HL Deb 17 February 1842 vol 60 cc626-34
The Earl of Clancarty

rose to move for the following returns:— 1st. The number of chaplains that have been appointed under the provisions of the 48th section of the Irish Poor Law, with the dates of their several appointments, their names, their religious denominations, their salaries, and the names of the Poor-law unions for which they are severally appointed. 2dly. Copy of any minute or resolution of the Poor-law commissioners declaratory of the principle upon which they determine the amounts of the salaries of the chaplain so appointed, with the date of the same; and should the amount vary as between the chaplains of different religious denominations, then a statement of the basis of calculation for determining the amounts of the several salaries; also 3dly. Copies of all correspondence or minutes of conversation had with any Bishops of the Established Church relative to the salaries to he paid to the Protestant chaplains; also 4thly. Copies of all correspondence or minutes of conversation had with Roman Catholic Bishops relative to the salaries to be paid to Roman Catholic chaplains. 5thly. Copies of all remonstrations made in writing or otherwise to the Poor-law commissioners against the inequality of the salaries to be given to the chaplains of different religious denominations. And also, 6thly. Copy of all correspondence between the Poor-law commissioners and her Majesty's Secretary of State for the Home Department, or with the Chief Secretary for Ireland, upon the practice adopted by the Poor-law commissioners in regulating the salaries of the chaplains appointed, or to be appointed under the provisions of the Irish Poor-law Relief Act. His object, the noble Earl said, in moving for these returns was to enable their Lordships to judge of the soundness of the principle on which the Poor-law commissioners had carried out the appointments of chaplains under the new act, whether they were of a religious character, or whether, as appeared to him (Earl Clancarty), they were directly inconsistent with Protestant religion in Ireland. It would be unnecessary for him to trespass at any length upon their Lordships' attention, and he trusted he should receive some indulgence, as he seldom addressed that House, and did so now on the impulse of duty only. In his opinion the returns would show that many of those appointments were not in accordance with the spirit of the Constitution, by reason of the undue preference given to Roman Catholic chaplains over those of the Established Church. He did not, on this occasion, willingly bring a charge against the Poor-law commissioners, for he believed they were, and particularly Mr. Nicholls, most zealous in carrying the Poor-law into effect, and that, as worked by them, it had generally done much good. What he complained of was, what he considered as an abuse of their power, in the preference given to Roman Catholic chaplains, who had, in many instances, salaries more than double those which were allowed to chaplains of the Established Church. He thought this ground of complaint was aggravated by the fact that those appointments were made in communication with Roman Catholic bishops, without, as he was informed, consulting the Protestant bishops. He would admit, that in Ireland, where so large a portion of the inhabitants were Roman Catholics and Presbyterians, some difference from the mode of appointing chaplains in England would be justifiable. It would be necessary to have Roman Catholic and Presbyterian chaplains, as well as those of the Established Church, in the workhouses generally, but he did not think that the commissioners were justified in making the salaries of the former double the amount which were given to chaplains of the Established Church. The 49th section of the Irish Poor-law Act provided for salaries for the performance of divine service, and for no other duties. The commissioners had, therefore, in his opinion, gone out of their way in awarding salaries for any other duties, as they had done with respect to the Roman Catholic chaplains. By this they had entailed a very heavy expense on the ratepayers, and at the same time tended to bring the labours of the chaplains of the Established Church into a lower estimation than those of the Roman Catholic chaplains. The principle that the last-named chaplains should have large salaries because they had much larger numbers to attend to, in the way of religious instruction, than the chaplains of the Established Church in the workhouses, was not a good one; for it would naturally be asked why the same principle should not be held good outside the workhouse walls? Before he had determined to bring this case under the consideration of their Lordships he had done all in his power to render that course unnecessary by communication with the Irish Poor-law commissioners; but he was told that the matter had been discussed in London, and that the Government had said that the commissioners had acted correctly, and in accordance with the principle laid down in the Gaol Act. This view of the case did not satisfy him, for he thought it a departure from the letter as well as the spirit of the Irish Poor-law Act, that the commissioners should have, as it were, associated themselves with the Roman Catholic bishops to give an ascendancy to Roman Catholicism within the walls of the workhouses. He was present during the discussion on the Irish Poor-law Bill, and he did not recollect, from anything which then transpired, that the commissioners could be justified in the course they had since pursued with respect to the appointment and payment of Roman Catholic chaplains. When he last communicated with the Irish Poor-law commissioners or with Mr. Nicholls on this subject, the answer he received was to this effect, that, after a full consideration of the whole case, her Majesty's Government did not feel it necessary to interfere with the discretion of the commissioners in the matter. In the belief that when the returns for which he was about to move were before the House their Lordships would be of a different opinion as to the exercise of this discretion, he would conclude by moving for them.

The Duke of Wellington

said, I certainly, in the few words I am about to address to your Lordships on the motion of the noble Earl, shall endeavour to avoid as much as possible adverting to the delicate and important topics which the noble Earl introduced into his speech; but I do think, that the noble Earl, instead of confining his motion, which I may call a fishing motion, to the returns which he has sought, ought to have given notice of his intention to move your Lordships' to lay a bill on the Table to repeal that part of the Irish Poor-law Act, for the whole of the speech of the noble Earl was, in point of fact, but a complaint of that particular clause of the Irish Poor-law Act. He ought, consequently, to have given notice of his intention to move a repeal of that clause. I confess, for this reason, and knowing the difficulty of discussing this subject without adverting to topics of great delicacy, I consider this to be a case which ought to be left in the hands of Government, and that was the recommendation I gave to the noble Earl. Instead of that, the noble Earl has brought it forward here, and instead of bringing forward a motion for the repeal of the act, he has brought forward the present motion, for which he has not shown any grounds. He may have shown grounds for the first part of his motion, as to the members appointed, but with regard to correspondence and minutes of conversation, and all those matters, no ground whatever has been laid, except the noble Earl's recollection of conversations, which he himself held, and I hardly think such recollections of conversations are grounds for such a motion as this, and my disposition, therefore, is to move the previous question on the whole of the resolutions. Just look how the case stands in the English Poor-law Act, which was the model for this act. In that act there is a clause enabling the Poor-law guardians to appoint a clergyman of the Church of England to be chaplain of the workhouse. The legislature had this act fully before them when the Irish Poor-law Act was passed, which act contained a power to the Poor-law Commissioners to appoint not a clergyman of the Church of England, as in the other case, but three chaplains—one a clergyman of the Church of England, one a minister of the Protestant dissenting persuasion, another a clergyman of the Roman Catholic dissenting persuasion—three to each workhouse, and to fix such salaries for them as they should think proper. And not only this, but the legislature had before them, at the same time, the Irish Gaol Act, under which the grand jury had the power of appointing three chaplains to the gaol, and of giving them certain salaries stated in the law. This had been passed many years, and its working had been well understood long before the Irish Poor-law Bill was passed. But this, too, was not all with respect to the provisions of the Irish Gaol Act. That act provides that each clergyman shall, in turn, besides spiritual duties, perform cer- tain specified duties in the gaol, and make out and keep certain specified accounts and this accounts for the special enactment in the Gaol Act with respect to the salaries of the three description of clergymen. Yet the legislature, having this law in full cognizance at the time, thought proper in the Poor-law Act to leave to the Irish Poor-law Commissioners the discretion of allotting as they thought fit the salaries of the different descriptions of workhouse chaplains. With regard to the parties for whom the spiritual duties of those chaplains were to be called into requisition, no doubt the Poor-law Commissioners thought one class would be pretty numerous, of another class it was doubtless thought there would be great numbers; whilst of a third class, fortunately, there would be but few. A difference of the respective numbers, too, would prevail in different parts of the country. One general rule, therefore, could not answer, and it must be left to the discretionary power of the commissioners, to whose discretion many other matters were also compelled to be left, and on this, perhaps, as well as on other points, sooner or later, some law will, I hope, be introduced to regulate the exercise of that discretion. With respect to the present instance of the exercise of that discretion, so far as I have heard of it, I believe it to be perfectly proper. The duty to be performed is a spiritual duty in the very parish in which these clergymen reside. The duties to be performed are, in many instances, very extensive, and in others they are still more extensive. And what was the rule the commissioners laid down with respect to these salaries? It was this; that the maximum salary should he 651. a year, and the minimum 251. a year. The circumstances of that country rendered it necessary to assemble large bodies of persons in workhouses, in order to administer to their relief. It was desirable to afford them the benefit of spiritual instruction, and the public were willing to defray a part of the expense which might be incurred for that purpose. If there were one or two individuals, of a particular persuasion in a workhouse, could it be pretended that it was fit that for them the same sum should be expended as for a larger number—that as much was to be paid to the chaplain whose only duty was to attend on them, as to him who had to attend to nearly the whole number in the workhouse. Your Lord- ships cannot think that such should be the case, and will agree with me that it is most proper to move the previous question for the present, leaving it to the noble Lord to bring forward a bill for the repeal of the clause, when he will have an opportunity of stating the views he entertained upon this subject, and he might then make his motion as a foundation for his bill.

The Marquess of Normanby

said, that, considering the official connexion which he had had with the first working of the Irish Poor-law Act, he trusted, that he might be allowed to express the very great satisfaction which he felt at the manner in which the noble Duke had met the motion of his noble Friend, inasmuch as it would be quite impossible for the Poor-law Commissioners to perform their delicate and arduous functions, unless motions of this description were discouraged. In spite of some flattering expressions towards Mr. Nicholls, any person who heard the noble Earl's speech must be convinced that it would be impossible for Mr. Nicholls, or any other person holding a similar office, to discharge the duties which devolved upon him, unless such motions were met in the manner which the present, had been by the noble Duke. The noble Earl had not only moved for a repeal of the Irish Poor-law Act, but he brought charges of partiality and favouritism against those who had the administration of the Irish Poor-law, and accused them of disregard to the interests of the Established Church. He did not desire to comment severely on the noble Lord, because, as the noble Lord said, he was not accustomed to address their Lordships; but he would say the noble Lord should not make such charges against individuals who were perhaps as much attached to the Established Church as the noble Lord himself. The terms of the motion were in themselves novel, and in some parts—the noble Earl would forgive him for saying so—perfectly absurd; and he could not but express his satisfaction at the manner in which the motion was met by the noble Duke.

Lord Brougham

begged to say one word on the subject. The noble Earl stated his case in very strong terms, and the manner in which his motion was worded was certainly very novel indeed. The noble Lord quoted passages from the motion read, showing that it would be impossible for a Protestant Bishop to speak to a Protestant, or for a Roman Catholic Bishop to speak to a Catholic, unless a minute was made of it and laid before their Lordships. He would, therefore, ask, was it possible that the House could sanction such a motion as this?

The Earl of Clancarty

said, he well recollected that the noble Duke had not only recommended the production of minutes of conversations with reference to the Irish Poor-law Act, upon former occasions, but the noble Duke had insisted even upon the production of private letters. The noble Duke insisted that letters which were entirely of a private nature should be laid before the House. The noble Duke had already insisted also upon the production of the minutes of all conversations.

Lord Brougham

Those were conversations with Bishops, not with Poor-law Commissioners.

Earl Clancarty

thanked the noble and learned Lord for that; but the noble and learned Lord seemed totally to have forgotten that the minutes of those conversations were already laid upon the table of the House. [Lord Brougham: Conversation with whom?] With the Commissioners. [Lord Brougham: But that is not your motion.] It must have been quite clear to any one, that the minute of the conversations he alluded to was between the Bishops and the Commissioners. Under those circumstances, he thought he was entitled to the production of the correspondence. That part of the motion, of course, which related to the minutes of conversation, must be withdrawn. Perhaps the motion had better be altogether withdrawn. With regard to what the noble Marquess had said about his remark relative to favour to the Established Church, he thought he had a right to say that there was no sincerity in their friendship to the Church. [Cries of "Order, order."] He was not out of order, for an Act of Parliament prohibited certain Peers from voting on questions connected with the Established Church, on account of their insincerity. [The Marquess of Normanby: What Act?] The Roman Catholic Relief Act. Surely, then, he was in order in attributing to them insincerity in their friendship for the Church.

The Lord Chancellor

said, the noble Peer was decidedly out of order.

The Earl of Clancarty

was sorry for being out of order. He should not have brought forward this motion if the noble Duke had not promised to give hint every information. He had consulted with the Government beforehand. He had seen the Irish Secretary for Ireland that day on the subject, and they all alike adhered to this practice, which he considered objectionable. If their Lordships sanctioned the course taken by the Poor-law Commissioners, they would be sanctioning a course which was clearly illegal. He would withdraw his motion, but regretted the information he required was not afforded.

The Duke of Wellington

I beg that the noble Lord will explain to me and to the House whether I told him, as he states, that I would give him the information, after or before I had a knowledge of what his demands were? I told him some months ago that the information he called for I would give, but at the time I had no notion of what description of information he required. I certainly had an inclination to give the noble Lord all the information he desired, and I referred him to the Irish Government. But when I came to see what the information was that he desired—when I saw his notice of motion— I certainly did feel, and when I heard his speech I felt more strongly, that it was of that description that it was impossible for the House to grant. With regard to another observation of the noble Lord, I must say that the clause in the Act of Parliament required certain minutes to be preserved and produced to enable the House to have full information of the working of the measure.

The Bishop of Exeter

thought the noble Earl was entitled to the thanks of the House for having brought this question forward. The principle which the noble Duke asserted with respect to so much being left to the discretion of the commissioners, he thought was not so understood when the English Bill or when the Irish Bill were before Parliament. Great powers—enormous powers—were given to the commissioners, and he thought it was understood that these powers should be exercised under the control of Parliament, and that the commissioners could be made responsible to Parliament for every act they committed. The noble Earl, he thought, had made out a prima facie case that there had been an undue depression given to the Established Church by the commissioners. He thought, that a stipend of 25l. a year ought not to be given to the clergymen of the Established Church, when a much higher one was given to the Roman Catholic clergyman. The stipend, as he believed, was not given for instruction, but for the performance of service within the walls of the workhouse. He did not think that the noble Earl had been supported as he had a right to expect, and therefore he had risen to make these few observations.

Lord Wharncliffe

was convinced that there had been no attempt to give the Roman Catholic religion any preference. If the right rev. Prelate referred to the act of Parliament, and compared it with the act in force in England, he would see immediately that a discretion in this respect ought to be given to the commissioners. It was said that the stipend was given for the performance of religious service only, and that, as the Protestant clergyman and Roman Catholic clergyman would do that equally, their salaries ought to be the same. The 49th clause said, that they were to be appointed not merely to perform religious service, but they were to be appointed generally as chaplains of the workhouses. It was left to the discretion of the commissioners to ascertain how many persons there were of different religions to whom spiritual instruction was to be afforded, and to pay the chaplains in proportion. Supposing that there were 490 persons who required the instruction of the Catholic clergyman, and only ten who required the instruction of the Protestant clergyman, ought their labours to be paid precisely the same? Surely it ought to be left to the discretion of the commissioners to say what sum ought to be paid to both.

Motion withdrawn.


Back to