precedent for doing this, because the local authorities were compensated when the rates on land were reduced or removed. More-over, tithe is a rentcharge, a charge upon the land, and I believe that relief should be given for the tithe as well as for the rates, and that compensation should be given by the State, as it was previously.
There is another point which is not of general application and which has not been mentioned in the Debate yet. I think there will be a great deal of opposition from Welsh farmers, who feel it is a great hardship that in the price which has been computed there is provision for compensation to the poor clergy. I do not deny, but support the right of poor clergy to compensation, because I know the difficulties under which many of them work, 1578 but the Welsh farmer says that it is not right that he should be asked to pay a share of that compensation, which is included in the computation which is made and which he is expected to pay.
These various difficulties to which I have referred will, in my opinion, cause the Bill not to be a final settlement. It is because of them that I wish to warn the Minister that, although I am supporting the Resolution, I feel it is not a final settlement but that the question will be brought up again. That being the case, it may be asked why I support the Resolution. It is because I have felt for years that the existence of this controversy between the Church and the tithe-payers is one which is not for the national good, and I am glad that an effort is now being made to remove the cause of the difficulty which has militated so much against the good work which the Church has tried to do in the country. I believe this Bill will do that, but it only removes the difficulty from the Church and places it upon the State. The demand will be made to the State at some later time for a revision of the prices which are now being fixed in the Bill. The Church will get an advantage in the sense that it will have security, although in some cases it will receive less. Hon. Members know that to-day one of the greatest advantages one can have—an advantage for which most people are fighting—is security of income, the feeling that whatever may be the income one receives, it is secure and not liable to fluctuations. Having expressed my views on this Bill, I repeat that I support the Resolution with very great reservation, because it is not what some people have stated, a final settlement, but only the removal from the Church and the placing on the State of the responsbility, which will recur again in future.
§ 1.35 p.m.
§ Mr. HENDERSON STEWART
After the rather violent harangue to which we have listened from the hon. Member for Burslem (Mr. MacLaren) I, as another Scotsman, hesitate to intervene. My excuse is that although I represent a Scottish Division I have had forcibly brought to my notice the case of one section of the community who are going to suffer considerably under this Bill, and some of whom may suffer the extreme penalty of losing their livelihood al- 1579 together if the Bill passes in its present form. I refer to that old-established and highly specialised professional class known as tithe collectors, and I appeal to the Minister on their behalf. Under the Bill the collection and recovery of the redemption annuities which are to replace tithe, will be entrusted to the Board of Inland Revenue. This means that those who, in the past, have collected tithe, will be deprived at a single stroke of their business without any compensation whatever.
§ Notice taken that 40 Members were not present; Committee counted, and 40 Members being present—
I was about to suggest that the omission from the Bill of some method for compensation for these people calls for close and immediate attention. I understand there are about 300 tithe-collecting firms and that about the same number of clerks is employed by these firms. The number is small, and if nothing is done for them, no revolution will take place. Their political influence may be negligible, but surely it is not to be said that merely because only a few are concerned, we are to pay no attention to their case, we are to wipe out their means of livelihood and cast their staffs on the unemployment register.
I think I can meet the hon. Member's point. The House of Commons prides itself on its observance of the rights of minorities, and I am pleading for a very small minority. Many of the firms who collect tithe are auctioneers, solicitors and so forth, and the collection of tithe is only a side-line of their business. The Bill may have little effect upon those firms, and I make no special claim for them, and that in a way is an answer to the hon. Member who has just interrupted me. Those men have to face and accept the possibilities that come to them in the way of business. But it is a complete mistake to imagine that all tithe collectors have other occupations with which to fill in their time and upon which they will now be able to rely for a living. For some of them the collection of tithe has, in the past, represented more than half 1580 their business and for a few it has represented all their business. It is for the last class that I plead.
I give the example of one firm of whose business I know something, although I have no connection with it. It has been carried on for three generations and has established a high degree of professional skill in this very complicated business. Following upon the 1925 Act this firm made extensive improvement in their property and expended considerable capital sums in increasing their efficiency. As in the case of other collectors for Queen Anne's Bounty—which represents about two-thirds of the total tithe collected in England—one of the inducements held out to them in 1925, as a consideration for incurring that extra capital expenditure and accepting a rate of commission which, generally, was lower than they had been accustomed to, was the fact that they could under the Act reasonably look forward to retaining the collection for 85 years. I am aware that in the agreement between Queen Anne's Bounty and these collectors under the 1925 Act it was said that the duration of the engagement of a collector should, as regards each benefice, severally, be at the pleasure of the committee. That point was taken up by the tithe collectors and in particular by one very respected firm who received from Queen Anne's Bounty the following reply on the subject:It is the Governors' view that as the clause stands"—That is the clause of the agreement to which I have just referred—the Committee would not act arbitrarily or unreasonably in terminating engagements. The Governors' views as regards this Clause have been notified to all conveners.That reply, especially as it was addressed to a long-established firm of high standing, was taken as being tantamount to a guarantee that a long period lay ahead in which that firm could recover its capital expenditure. That was the generally accepted view in professional circles. What a change to-day! Under this Financial Resolution all that capital development will have been wasted; there will be nothing to make up for the loss of commission since 1925; the goodwill of the 1business will have disappeared and there will be no future livelihood for this firm, the staff of which will be rendered idle at once. It is a 1581 very specialised staff the members of which, will have great difficulty in finding employment elsewhere.
Surely, in equity, there is a case here for special consideration. If this House considers that the machinery of any department of State is out of date and changes have to be made, surely it is not suggested that the cost of such changes should be borne by one section of the community alone. In all the noisy conflict which has surrounded this tithe question in recent years I have never heard criticism directed against the collectors and yet they are people, especially those to whom I have particularly referred, who are to suffer more cruelly under these proposals.
Nor is it I believe the custom of Parliament thus arbitrarily and without compensation to destroy the livelihood of British citizens. I recall that the Local Government Act, 1925, provided for the compensation of local government officers who suffered direct pecuniary loss by reason of the determination of their appointments or the diminution of their emoluments. You may say that tithe collectors are not in exactly the same position as local government officers, but if you say that I would remind you that Queen Anne's Bounty in many respects is a State Department, whose servants have something approaching the status of State officials. But if that precedent is not sufficient, I will direct attention to this other precedent, which I think my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, as a Scotsman, will find impressive. Last year, when we were discussing the Housing (Scotland) Act, we introduced there, and the Government accepted, a Clause, now Section 81, which reads as follows:Where, as the result of action taken by a local authority under Part I of the Act of 1930 or under the provisions of Part I of this Act relating to re-development areas, the population of the locality is materially decreased, they may pay to any person carrying on a retail shop in the locality such reasonable allowance as they may think fit towards any loss which, in their opinion, he will thereby sustain.…If the tithe collector is not a Government servant in the sense of the Local Government Act, he is not very far removed from a shopkeeper in the sense of the 1935 Housing Act, and if it was thought right to compensate these men 1582 for the diminution, and sometimes the destruction, of their business, how can we in equity refuse to apply the same principle to men whose whole livelihood will be destroyed under this Measure?
This is a matter involving such a comparatively small sum, especially if it is confined to businesses of over 50 per cent. tithe, that it might well be found out of funds which we understand are available in this Measure and which might in the course of years meet this charge. I cannot imagine a single good argument against meeting the special cases of these men. I cannot conceive of an atom of justice in allowing this destruction to go unheeded and in refusing to extend to tithe collectors the principle which has been extended to other parties in the State. It is not within my competence to suggest that the necessary provision should be inserted as an Amendment to this Financial Resolution, nor is it permissible for me to suggest a re-arrangement of the funds already available to meet it. I was informed by the Chair that it was not within my power to move a re-allocation of such funds as this Bill provides. Therefore, I have no recourse but to make an appeal to the Government to recognise the hardships entailed, not on many, but on a few, of these firms, and to do what is right and just by honest citizens who have served their country to the best of their ability.
§ Mr. MARKLEW
Before the hon. Member resumes his seat, may I ask if he was present in the House when the Government's Measure for dealing with redundant spindles was under consideration, and whether it occurred to him then to support the proposal to compensate spinners who would be displaced by the destruction of so-called redundant spindles?
§ 1.50 p.m.
§ Lieut-Colonel ACLAND-TROYTE
I hope the Minister will give consideration to the case on behalf of the tithe collectors which has been made out by 1583 the hon. Member for East Fife (Mr. Henderson Stewart), because, although it will not affect a very large number of people, it will cause considerable hardship to people who have been doing their work well and who have thought that they had a permanent employment. It should also be remembered that many of these men are getting on in life and will find it very hard to get other employment. The Minister said on the 19th of this month, with regard to Sub-section (6) of Clause 13, that Amendments to it could be considered in Committee. It would therefore not be right to discuss that now, but I hope that an opportunity will be given for this Clause to be discussed and amended in Committee. It seems to me that a Bill which pretends to reduce the burden on tithe-payers but in fact puts increased burdens on certain members of that community can only be regarded as very unfair.
I come now to another very important point, which has been mentioned by several hon. Members during the discussion to-day, and that is with regard to lines 63 to 77 of the Financial Resolution, dealing with the reduction under Schedule B. The Minister said, in reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Loftus):That question shows how necessary it is that these matters should be discussed and decided by the whole House."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th May, 1936; col. 1120, Vol. 312.]It is true that it can be discussed by the whole House, but owing to the way in which the Financial Resolution is drawn, it can only be decided by voting either for or against the whole Resolution. We cannot move any Amendments to it, and therefore it is not quite fair to say that it can be decided by the whole House, as we simply have to take it or leave it. I want to ask the Minister to give very careful consideration to this particular point. There is a way in which it can be put in order, and he is the only person who can do it. It can be done by the method put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Lowestoft, who suggested that the period during which the payments would continue should be prolonged and that the reduction allowed under Schedule B should be one-fifth instead of one-third. This is a matter of very great importance, and I hope my right hon. Friend the Minister will con- 1584 sider it with great care before the Report stage and see whether he can do something to help us in the matter. He is the only person who can do it, because, supposing any back bench Member were to move an Amendment to prolong the period, he might get that carried, and then he might fail to get the second Amendment carried, with regard to the reduction under Schedule B. He would therefore get what he did not desire and not get what he did desire. Moreover, the Minister is the only man who can make the calculation as to how many years' extra payments would be necessary to give effect to our proposal.
We all want the Bill to be a success, and we hope that it will end the controversy which has been going on now for so long a time and which is so very undesirable, but I can assure the Minister that unless he makes some alteration in the Clause with regard to the one-fifth and one-third under Schedule B, he will not get that peace in the countryside which we all want. It is of the utmost importance in the heavily tithed areas and is important also in the less heavily tithed areas. The Minister should try to alter it if he can in the interests of the Bill and of the countryside as a whole. A great many alterations have been made in the scheme between the time when it was brought forth by the Royal Commission and the production of this Financial Resolution. Every single concession that has been made by the Minister, however, has been in favour of the ecclesiastical tithe-owner. No concessions have been made to the lay tithe-owner or to the tithe-payer, and I think the Minister ought to consider making some concession to the tithe-payer. I suggest that this should be done by reducing the one-third to one-fifth under Schedule B, which would be a very wise concession to make, and I suggest that my right hon. Friend should make it on the Report stage of the Financial Resolution.
All those who have studied the matter carefully have come to the conclusion that there will be a considerable leakage into the Treasury as a result of the measures contained in the Financial Resolution. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Maldon (Sir E. Ruggles-Brise) suggested that there would be a leakage to the Treasury of £96,000 annually owing to the arrangements made with regard to rating. It has been suggested by 1585 another friend of mine that there will be £1,000,000 during the whole period owing to the same cause. That suggestion of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Maldon has never been answered, and I hope that the Minister will say whether there is anything in the suggestion. The Minister has given us a pledge that if there is any extra money accumulating to the Treasury owing to the way in which the financial arrangements are made, he will take steps to make sure that it goes to the benefit of the scheme. It will be very difficult for him to make sure what money the Treasury actually gets out of the scheme, but I hope that he will take steps to see that all that money actually comes in and that a clause will be put in the Bill to make that sure, whether it comes from Income Tax, Surtax, or increased Death Duties. We are convinced that there is more money in the scheme than there appears to be from the calculations made by the Treasury.
§ 1.57 p.m.
§ Mr. FURNESS
I should have been a little reluctant as a representative of an industrial constituency to take part in the Debate if I had not heard speeches from Scotsmen, who are even less interested in the tithe question that Members for industrial constituencies. The line which I would adopt might also make me reluctant to intervene, because I think that when I support, as I do, the line adopted by my hon. Friend the Member for Central Leeds (Mr. Denman), it may be said that I am showing myself as reactionary as he has been accused of being. There are, however, certain matters about which we are right to be reactionary, on whichever side of the Committee we sit. The principle of justice is one to which we all give our allegiance, however reactionary or progressive we may be. I am glad that the Minister has seen fit so to amend the scheme as to protect the life interests of the clergy. It would be unfortunate if there were imported into the discussions of this Measure any religious controversy. Nobody in the House has more reason than I have to be fully aware of the sacrifices which certain other churches in the land have made for the voluntary support of their religious principles. A contrast is sometimes made between the efforts and sacrifices made by those churches and the work which is 1586 done by the Church of England, which is very largely supported by the payment of tithe. In this matter, however, we are confronted with something that is of very long-standing in our law and national life, and I am sure that no hon. Member, on whatever side he sits, would think it right that anything, however anomalous it may appear to us to-day, should be abolished purely at the instance of one section of the community.
I would point out to some of my friends who sit on this side of the Committee that they are adopting a rather dangerous principle when they plead, as so many of them do, for an exceedingly great reduction of the tithe, the reduction of a charge upon the land, because if you reduce one charge upon the land it may very well be that the day will come when other people will say, "Reduce other charges as well." I have sufficient knowledge of landowning and farming, although I am neither a landowner nor a farmer, to know that this Bill will increase considerably the capital value of the land because, by reducing the annual charge upon the land, you are taking away some part of a charge which has to be taken into account when the land is valued.
I would remind the hon. Member that we are not now discussing the Second Reading of the Bill.
§ Mr. FURNESS
It is difficult on this Bill for a new Member to keep himself anywhere near within the bounds of order. If it is proper for me to do so, I will repeat that I am glad that the life interest of the clergy has been saved. What will happen in the future is a matter that will have to be faced, but by the saving of the life interests, churchmen are given the opportunity of raising the funds necessary to carry on their work in future. A sudden reduction of life interest would place an almost impossible burden on the work of the Church, particularly upon its most valuable work in the remote country districts.
Another thing that I should like to say, if it is within the rules of Order, is that I support my hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) in what he said to the Minister about the sinking fund. The abolition of some burden in 60 or 70 years' time is not a 1587 matter which comes anywhere within the contemplation of any person living today. Nobody is going to take up farming more enthusiastically to-day because the tithe upon his farm will be abolished in 60 or 70 years' time. I would point out to the Minister, although I expect he appreciates it to the full, that this is not a favourable time for instituting sinking funds. A few years ago the question arose, and I advised somebody personally that he would do well to redeem his tithe. It was 20 years' purchase then, but to-day it is something like 33frac12;. The Minister would lessen the hardships of this scheme upon both sets of people, landowners and tithe-owners, if he held his hand in regard to the sinking fund until such time—and judging by the Debate on the Budget it will not be long—as a sinking fund can be instituted on a smaller number of years' purchase.
§ 2.3 p.m.
§ The MINISTER of AGRICULTURE. (Mr. Elliot)
We have now come to the conclusion of the three days of general debate upon the Second Reading and the Financial Resolution. The Debate on the Resolution has, of necessity, ranged widely, and has raised many points which are almost indistinguishable from Second Reading points. In the case of the hon. Member for Burslem (Mr. MacLaren), I should say that they were quite indistinguishable from Second Reading points. He raised several matters with Parliamentary skill to which I cannot now say anything in reply, for I am sure that he will not expect me to pursue him into the remote recesses of the theory which he explained. I did not have the advantage of hearing his speech, but it was fully reported to me by the Parliamentary Secretary. General and particular points have been raised upon the Financial Resolution, and I shall do my best to reply to them, but if there are any points to which I do not reply I hope that hon. Members who raised them will not take it as discourteous, because there will be opportunity on the later stages of the Bill to carry the debate into much more detail.
There are one or two points, such as that raised by my hon. Friend the Member for East Fife (Mr. Henderson Stewart), which although small in comparison to the whole. Bill are of great 1588 importance to individuals. There is the question whether compensation could be granted to those who, by reason of the Bill, were about to suffer a. diminution of employment. It would clearly be impossible within the limits of the Statute to provide in every case for such hardships as he indicated. He suggested something might be done in the case of firms 50 per cent. of whose business was derived from tithe questions, but he will realise that a dividing line such as that would be an extremely difficult thing to operate. We desire very strongly to work in association with the professional men who have been handling this problem up to now. If Parliament manages to dispose of the Bill before we rise for the Summer a very heavy immediate task in connection with working the provisions of the Bill will fall upon those very professional men, and so far from there being any diminution of work there will, in the near future, be a considerable increase in the volume of the work which has to be done in connection with the provisions of this Bill.
I am happy to say that, knowing the feeling of the House, we asked the associations representative of these professional men to come to the Ministry and there they had a conference with the Permanent Secretary of the Department. They undertook to set up a small committee of two each from the various professional bodies interested to keep in touch with the Department and to cooperate in every way with the work we are about to do both during the passage of the Bill and, let us hope, when the Bill becomes an Act. Therefore, I can say that we are not unsympathetic towards them, and are trying to meet them in the only way they can be met, and that is by administrative methods, and that the associations representing those professional men have appointed a small sub-committee to keep in touch with us. That is as far as I can go.
The debate has ranged over a number of points. One of the main points was raised from opposite sides of the Committee and indeed from opposite sides of the dispute by a number of speakers. It was brought up by the first speaker, my hon. Friend the Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Loftus), and was mentioned just now by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Tiverton (Lt.-Col. Acland- 1589 Troyte), and the hon. Member for Sunderland (Mr. Furness). The suggestion was that we should make further concessions to the tithe-payer, particularly by some postponement or remission of the redemption project, either by abolishing the Sinking Fund altogether or by prolonging the period of redemption for a considerable time.
It is, of course, an attractive proposal at first sight. As the Irishman once said, "What has posterity ever done for us that we should do anything for posterity?" and the suggestion that the burden on the present payer should be lightened by means of some worsening of the position of the ultimate beneficiary of course attracts us all in hard times for agriculture such as these. But when we examine the question more closely we begin to realise that any remission that could be given to the present payers by these means would be small and, indeed, almost trivial, and, furthermore, that it would bear very heavily upon the man whose case has also been pressed, and sometimes by the same speakers, the man in the heavily-tithed areas. Such a man has to rely upon the Schedule B remission and the extinction provisions for any real ease which is given to him; for this reason, that the Schedule B remission wipes out—swallows up and more than swallows up— all the benefit which he would get by the further cut proposed in the value of the annuity.
The suggestion has been made by my hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) that the annuity might be cut to £80, and the suggestion was made by some other hon. Members that all element of sinking fund should be removed altogether and the annuity recalculated on that basis. That would bring the annuity figure down to about £77. The bearing of that upon heavily-tithed land is a most interesting matter if one goes into it actuarially. I have calculated it out and while I would not ask anyone to accept these extremely complicated arithmetical calculations across the floor of the House it might be of advantage to the House if I put them on record so that hon. Members can subsequently examine them. Suppose that there were no sinking fund and that the annual payments were then reduced to £77. Take, as an example, the farm to which I referred at an earlier stage of 1590 the Debate, a farm of 200 acres with a schedule B value of 15s. per acre, £150. On all land tithed above 6s. 6d. per acre the owner of that land would derive no advantage at all from a complete wiping out of the sinking fund provisions. The whole benefit of the reduction of the annuities would go to the lightly-tithed land. What would the heavily-tithed landowner have to look forward to? On land tithed at 6s. 6d. an acre and upwards a perpetual payment of a sum of which he is relieved completely in 60 years under this Bill, a relief which begins to run from the moment this Bill comes into operation.
I notice my hon. Friend the Member for Lowestoft showing signs of dissent, because I know he will say "I wish to make a contrary Amendment, to remove the benefit given to the lightly-tithed land and to concentrate it on the more heavily-tithed land." That also met with the approval of the hon. Member for the Kings Lynn Division (Mr. Maxwell). Of course it would; the lightly-tithed lands would like to take the relief from the heavily-tithed lands and concentrate it on their areas, and, similarly, the heavily-tithed lands would like to take away the relief from the lightly-tithed lands for their own benefit. It is not as simple as that. We cannot go to the tithe-payers of the country as a whole and say that we are passing a Measure which to some extent alters the whole of their position—and alters it to some extent for the worse—because the bringing in of the personal liability is a change in their position and not a change for the better: the alteration of their income tax and their rating position is not an alteration for the better—we cannot say to them "All the debits of this Bill you shall suffer and all the benefits shall be collected and given to East Anglia." I had experience of that in 1934. We brought in a Bill then the whole benefit of which was concentrated upon Schedule B remissions. The average tithe-payer would have none of it. We do not wish again to shipwreck a Measure on that ground.
§ Mr. LOFTUS
Surely the Bill of 1934 was wrecked by the fact that the remission on Schedule B was two-thirds?
§ Mr. ELLIOT
No, it was not on the fraction which, as a matter of fact, was two-fifths. It was wrecked on the fact 1591 that the ordinary tithe-payer all over the country said "I do not want a Bill which does me injury and does not give me any benefit." The official Labour Amendment in the name of the hon. Member for North Hammersmith (Mr. Pritt) raised the point whether something could not be done by cutting down the charges still further and putting a heavier burden on the Church. Even if the official Labour Amendment had been carried, on lightly tithed land, under two shillings an acre, taking the same farm, the relief would be only two guineas more than is provided in the Bill; on a tithe of three shillings an acre it would be something over three guineas more than is provided in the Bill; for a four shilling tithe it would be four guineas; for a five shilling tithe it would be five guineas; and for a 6s. 3d. tithe it would be nil, and nil on all the higher ranges of tithe. Does any one suppose that the agriculturists of the country would thank us for attempting a complete change in the terms of the Bill for such small reliefs as those? In comparison with the extinguishment scheme on fair terms to the tithe-owner, such as the Bill brings forward, I do not believe that any of the alternative proposals would hold water on their merits. It is on their merits and not as the decision of the Government that they must be judged. The abolition of the sinking fund and the prolongation of the period of annuities are really illusory sources of relief.
There was another argument brought forward by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Maldon (Sir E. RugglesBrise) and by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the Tiverton division. They said that there is another possible source of relief to the tithe-payer, in the hidden reserves which exist under the Bill. I said at the time that I would go carefully over the calculations, and it was in virtue of a careful re-examination of the figures that I was able to announce that on Clause 13 (6) I would move an Amendment raising to five-sixths the proportion of two thirds which is in the Bill. I shall be prepared to move myself this very considerable concession towards the tithe-payers. That, I hope, will remove the reproach made against me by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for 1592 Tiverton, that concessions were being made merely to the tithe-owners and not to the tithe-payers.
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Maldon made a further point. He said "Quite apart from your dealings with the tithe-payers and owners there is a third party in these discussions; there is the local authority." He said he had made a calculation which showed that a large sum inures to the benefit of the Treasury as a result of the bargain with the local authorities. All I can say is that that matter was gone into carefully between the local authorities and the Treasury, and the bargain struck was a bargain of compensation to the local authorities. Even were that bargain in error, no benefit under it would inure to the tithe-payer, because if it was found after some years that the bargain was working disadvantageously to the local authorities and advantageously to the Treasury I cannot imagine that the local authorities would allow this sum to go past them into the pockets of private individuals. They would ask for a re-examination of the bargain.
Colonel Sir EDWARD RUGGLESBRISE
What I was trying to show was that in the bargain which admittedly has been made between the Treasury and the local authorities, the Exchequer would over the whole period be a gainer, and my suggestion was that gain should go to the scheme and help generally the working of the whole scheme.
§ Mr. ELLIOT
My hon. and gallant Friend assumes that he has discovered the possibility of making a better bargain than the local authorities made. That is a somewhat optimistic assumption. In my time I have bargained myself with local authorities, and I have found that they are a very wide-awake set of individuals, whom it is singularly difficult to overreach in a bargain. I should not say that in this case they have been overreached by the Treasury. If any source of revenue arises here I am certain that the first people who will be alive to the fact will be the local authorities. I think that these are the main problems that have been raised. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Dorset West (Major Colfox) in the previous Debate argued that we should have no permanent scheme but a scheme to he reviewed frequently, in which the finance 1593 had been recast. I cannot think that that would be advantageous; I cannot think that it would be possible to put the credit of the State behind a scheme whose fluidity was of that character. It would be quite impossible to consider recasting the finance every four or five years, as was suggested. Of course I have seen an Amendment on the Paper suggesting 1956, 20 years' time.
§ Mr. ELLIOT
It is 1956 on the Paper, an Amendment suggesting that there should be a review after a 20 years' period. Whether there should be a review of the finance of the scheme then or later it would be perfectly in order to discuss in Standing Committee. In the earlier stages of the scheme, when large outgoings are being met, the scheme will certainly be heavily in deficit, and no one can say until several years have elapsed whether the estimates have been fulfilled or not. It will not be until a comparatively late period that we can say whether this will work out definitely on the one side or the other.
§ Mr. TURTON
May I point out that the Amendment which I put down was in fact for 1946, but unfortunately my writing is not always clear, and there is a misprint. The date should be 1946.
§ Mr. ELLIOT
I can grapple with my hon. Friend's intelligence, but not with his handwriting. I must take the print of the Order Paper.
§ Mr. ELLIOT
I will now run as briefly as I can over the various points which were raised. The suggestion by my hon. Friend the Member for Lowestoft that the problem was confined to a few areas is not, I think, accurate, because it exists in Wales and in the West country, and far outside the comparatively small area where no doubt he and my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Spens) feel it pressing with peculiar severity. The problem is not purely a local one, but is a national problem, and to attempt to deal with it on purely local lines, would, I am sure, not succeed. He and other hon. Members raised the point that the Schedule B figure given for revision there was unsatisfactory, and that it should be greater. I have already 1594 given the argument that it could not be improved at the expense of the other tithe-payers, or we should arouse a serious controversy. Taking the point on its merits, I would call attention to the fact that the National Farmers' Union in evidence before the Royal Commission put into its submission, on page 116, that the figure of the proportion assessable, two-thirds, was too high, and that one-third should be substituted. That was repeated by Captain Cleveland Fyfe of the National Farmers' Union in examination before the Commission on Questions 1773 and 1774. Furthermore, the East Kent Chamber of Agriculture gave similar evidence, through Mr. Rice, who spoke on their behalf. I quote from Question 1352:If you are trying to arrive at the true rental value of the land to the landowner, you think that a fair proportion as between tithe owner and landowner is one third and two thirds?—Yes.You consider that is a fair general proposition?—Yes I should consider that to be fair.It is true that other people have since put forward other fractions, but evidence such as that, giving in writing and substantiated before the Royal Commission, would be very difficult to reverse in a Committee of this House even after argument and debate.
I leave out the complaint of the hon. Member for North Camberwell (Mr. Ammon) that it is not possible to debate this matter before the Committee, because the Committee have continued to debate it with great interest for some time. I will look with interest upon whether the hon. Member and his hon. Friends vote for the Resolution or not. That will give them an opportunity of registering their dissent of the general provisions of the Bill.
§ Mr. ELLIOT
I should hope it is not true that nothing could result from a discussion in the House of Commons. I should think it could. A further point was that the money Larded over to the Church is to be handed over permanently. Hon. Members are completely wrong. If it were desired by Parliament to disendow the Church of England, it would be perfectly possible to do so. I do not think it would be correct to do it, nor 1595 that Parliament will do it; I hope not. Certainly the existence of some £50,000,000 in liquid cash would be no greater barrier than would the existence of tithe rentcharge. I would note here the interjection by the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) in strong defence of the landowning classes. We delight in and welcome the powerful reinforcement of the Third International, but all I can say is that from time to time we rather wonder whether the hon. Member fully appreciates the arguments which are being brought up on this matter.
§ Mr. ELLIOT
We have the hon. Member's assurance that he thoroughly appreciates them. I do not think there are many other points with which I wish to deal, in advance of the discussion of the Amendments. The arguments to some extent cancel each other out. I do not believe that you can come to a clearer understanding of the position by further debate upon the general terms of the Financial Resolution, which has now been thoroughly discussed and fully argued out. Time has been given to it for debate, and I think all the major points have been raised. We are content to stand on the case as we have developed it. We commend this as a reasonable financial proposal to the Committee of the whole House, and we claim that any Amendments which have to be made further can reasonably and safely be submitted in Committee upstairs.
Do any of the hon. Members whose names appear to any of the Amendments wish to move them? Does the hon. Member for Barnstaple (Mr. Acland) wish to move his Amendment?
§ 2.33 p.m.
§ Mr. ACLAND
I beg to move, to leave out lines 23 to 28.
If hon. Members will look at the Financial Resolution they will see that the words are somewhat complicated. The effect of them is that it has been decided that tithe-payers should pay on urban land £105 instead of £91 11s. 2d., which was recommended by the Commission's report. The result of paying that extra money will be that more money will come into the scheme. The proposal in the 1596 lines which I wish to leave out is that that extra money shall be capitalised as the extra value of income for 60 years, and handed over to Queen Anne's Bounty. The proposals have been brought up and accepted very largely by the House, although in some ways they may be regarded as unacceptable. The report arrived at a figure a £91 11s. 2d. upon which the members of the Royal Commission thought it fair to base the income of the Church.
The Government have made a number of alterations in the proposal of the Royal Commission, and have explained them. For example, immediately above the lines which I propose to leave out, the sum of £2,000,000 is provided for Queen Anne's Bounty. I am in agreement with that. The purpose of that sum has been explained by the Government. It is to be given to Queen Anne's Bounty in order to help them in some measure to make good to present incumbents the income which they now enjoy. That is something which the House understands, and upon which it took a view, which I do not necessarily adopt. The House seemed to approve of giving £2,000,000 to Queen Anne's Bounty. Do hon. Members approve of giving all this extra money to Queen Anne's Bounty over and above what was recommended by the report of the Royal Commission, and without any particular explanation having been given by any member of the Government or by the Church as to the purpose for which the extra sum is being given? The extra sum, I think one can gather from paragraph 9 of the explanatory Financial Memorandum attached to the Bill, is somewhere in the neighbourhood of £26,000 a year.
I say it is reasonable that urban tithe-payers should pay that extra sum, and they have made out no particular claim for relief, but, when the. Royal Commission has decided that such-and-such an amount is the income to which the Church may reasonably consider itself entitled, why should this £26,000 extra go to Queen Anne's Bounty with no particular explanation from the Government? Why should it not go into the scheme as a whole? It' it had gone into the scheme as a whole, t would, I believe, have increased the sum available for sinking fund purposes by five per cent.; 1597 in other words, it would have reduced by five per cent. the number of years during which redemption annuities would have had to be paid, making the period 60 years instead of 57 years. That would have been a small but welcome relief to tithe-payers. Or, alternatively, this £26,000 could have been used to increase slightly the concession made to tithe-payers under the Schedule B valuation.
I think that either of these courses would have been preferable, and I propose, if there is any support for my Amendment whatever, to take the Committee to a Division upon it, particularly in view of the fact that a large number of Members in all quarters of the House, when contesting the last Election, were asked questions on this tithe issue, and they were very tiresome questions for a number of candidates to have to answer. I know that a very usual answer to such questions was, "I shall look at the proposals of the Report of the Royal Commission, and then I shall do my best to secure a solution that is favourable to tithe-payers." If any hon. Members now present have any recollection of having dealt with the matter on lines of that sort, I would point out to them that here is a proposal, which has not been explained by the Government, which is more favourable to the Church than the Royal Commission's Report. Therefore, I would appeal to all those Members, as well as to others, to support my Amendment. I hope, Captain Bourne, that you will allow me, in dealing with this matter, to raise a point which is suggested by my next Amendment—in line 24, to leave out "aggregate," and to insert "present value." This is a very small point, and perhaps the Minister or whoever is going to reply could satisfy me upon it. The words seem to me to be a little strange. The payments out of the Consolidated Fund are to include:sums to Queen Anne's Bounty estimated by the Treasury to be the equivalent of the amount by which the aggregate of the payments in respect of redemption annuities charged in respect of land out of which ecclesiastical tithe rentcharge issued calculated on the basis of the urban proportion exceeds such aggregate calculated on the basis of the agricultural proportion.This matter interests me because, in another paragraph of the Resolution, the term "present value" is clearly defined. Would not the Minister agree with me that "present value" would have been 1598 the more appropriate words here, instead of "aggregate."? "Aggregate" seems to me to mean the sum total of all the differences; that is to say, if you take a piece of land paying lay tithe of £100 par value, where under the agricultural proportion the sum paid would have been £91 11s. 2d., it is now going to be £105. The difference is £13 8s. 10d., and the aggregate differences would appear to me to be 60 times £13 8s. 10d. If that sum is paid to Queen Anne's Bounty now, it appears to me that it will not be got back again by the payments which will come in year by year. It would be if there were no rate of interest, but, taking into account the rate of interest, the money will not be got back. My reading of this part of the Resolution as it is drafted is that it imposes a. charge, whereas, with the words "present value" substituted for "aggregate," there would be no charge. That is a point which the Minister or whoever replies would perhaps explain to us.
§ 2.42 p.m.
§ Mr. SPENS
I desire to oppose this Amendment very strongly indeed. The substance of the suggestion is that the agricultural tithe-payers should take, and put into their own pockets for their own benefit, a portion of the payments that are going to be made by the urban tithe-payers. That is just the sort of suggestion, coupled with the suggestion that by this arrangement the Church is getting something extra, that is going to stir up further trouble in the really difficult tithe areas. Its appearance, though I do not say that this is the intention, is that it is a proposal made at the expense of the urban tithe-payers for the benefit of the Church, which, if it were made in another way, might put something extra into the pockets of the agricultural tithe-payers. The genesis of the proposal is that, in a great number of the parishes outside the heavily tithed areas, there has hitherto been very little difficulty in collecting a large percentage of the tithe, and the result has been that all of us who have had anything to do with this subject have had masses of letters from the clergymen of those parishes complaining of the scheme altogether; and, indeed, there have been Members of the House who have asked why the scheme was not confined to the distressed tithe areas and no others.
1599 This is an arrangement under which part of those hardships which, rightly or wrongly, these clergymen felt were pressing on them unduly and unfairly as a result of the scheme, could be mitigated, and surely hon. Members will realise that it is a most ingenious suggestion whereby part of those hardships of clergy of that particular type could be mitigated without costing the agricultural tithe-payer a penny more than the Government's original proposal. Now an hon. Member on the Liberal benches comes forward and ask us to have nothing to do with that, and encourages the agricultural tithe-payers to take something which is being contributed by the urban tithe-payers and put it into their own pockets. I hope the Committee will have nothing to do with the Amendment.
§ 2.45 p.m.
§ Mr. ELLIOT
May I in a word, out of courtesy to the hon. Member for Barnstaple (Mr. Acland), say I do not think we can accept the Amendment, very largely for the reasons given by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Spens). The hon. Member, however, raised the question whether we should not substitute the words "present value" for "aggregate." I am advised that that meaning is imported into the paragraph as it stands, and perhaps the
§ hon. Member will be satisfied with that assurance. The other point that he raised was as to the reason for this. It seemed to us on examination of the case that it was not just to allow a fall in the value of food to become a disadvantage to the urban dweller. It seems to us that it is an advantage and not a disadvantage to him and that to bring down his tithe because his food is cheaper would be anomalous. Secondly, the use of this sum is intended particularly to protect the pension scheme of the Clergy, which, I am sure, will have sympathy in every part of the House and to deal with the hardships of the capitular bodies which have the upkeep of ecclesiastical public buildings, such as our great cathedrals, who feared that they were going to suffersome injury under these proposals. I understand from discussions with ecclesiastical authorities that the sums will be sufficient not only to cover the difficulty as to pensions and the early introduction of the scheme, but also to meet the point of the upkeep of the great buildings in the charge of the capitular bodies.
§ Mr. ACLAND
In the absence of any support from the Committee, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn. Main Question put.
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 160; Noes, 59.1601
|Division No. 195.]||AYES.||[2.45 p.m.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lt.-Col. G. J.||Chapman, A. (Rutherglen)||Grimston, R. V.|
|Agnew, Lieut. -Comdr. P. G.||Cobb, Sir C. S.||Guinness, T; L. E. B.|
|Albery, I. J.||Colfox, Major W. P.||Hacking, Rt. Hon. D. H.|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. J. Sandeman (B'kn'hd)||Colville, Lt.-Col. D. J.||Hanbury, Sir C.|
|Anderson, Sir A. Garrett (C. of Ldn.)||Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.)||Hannah. I. C.|
|Aske, Sir R. W.||Croft, Brig.-Gen. Sir H. Page||Haslam Sir J. (Bolton)|
|Assheton, R.||Crookshank, Capt. H. F. C.||Hellgers, Captain F. F. A.|
|Astor, Major Hon. J. J. (Dover)||Crowder, J. F. E.||Herbert A. P. (Oxford U.)|
|Atholl, Duchess of||De Chair, S. S.||Holmes. J. S.|
|Balfour, Capt. H. H.(Isle of Thanet)||De la Bère, R.||Hope, Captain Hon. A. O. J.|
|Balniel, Lord||Denman, Hon. R. D.||Hudson Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.)|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Denville, Alfred||Hudson. R. S. (Southport)|
|Beaumont, M. W. (Aylesbury)||Donner, P. W.||Hume. Sir G. H.|
|Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'h)||Dugdale, Major T. L.||James, Wing-Commander A. W.|
|Bennett, Capt. Sir E. N.||Duggan, H. J.||Jarvis, Sir J. J.|
|Bernays, H. H.||Duncan, J. A. L.||Joel, D. J. B.|
|Blair, Sir R.||Dunglass, Lord||Keeling, E. H.|
|Blaker, Sir R.||Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.||Kerr, J. Graham (Scottish Univs.)|
|Bossom, A. C.||Ellis, Sir G.||Kimball, L.|
|Boulton, W. W||Everard, W. L.||Kirkpatrick, W. M.|
|Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Findlay, Sir E.||Lamb, Sir J. O.|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. E. (Leith)||Fox, Sir G. W. G.||Leckle, J. A.|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen, H. C. (Newbury)||Fremantle, Sir F. E.||Leighton, Major B. E. P.|
|Browne, A. C. (Belfast, W.)||Furness, S. N.||Liddall. W. S.|
|Bull, B. B.||Fyfe, D. P. M.||Lovat-Fraser. J. A.|
|Bullock, Capt. M.||Ganzonl, Sir J.||Lyons. A. M.|
|Butler, R. A.||Goldie, N. B.||MacAndrew, Colonel Sir C. G.|
|Cary, R. A.||Goodman, Col. A. W.||M'Connell, Sir J.|
|Cayzer, Sir C. W. (City of Chester)||Grattan-Doyle, Sir N.||McCorquodale. M. S.|
|Cazalet, Theima (Islington, E.)||Gretton, Col. Rt. Hon. J.||MacDonald, Rt. Hn. J. R. (Scot. U.)|
|Channon, H.||Gridley, Sir A. B.||Macdonald, Capt. P. (Isle of Wight)|
|Macquisten, F. A.||Rickards. G. W. (Skipton)||Strauss, E. A. (Southwark, N.)|
|Makins, Brig.-Gen. E.||Ropner, Colonel L.||Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)|
|Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.||Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge)||Strickland, Captain W. F.|
|Maxwell, S. A.||Ruggles-Brise, Colonel Sir E. A.||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.||Russell, A. West (Tynemouth)||Sutcliffe, H.|
|Meller, Sir R. J. (Mitcham)||Samuel, Sir A. M. (Farnham)||Tate, Mavis C.|
|Mills, Sir F. (Leyton, E.)||Samuel, M. R. A. (Putney)||Touche, G. C.|
|Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)||Sandys, E. D.||Turton, R. H.|
|Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)||Sassoon, Rt. Hon. Sir P.||Wakefield, W. W.|
|Moore, Lieut.-Col. T. C. R.||Savery, Servington||Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H.||Scott, Lord William||Warrender, Sir V.|
|Morrison, W. S. (Cirencestcr)||Selley, H. R.||Waterhouse, Captain C.|
|Munro, P.||Shakespeare, G. H.||Wells, S. R.|
|Orr-Ewing, I. L.||Shaw, Major P. S. (Wavertree)||Wickham, Lt.-Col. E. T. R.|
|Peake, O.||Shaw, Captain W. T. (Fortar)||Williams, H. G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Penny, Sir G.||Shepperson, Sir E. W.||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord|
|Ponsonby, Col. C. E.||Sinclair, Col. T. (Queen's U. B'lf'st),||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel G.|
|Pownall, Sir Assheton||Smith, Sir R, W. (Aberdeen)||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Radford, E. A.||Smithers, Sir W.||Wise, A. R.|
|Raikes, H. V. A. M.||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|Ramsbotham, H.||Southby. Comdr. A. R. J.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Reid, A. C. (Exeter)||Spens, W. P.||Major George Davies and Lieut.-|
|Reid, W. Allan (Derby)||Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.)||Colonel Llewellin.|
|Remer, J. R.||Stourton, Hon. J. J.|
|Acland, R. T. D. (Barnstaple)||Griffith, F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbro, W.)||Naylor, T. E.|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, S.)||Groves, T. E.||Potts, J.|
|Ammon, C. G.||Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)||Price, M. P.|
|Batey, J.||Hardle, G. D.||Pritt, D. N.|
|Burke, W. A.||Henderson, A. (Kingswinford)||Rothschild, J. A. de|
|Charleton, H. C.||Henderson, T. (Tradeston)||Rowson, G.|
|Daggar, G.||Hills, A. (Pontefract)||Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)|
|Dalton. H.||Hopkin, D.||Smith, E. (Stoke)|
|Davidson, J. J. (Maryhill)||Jagger, J.||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Davies, D. L. (Pontypridd)||Jenkins, A. (Pontypool)||Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N.)|
|Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton)||Johnston, Rt. Hon. T.||Thorne, W.|
|Dunn, E. (Rother Valley)||Jones. A. C. (Shipley)||Thurtle, E.|
|Ede, J. C.||Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T.||Tinker, J. J.|
|Edwards, A. (Middlesbrough E.)||Lathan, G.||Viant, S. P.|
|Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty)||Lee, F.||Walkden, A. G.|
|Foot, D. M.||McEntee, V. La T.||Wilson, C. H. (Attercliffe)|
|Gallacher, W.||McGovern, J.||Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)|
|Gardner, B. W.||MacNeill, Weir, L.|
|George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)||Marklew, E.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesey)||Messer, F.||Mr. Whiteley and Mr. Mathers.|
|Granville, E. L.||Montague, F.|
Bill read a Second time.
§ Resolution to be reported upon Monday next.