The Archbishop of Canterbury
introduced three Bills; one to provide facilities for the Composition of Tithes, another to prevent the holding of Pluralities, unless under certain restrictions, and the third to extend an Act for perpetuating augmentations to small vicarages and cu- 293 racies. The right rev. Prelate stated, that he would defer explaining their provisions until they arrived at a second reading. The Bill for the Composition of Tithes he trusted would remedy many of the inconveniencies complained of as growing out of the mode of collecting tithe property.
§ On the motion that the first Bill be read a first time,
§ Lord Dacre
said, he begged leave to lay on their Lordships' Table a Bill for the Commutation of Tithes. He did not think the Bill of the right rev. Prelate would effect all the good that was wanted. He did not question the right of the Clergy to tithes, but he thought that their collection was attended with inconvenience, and that they ought to be commuted, both lay and ecclesiastical.
The Earl of Malmesbury
suggested, whether it would not be advisable to see what would be the operation of the Composition Bill introduced by the right rev. Prelate, previous to introducing another bill on the same subject. Their Lordships ought to have an opportunity of trying how the Bill of the right rev. Prelate would work, before proceeding to so important a change in the tithe-system as commutation. Both measures were of such immense importance that ample time ought to be allowed to consider them. He also wished the noble Lord (Dacre) to consider whether he should be able to carry his bill through its different stages in the present Session of Parliament?
§ Earl Grey
considered this question one of great difficulty, but also thought it of extreme importance to establish some arrangement with respect to tithes. The noble Lord (Dacre) said, he did not question the right to tithes, and he (Earl Grey) was certainly not inclined to dispute it; but it was highly desirable to devise some arrangement, if possible, to correct the evils which arose from the present system. With this view he promised to give the most attentive consideration to the Bills which had just been introduced. A commutation of tithes, if established, so as to settle the question Anally and for ever, he considered would be the more desirable measure; but reverting to the extreme difficulties that must oppose themselves to any such satisfactory arrangement, the bias of his mind was to the belief, that in the first instance it. would be better to adopt a plan similar to that of the right rev. Prelate, which went only to provide 294 facilities for the composition of tithes. By the working of such a measure, the way would be cleared for further improvement, and additional measures might afterwards be taken if their Lordships thought proper. With respect to the time, he doubted whether any measure on this important and difficult subject, requiring, of necessity, great complication in its arrangement, could be completed during the present Session; and therefore, perhaps, the best course that could be taken with respect to a subject of such magnitude, would be, after the right rev. Prelate and the noble Lord had stated to the House the provisions of their Bills on the second reading (on which occasion it would be much more convenient than at present to state their views on the subject, as the House would then be in possession of the Bills, and, therefore, better able to comprehend the whole nature and tendency of the proposed arrangements), to leave the matter for consideration during the interval which would elapse after the present, and before another Session of Parliament. He did not make this proposition for the purpose of delay, or to avoid the discussion of this difficult question, even during the present Session, when so many important matters were to be discussed; but under all the circumstances of the case, he thought that the most haste would not be the best speed, and time employed in consideration would enable their Lordships to come more satisfactorily, and even more expeditiously, to the conclusion which they all desired. The other bills which had been presented by the right rev. Prelate were also of great importance. One of them related to the present system of Church preferment, its object being to prevent the plurality of livings, the manner of disposing of which had caused a good deal of reflection to be cast on the Church. This Bill was well worthy the study which the right rev. Prelate had bestowed on it, and deserved the serious attention of the House. The other Bill, the purpose of which was to make addition to small livings, and perhaps create benefices of higher value, in order to prevent the holding of numerous livings together, was also entitled to their Lordships' deep consideration; and it gave him sincere pleasure to find these improvements in the administration of the system of the Established Church originate in that quarter, from which they proceeded with 295 the greatest propriety. He was glad that the present occasion showed, that there was no indisposition in the heads of the Church to make such reformations as could be justified, and might be required on principles consistent with the preservation of the Church itself. He felt, and he was sure their Lordships would also feel, much indebted to the right rev. Prelate for having taken this subject into consideration, and for having proposed such a measure to the House. He, for one, would give it his most attentive consideration, and should feel most happy if he could assist in bringing about an arrangement which he thought might be productive of incalculable benefits, not only to the interests of the Church itself, but also to the general interests of the kingdom.
§ Lord Dacre
said, that the Bill proposed by him was not introduced with any feeling of opposition towards the Bill of the right rev. Prelate. He thought both Bills might be concurrent. In reply to a noble Lord who had asked him whether he expected to carry his Bill in the present Session, he stated, that he considered the measure of such vast importance, that he should omit no opportunity of pressing the Bill forward, if agreeable to their Lordships.
§ The several Bills each read a first time.