HL Deb 16 July 1838 vol 44 cc220-2

The House went into committee on the Benefices Pluralities Bill.

On Clause 4,

Lord Wharncliffe

said, he could not but think, that this bill, like some of the reforms proposed in the institutions of this country, went far beyond the necessity of the case. Another objection he had to the bill was, that it began at the wrong end, for before they came to deal with the matters affected by this bill, they ought to endeavour to make the income of every clergyman, sufficient to enable him to live in a respectable manner. In many parts of the north, and particularly in the manufacturing districts, many of the livings were so starved, that it would be impossible to get clergymen to undertake the duties of such parishes, without increasing their incomes from some other source. The clause proposed, that a radius of ten miles should be the limitation for the holding of two benefices; he conceived that to be a much worse arrangement than a clergyman being allowed to hold two livings in a radius of forty miles, because in the latter case he would employ a curate to attend to one of them, which perhaps he would not do in the former case. He proposed an amendment confining the operation of the clause, to livings above the yearly value of 100l.

The Archbishop of Canterbury

could not concur in the amendment. He did not think, that it would be wise to interfere with the principle upon which the bill was founded, and he trusted, that a remedy would be found for the grievance to which the noble Lord had directed their Lordships attention, without adopting the amendment proposed. The subject had been fully considered by the commissioners, and when their recommendations were carried into effect, the evil would, he trusted, be effectually removed. He hoped that the number of cases to which the amendment would apply was not great, and he was unwilling that the principle of the measure should be broken through. He did full justice to the motives of the noble Lord who had proposed the amendment, and from his respects for those motives he regretted he was obliged to oppose it.

Amendment negatived without a division.

Lord Portman

then moved, that the words "situate within the distance of ten statute miles from" be omitted, and the words "contiguous to" inserted in their place. By that amendment they would arrive at the nearest possible point to a final declaration, that no pluralities should exist at all, and render the principle of the bill clear and intelligible. It was perhaps impossible to effect the entire abolition of pluralities at present, but if the amendment he had proposed were adopted, they would arrive at the nearest point to an entire abolition, and prevent the holding of benefices in plurality in all cases except those where the incumbent would be able to give to both parishes his personal superintendence. He considered the point to which he had called their attention of so much importance, that he should take the sense of the House upon it.

The Archbishop of Canterbury

said, that the clause on which the amendment had been moved, had been agreed to after mature deliberation—first by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, and then by the assembled Bishops, and there was no difference of opinion on the subject. It was agreed, that in framing the clause, they had adopted the just medium between the two extremes, and taken a fair position between those who contended for the abolition of plurality and those who entertained a directly opposite opinion. He considered that the amendment would operate injuriously, and that it would have the effect of reducing the number of curates so much, that young men would be admitted at once to the care of large parishes which required an experienced pastor. He admitted, that pluralities did require restriction; but he believed the majority of those who were best qualified to give a sound opinion on the subject, were of opinion that the restriction proposed by the bill went too far. He could not consent to the amendment of the noble Lord.

Lord Wynford

considered, that there should be no alteration in the law on this subject, unless to put an end entirely to pluralities. The most rev. prelate had admitted, that the bill would not put an end to pluralities, and the measure, therefore, was framed on no definite or intelligible principle, for no person could possibly understand why there should be any alteration in the law, unless that alteration proceeded upon the principle contained in the amendment which had been moved by the noble Lord. He would submit to their Lordships, that the only intelligible principle on which to found a measure for restraining the holding of benefices in plurality was, to prevent the holding of two livings by any one individual, unless when the parishes were contiguous.

The Earl of Harrowby

was understood to say, that he agreed with those who thought, that the bill was founded on no intelligible or definite principle. He considered the abolition of pluralities desirable, but that could only be effected by a new distribution of Church property, or by the State furnishing a sum sufficient to make the small livings adequate to support a resident clergyman. He advised their Lordships to adopt the bill, which had been twice before the Legislature, and had now come up from the other House as an experimental measure.

The Bishop of Lincoln

said, that the effect of the clause as it stood would be to diminish the number of pluralities by one-half. He concurred in the suggestion as to the propriety of taking the bill as an experimental measure.

The Bishop of Salisbury

objected to the amendment, under which, he said, two livings might be held together, where, though the livings were contiguous, the distance between church and church would be greater than it could be, if the clause as it stood were adopted.

The Bishop of Glocester

supported the original clause. If it passed, all but thirty of the present pluralities in the see of Glocester would be illegalised, and to those thirty no material objection could be made.

Lord Hatherton

thought the bill objectionable on account of the extent to which it appeared to sanction the principle of pluralities, and supported the amendment, because it would tend to establish a wholesome system of superintendence on the part of the incumbent over his flock.

The Committee divided on the amendment—Contents 9; Not Contents 50; Majority 41.

Clause agreed to.

Remaining clauses agreed to.

And the House resumed.