HL Deb 14 June 1805 vol 5 cc381-5

. The order being read for their lordships' going into a committee on this bill, the house accordingly resolved itself into the same.

The Lord Chancellor, previous to the discussion of any particular clause, addressed the committee at considerable length, principally relative to the nature and effect of many of the leading provisions of the bill. These were, in many points, he observed, susceptible of various amendments, several of which were necessary to the due understanding of the bill, or to the consistent and salutary execution of the measure. He considered the provisions to be principally defective with regard to the powers meant to be given to the bishops. The noble and learned lord was proceeding; when.

Lord Auckland rose, not expressly to order, for he should conceive that his noble and learned friend might probably intend to have concluded with a motion for the chairman's leaving the chair. He believed every lord in the committee was sincerely friendly to the principle of the bill, and wished to obtain, as a most desirable object, through its means, the residence of at least one clergyman in every parish in England. He came down determined to avoid all hypercritical objections to the bill, and to discountenance slight amendments. He confessed that part of what fell from his noble and learned friend excited doubts, and raised difficulties in his mind. One of his principal doubts respected the extension of the bill to Ireland. One part of the bill, he thought, must admit of such a construction; another part evinced that such could not be the intention of the framers of the bill. He perfectly agreed with his noble and learned friend, that the clauses required a great deal of amendment; some of these were of that nature, which, if made in that house, might induce the apprehension, in some of their lordships' minds, that such might be fatal to the bill in another place. He disliked all considerations of that kind, and was of opinion it was neither proper or regular to advert to them. The alterations to which he alluded; might be considered as having such an unfavourable effect; it was possible, but still he was inclined to think, indeed he rather believed, such an effect would not be produced; at any rate, that house should do what it felt to be its duty with respect to the bill, and with a view to its thorough rectification and amendment, suppose the farther consideration of the bill was suspended for three or four days; and in the mean time his noble and learned friend, (he knew of no one so competent), would give his attention to it, and mature the amendments which he conceived necessary to be made.

The Lord Chancellor, in a short explanation, observed, that had his noble friend waited but a few minutes longer, he would perceive that every word he said, had reference to an amendment he intended to have made.

Lord Hawkesbury wished to offer a few observations to the committee. With respect to The principle of the bill, it was one, when he considered it in all its views and bearings, to which he was completely friendly. He was of opinion, at the same time, that many of the provisions of the bill were very defective, and called for material amendments, which it was the duty of that house to endeavour to make. He agreed with the noble baron, that it was improper and irregular to allude to what might be the consequence of certain amendments made in that house, with respect to its fate in another quarter. At the same time he was aware of the practical effect which such a consideration must have on the minds of the noble lords; yet, he must contend, more especially when a subject was in question, which, as regarding the ecclesiastical establishment of the country, was more peculiarly within the jurisdiction and province of their lordships' branch of legislature, that it was the bounden duty of the house to make such amendments and alterations as they felt right, just, and proper, without any reference to what might be the consequence in the quarter alluded to. To the present bill, especially, they were bound to perform their duty, in a conscientious and becoming manner.

The Earl of Suffolk expressed his cordial acquiescence in the principle of the bill. He was convinced of its salutary tendency so much, that he thought it would be proper to pass it this session, even with some of its imperfections. Of some detailed considerations in the measure he disapproved, particularly the multiplication of oaths, and especially as they were applied by the bill.

The Earl of Bridgwater, in a detailed point of view, adverted to some difficulties which forcibly struck him. with respect to the proposed valuations, it was well known, that on the northern parts of the kingdom, the tithes were subject to a new valuation every year. In that case, the great fluctuations and advances in the prices of corn of late years, would present a rather serious of difficulty.

The Bishop of St. Asaph delivered his sentiments upon a variety of detailed considerations in the bill, most of which loudly called for rectification and amendment. On this head, he cordially agreed with some of their lordships who had spoken in the committee. Upon the whole, greatly as he had the bill at heart, convinced as he was of its salutary tendency, he would rather the bill should be lost, than that it should pass with its present numerous imperfections. In the course of his speech, the learned prelate adverted to several provisions of the bill, which struck him as presenting a chaos of contradictions, as absurd, inefficient, injurious, and derogatory to the dignity of the clerical character; and, in some instances, tending to degrade the bishops. In what he said, he meant not the slightest reference or allusion to the conduct of his right rev. brother (the Bishop of London) upon the occasion. He well knew the purity and benignity of that right rev. prelate's motives for coming forward; these were evinced by the bill introduced by his lordship for the purpose, in a former year; which was widely different from that at present under consideration, and, in some points of view, formed a striking contrast to it.

The Bishop of London entertained, in some points of view, a very different opinion of the present bill from the right rev. prelate who had last spoken; neither could he consider the provisions adverted to as a chaos of contradictions. He vindicated his own motives in coming forward, and adverted to the history of former bills on the subject. He intended to have provided for what was proposed by the present bill by a clause in the residence bill; that was disapproved of at the time, and a separate bill recommended. In supporting the present measure, be performed consci- entiously what he deemed to be his duty to the public and to the house. He had no personal interest to serve, hence forward, he left the bill to the discretion, the justice, and the protection of the house. His particular thanks were due to the very respectable and learned gentleman who had introduced the bill into the other house, and whose ability and assiduity on the occasion were highly complimented by the right rev. prelate.

Lord Sidmouth declared himself a warm advocate for the principle of the bill, yet, as to some of its provisions, he certainly entertained doubts; and these doubts were rather increased by some of the able remarks which fell from the noble and learned lord who spoke first in the discussion. With respect to the amelioration and revision of the bill, which it seemed the general sense of the committee should take place, he was happy at understanding that his noble and learned friend was to pay particular attention to it. In abler hands it certainly could not be. In regard to what was thrown out, as to the possible consequences of a certain description of amendment made by their lordships, in reference to the fate of the bill in another place; on this topic he felt a degree of delicacy and difficulty while addressing the committee. He was not to tell their lordships his sentiments on that part of the subject; nor was he to express those feelings which he might naturally be expected to bring with him from that quarter. Situated as he was considerations of duty were paramount to every other and in that view he entirely agreed with what fell from some of their lordships, who were of opinion that the house should do what it felt to be its duty with respect to any alterations or amendment of the bill, without reference to what might be the event of these alterations on the part of another branch of the legislature. Though he spoke this generally, he entertained strong hopes that the bill might be rendered a salutary and beneficial measure, with the assistance of their lordships, and still met with the approbation of the other house of parliament; so as that, in the course of the present session, it would receive the assent of both houses, and afterwards receive the sanction of the sovereign.—After a short explauatory conversation, the chairman was directed to leave the chair; and, on the house resuming, the further consideration, of the bill was adjourned till Tuesday.