§ LORD CAMPBELL moved the Second Reading of this Bill, the object of which was to put an end to the great inconveniences which were at present felt in Scotland, owing to the feudal tenures in that kingdom in obtaining the transfer from one set of trustees to another, of small pieces of land, which had been obtained for the purpose of erecting chapels and schools in connexion with religious congregations in Scotland. The Bill simply proposed to extend the principle of an Act passed in the 3rd and 4th Victoria, and to give the right of holding the property upon the death of the trustees to other trustees, or the minister of a congregation, without the expense and delay attendant upon the present mode of conveyance. The inconvenience of the present state of the law bad been felt to be a grievance, and the present Bill, which proposed to remedy the evil, would be beneficial to the whole of the sects and religious persuasions of Scotland. The Bill had passed without opposition through the other House of Parliament, and he hoped their Lordships would not refuse to allow it to be read a second time.
§ LORD REDESDALE
said, that if this Bill had passed without opposition in the House of Commons, it was owing to the fact that it had also passed without due consideration. His Lordship then read several extracts from the Journals of the other House of Parliament, to show that every one of its stages in that House had been taken after half-past twelve o'clock at night. Had it not been for the way in 555 which Bills were passed in the House of Commons at this period of the Session, this Bill would never have reached their Lordships in its present shape; for it made every school and Dissenting congregation in Scotland a corporation qualified to hold land. It also placed Dissenters in the same position as the Established Church in that country. Hitherto the property of all Dissenting congregations had been held for them by trustees; but this Bill made all office-bearers in those congregations trustees at once virtute officii. It was intended, also, to set up the ministers of the Free Church on the same footing as the ministers of the Established Church. He therefore hoped that the noble and learned Lord would not persevere with this Bill during the present Session. If it were fitting that the ministers of Dissenting congregations in Scotland should be erected into perpetual trustees capable of holding land for their flocks, it was also fitting that the same privilege should be given to Dissenting congregations in England.
supported the second reading of the Bill, and saw no probability of either inconvenience or evil arising from it. He had no objection to it because it was favourable to the Free Church, which, though it did not contain a majority, still contained a large minority of the people of Scotland. He did not wish the Free Church well, but he did wish it to have the fullest religious liberty. The ministers of that Church were already trustees in law, and this Bill would not erect them into corporations.
§ The EARL of ABERDEEN
could not say that he entertained any objection to the principle of this Bill, which merely carried out the provisions of another Bill passed some years ago. It was, however, a specimen of hasty legislation upon a matter which was always of importance, and which was particularly important at this period in Scotland. Without objecting to the Bill, he must say that in his opinion the noble and learned Lord would do much bettor in postponing it to another Session than in endeavouring to pass it now.
said, that he believed there was a very large proportion of the people of Scotland who were utterly ignorant of the provisions of this Bill. He thought it necessary to delay the Bill for a short time on that account.
denied that the Bill would establish any new principle; it was 556 simply an alteration of the present mode of conveyance. If the Bill would have the effect of giving any unfair advantage to the Free Church, he would be the last person in the House to bring forward such a measure.
§ LORD REDESDALE
said, that the Bill had only been introduced into the House of Commons on the 2nd of July, and therefore it was impossible that it could have received due consideration. He wished that the Bill should be postponed, for a new principle was established which he thought ought to be maturely considered.
§ LORD BEAUMONT
said, he could not conceive what objection there could be to the Bill. It was simply a Bill to enable parties to do in a more simple form, and at less expense, that which they were legally entitled to do at present. He denied that the Bill was one of a religious or sectarian character.
, in reply, denied that the object of the Bill was to sot up the Free Church against the Established Church. It was not a Bill to give sites for chapels and schools contrary to the will of the over-landlord; but it was a Bill to enable the office-bearers of Dissenting congregations to avail themselves of the sites which they had already got. He hoped that their Lordships, notwithstanding the objections urged against it, would read the Bill now a second time.
§ On Question, resolved in the Affirmative.
§ Bill read 2a.