HL Deb 01 August 1836 vol 35 cc693-9

On the motion of Viscount Melbourne, the House went again into Committee on the Church of England Bill. On the question that the preamble be postponed,

The Earl of Ripon

said, he thought it would be convenient, inasmuch as the points in the preamble contained the principle of the Bill, if he troubled their Lordships with a few words. He was sorry to be under the necessity of doing so, and very much regretted to have to say any thing which should appear as expressing any doubt at all as to the recommendations of the Commissioners. He approved of the appointment of that Commission—he approved of its constitution, of the general recommendations which it laid before the Crown, and upon which their Lordships were now called upon to legislate. There was, however, one point upon which he was anxious to say a few words, and with respect to which, although he was not prepared to suggest any alteration, he thought was one which was well worthy of consideration. The point to which he referred was with regard to the abolition of the ancient bishopric of Sodor and Man, and uniting it with the see of Carlisle. The bishopric of Sodor and Man had existed for 1,400 years, and the see had been filled by individuals distinguished for their great talents, learning, and piety during the time they so held the see. Now the situation of the bishopric of Sodor and Man was one of a very peculiar character, and in many respects different from the situation of the Bishops of this country. The Bishop of Sodor and Man was ex officio a member of the executive governing body in the Isle of Man. He was also ex officio principal trustee of every charitable institution which exists in that island; and whatever differences of opinion might have occasionally arisen on other matters in the Isle of Man, he believed it was a matter of fact that the general feeling of the 50,000 inhabitants of that island was strongly against the abolition of this bishopric and uniting it with that of Carlisle. He was somewhat at a loss to understand why this change should take place. He hardly thought it could be on the ground of convenience to the Bishop of Carlisle, who would have to cross the seas to perform his duties. He confessed he had very little personal knowledge of that part of the country, but their Lordships would observe that the union of the see of Sodor and Man with that of Carlisle was not necessary for a more convenient arrangement for that see, because it was proposed that the Bishopric of Carlisle should receive certain additions from Chester and York; therefore the union of Sodor and Man with Carlisle was totally unnecessary for the execution of the general principle on which the re-distribution of the English bishoprics was founded. He must say, that he thought it a hard thing on the feelings of the people of the Isle of Man that they should be deprived of the advantage of a resident and well-educated respectable gentleman to fill the office of a Bishop in that place. He thought it therefore would be well that their Lordships should take this subject into their serious consideration.

The Bishop of Rochester

having had the honour and pleasure of filling the see of Sodor and Man for fourteen years, was afraid that their Lordships might suppose he gave a prejudiced opinion on this subject, but he could assure their Lordships, from his own personal knowledge, that the feelings of the inhabitants of the Isle of Man corresponded with those which had been expressed by the noble Earl. He did not see that any advantage would be derived on this side of the water from the union of the see with that of Carlisle, and while he should be very averse to impugning the decision to which the Commissioners had come, he, at the same time, should be glad if this see could be retained.

The Archbishop of Canterbury

said, that in recommending the union of the see of Sodor and Man with that of Carlisle, the Commissioners had but one object in view—namely, the equalisation of the territories of the Bishops as much as possible, and that no Bishop should be left without a suitable number of parishes subject to his jurisdiction. It would not, therefore, have been conformable to the rule laid down, and embodied in this Bill, to leave the Bishopric of Sodor and Man with only eighteen parishes, a small number compared to the other dioceses.

Lord Lyndhurst

was prepared to pay the utmost possible deference to the opinions of the members of the Commission and to the report they had made; but he agreed with his noble Friend, that the Bishopric of Sodor and Man was not analogous to the different sees of this kingdom. The Isle of Man enjoyed a species of separate jurisdiction; it consisted of eighteen parishes; it had a separate legislature, and therefore their Bishop ought not to be taken away in consequence of what took place in the rest of the kingdom. It must be recollected, that the Isle of Man enjoyed the advantage of very few resident gentry, except the Bishop; and his residence there was, in point of fact, a matter of great and extreme importance. It must also be recollected that a portion of the revenues of the see arose from tithes collected in the island, amounting annually, as he was informed, to 1,000l. a-year; while the island possessed a separate legislature and council, and the Bishop was an important and efficient member of that council. Again, their Lordships must be aware there was another important point for consideration. There were various charitable trusts of great importance, and the Bishop was an efficient administrator of those trusts, which were under his superintendence, direction, and control; and on this account the more particularly he pressed the subject on their Lordships' attention. He was sorry to do so contrary to the opinion of the most reverend Prelate and of the Commissioners; but he begged to suggest whether it would not be proper to take a little time for consideration on a matter of so much importance.

Viscount Melbourne

had no knowledge of that part of the country, but he must say, that the matter was very fully considered by the Commissioners; and if he might refer to what took place in that Commission, he would say that no dissent was expressed to the recommendation for the uniting the see of Sodor and Man with that of Carlisle. The ground on which that was proposed had been correctly stated by the most reverend Prelate—namely, that the jurisdiction was too insignificant, the number of parishes were too few, and the amount of population too small, to justify the continuance of the establishment of a bishop in the Isle of Man. With regard to the revenues of the see being derived from the island, it was understood, when the subject was under dis- cussion, that they were to go to the augmentation of the different benefices of the island, and therefore they would be as advantageously distributed as at present. With regard to the observation of the noble and learned Lord, that the Bishop was a member of the council, he must be permitted to say, that he thought the constitution of the island would go on and be as well regulated, without the Bishop being a member of that body, as if he still continued to belong to it. With respect to the charitable trusts also, he had no doubt, that there would be found in the island a respectable clergy to enforce their due administration. He could not take upon himself to say what the feelings of the inhabitants of the island were on this subject; at the same time he would submit to their Lordships, that the recommendation in question had been proposed by the Commissioners, and had been adopted in this Bill; and it was a fact, that was somewhat remarkable, that if so strong a feeling existed on the subject, that no petition had been presented against the proposed alteration. He did not think the antiquity of the bishopric, or any of the other considerations which had been adverted to, ought to have the effect of inducing their Lordships not to carry the recommendations of the Commissioners into effect, in the manner proposed by this Bill.

The Earl of Ripon

observed, that his noble Friend had assigned one reason for opposing the proposition—namely, that there had been an absence of petitions. Now he (Lord Ripon) must consider himself in some degree responsible for that. His advice was, that a representation should be made to the Commissioners requesting them to take the subject into their consideration. His noble Friend also said, that the application of the revenues of the bishopric were not to go to the augmentation of the see of Carlisle, but to increase the livings of the poorer clergy of the island; poor they certainly were, for they did not enjoy anything like a decent maintenance. But there was no necessity to abolish the see for that purpose; he could suggest a fund from which the payments to effect this object might have been derived, for it did so happen, that the Crown was in possession of a certain amount of tithe in the Isle of Man, and if his Majesty should be graciously pleased to permit, then these tithes might be appropriated to the increase of these small livings. That course had been followed by Queen Anne, and although this might not be proper as a universal principle, still he thought it applicable in the present instance.

Lord Lyndhurst

believed, that a petition had been presented to the Commissioners— at any rate all proper representations were made to the Commissioners, and he thought they must have escaped the eye of his noble Friend.

Lord Holland

thought, that the observations made in favour of the proposition of the noble Earl were so many arguments in favour of the Bill. His noble Friend must take the consequence of the advice he had given to these parties. He had no right to take advantage of both sides of the question. He should not have advised them not to send up their petitions to the House of Lords and House of Commons, where they might have had the subject fairly discussed and agitated, and then after that turn round and say a great feeling existed on the subject.

The Bishop of Lincoln

said, the noble and learned Lord had spoken of a petition as having been presented to the Commissioners from the Isle of Man. True it was that a petition had been so presented, but it was not a petition against the abolition of the bishopric, but for the augmentation of small livings.

The Bishop of Exeter

asked, whether their Lordships were to legislate solely upon what took place before the Commissioners. He would contend that a worse arrangement than that of uniting the see of Carlisle with Sodor and Man could not be suggested, as far as regarded the diocesan of Carlisle; for he would have to make one or two voyages annually to the Isle of Man. He believed also that the people of the island would not be benefited, because they would not only be without their principal resident, but without their Bishop, and the see of Carlisle would be deprived of the presence of their diocesan, in these necessary absences to the Isle of Man. He could speak practically of the inconvenience arising from this divided description of jurisdiction. The Scilly Islands were within the diocese of Exeter, and he must go there during the present summer at the greatest possible inconvenience, or else delay his visit, which would be very unsatisfactory to him, until another year. He was decidedly in favour of the proposition submitted by his noble Friend, and he trusted it was one to which their Lordships would agree.

The Marquess of Lansdowne

defended the recommendations of the Commissioners and said their great object had been, and in his view of the subject it was a most desirable one, to equalize the income of the Bishop, by taking from the higher dignitaries of the Church, and adding the amount to the smaller-paid bishoprics, and giving them all a corresponding number of parishes to superintend. From the facilities of communication which now existed between the Isle of Man and this country, the Bishop of Carlisle could, with perfect convenience and efficiency, exercise the superintendence which was proposed to be confided to him. The noble Earl opposite had given the best reason in the world for the expediency of this measure, because he had said that a great portion of the clergy in the island were in a state of distress, and therefore there could be no better mode of employing the revenues of the bishopric than distributing them amongst the clergy.

The Duke of Wellington

said, he was convinced that the Commissioners had formed their decisions upon reasons and arguments referable to the state of the Church, not only in the Isle of Man, but elsewhere. He was therefore desirous of giving to those decisions all the support in that House that he conscientiously could; and he earnestly recommended their Lordships to pursue a similar course.

Lord Lyndhurst

said, he did not understand his noble Friend near him to have moved any amendment. He found in the Bill no provision for a distribution of the revenues of this see, and he had therefore asked a question on the subject.

Preamble postponed.

On the 1st Clause,

The Bishop of Exeter moved an amendment, the object of which was to prevent the Commissioners from becoming a perpetual corporation.

Their Lordships divided on the original question: Contents 31; Not-Contents 10: —Majority 21.

Clause agreed to.

On Clause 10,

The Bishop of Exeter moved, that there be added to it a proviso, that nothing in the Bill should extend to authorise the Commissioners to recommend the alienation of any episcopal land or hereditaments except in the case of the see of Durham, for the purpose of augmenting small livings.

The Committee divided on the original motion: Contents 32; Not-Contents 7: —Majority 25.

Clause agreed to, as were the remaining clauses.

House resumed, Bill to be Reported.