§ The EARL of CARLISLE,
in moving the Second Reading of "a Bill for the Management and Regulation of Episcopal and Capitular Estates and Revenues in England and Wales," felt himself called upon to claim the utmost forbearance and indulgence of their Lordships. He made this claim upon their Lordships from having found the subject one of a most difficult and complicated nature—one with which till within a very recent period he had been almost entirely unversed, and which, from the nature of its provisions, was almost sure to displease all the parties to whom those provisions applied. There were, however, two or three circumstances connected with it from which he derived consolation and encouragement. First of all, it was a measure entirely free from all party considerations; next, he had a firm conviction that Government in proposing it were actuated by no other motive than that of removing existing inconveniences, and of supplying existing wants. He also derived encouragement from the importance of the measure itself, and from the great advantages which it was calculated ultimately to ensure to the Church and the country at large. He likewise derived encouragement from this circumstance, that it was a measure which deserved, and, indeed, required, the most minute and careful atten- 1208 tion; and, therefore, he hoped that their Lordships would give it a second reading, in order that he might refer it to a Select Committee carefully constituted, where all its provisions might be narrowly sifted and diligently considered. None of their Lordships, by acceding to the second reading, would be pledged to the provisions of the Bill further than this, namely, to admit that the improvement of Church property, and of the means of increasing the efficiency of the Church, was a fit subject for deliberation. The management of the property of the Church had, as their Lordships well knew, long been admitted to be very unsatisfactory, and had given rise to many and just complaints. It acted unsatisfactorily, and injuriously to all parties, to the Church as well as to its lessees; to the Church, inasmuch as it produced to its dignitaries much less of the legitimate value of their property than it ought to do; and to the lessees on account of the uncertainty of the tenure inherent in the property itself, and increased of late years by the course taken by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners appointed under a recent Act of Parliament, and by the discussions which the subject itself had recently undergone. Besides acting unsatisfactorily to the lessors and the lessees, it discouraged improvement, prevented the employment of capital, and promoted a negligent and imperfect system of cultivation. He did not make that, statement upon his own views alone, but on the views of men of much higher and graver authority. It was stated in the report of the Commissioners appointed in 1849 to inquire into the Episcopal and Capitular Revenues, in reference to the terms upon which renewals of leases were effected, that it appeared to them that the Church realised ordinarily from one-fourth to one-third only of the rack-rental value of its estates, the remainder being in the hands of the lessees; and that the fines were calculated so as to allow the lessees a return varying from five to ten per cent. There is a little doubt that, under a different plan of management, the estates might be made to produce a much larger income for the Church, and, at the same time, be held upon a tenure more aceeptable to the lessees. The Committee of the House of Commons which had sat upon Church Leases in 1839, used the following language in their Report:—Your Committee are prepared confidently to assert, that the system of raising revenue by fines, always improvident, is particularly disadvanta- 1209 geous to the church lessor, from the peculiarity of his tenure; that the objections to it are felt in leases for terms, and aggravated most materially in leases for lives. They are also convinced that the balance of inconvenience over advantage is against the lessee, and that the system tends to prevent the investment of capital in the permanent improvement of the estate, whereby a check is put to the extension of buildings in some places where they are much required, and the country is deprived of all the benefit that might be drawn from the emancipation of a great extent of land which is now excluded from the advantage of the most approved system of agriculture.From the promulgation of opinions like these, the country at large expected that an alteration in the present system, or at least a very great modification of it, would have been effected before now; and that expectation had placed in suspense the arrangements of all parties, and had discouraged all material improvements in this description of property. With a view of sifting every branch of this important subject, and of procuring results which would be fair and satisfactory to all, Her Majesty's Government issued in 1849 a Commission—For the purpose of inquiring into the present system of leasing and managing the real property of the Church in England and Wales, belonging to the archbishops and bishops, to the cathedrals and collegiate churches, and the several members thereof, being corporations sole, and to the several minor corporations aggregate within the said cathedrals, and also that vested in the Ecclesiastical Commissioners for England; and for considering how, and by what system of management, such property can be rendered most productive and beneficial to the said Church, and most conducive to the spiritual welfare of the people, due regard being had to the just and reasonable claims of the present holders of such property, under lease or otherwise; and also for considering whether any and what improvement can be made in the existing law and practice relating to the incomes of the said archbishops and bishops, and of the several members of chapters, dignitaries, and officers of the said cathedrals and collegiate churches, so as best to secure to them respectively fixed, instead of fluctuating, annual incomes.That Commission was composed of the noble Earl on the cross-bench (the Earl of Harrowby), of the Dean of Canterbury, of the present Solicitor General, of Mr. Armstrong, and of Mr. Jones. These Commissioners in the year 1850 presented two Reports, both of which had been laid on the tables of the two Houses of Parliament; and Her Majesty's Government had, after mature consideration, determined on embodying their recommendations, with scarcely any alteration, in the Bill then upon the table, and on submitting them to the consider- 1210 ation of Parliament. It was now his duty to state the sum of these recommendations, and he would do so as clearly and concisely as possible. His Lordship read the following extract from the Report of the Commissioners:—The tenure of such property generally is by lease, either for three lives, renewable at the dropping of any one life; for 21 years, renewable at the expiration of every seven; for 30 years, renewable every 10; or for 40 years, renewable every 14; and in such leases a rent, usually little more than nominal, is reserved, and a fine, varying in different cases (being, in fact, the principal source of emolument to the lessor), is payable at each period of renewal. Power has been obtained under special Acts of Parliament, and also under the Leasing Act passed in the fifth and sixth years of Your Majesty's reign, for granting leases for long terms of years, for building, mining, and other purposes. Some portions also of the property of the Church are let at rackrent, and others are in hand.The rents reserved to the Church under these leases were very small, and in some cases almost nominal; but the fines taken at each renewal formed the main property of the Church. In leases for lives the custom was to assess the fine at 5 per cent or upwards, so as to secure to the lessee that rate of return for the money which he paid as his fine. In leases for terms of years the custom was to give him interest for his money at the rate of 7, of 8, and even of 10 per cent. In the ordinary case of a lease for 21 years, the fine had generally been made equivalent to a year and a half's value of the land let, which gave the lessee 7 per cent for the money which he thus laid out. Now, their Lordships must be aware that landed property in England generally sold for 30 years' purchase, which gave the purchaser little more than 3 per cent for his money. To show the difference between Church property and landed property generally, he would mention that the Church lessee who paid 5 per cent for his fine, gave 20 years' purchase for his property; if he paid 6 per cent, he gave only 16¾ years' purchase for it; and if he paid 9 per cent, he would only give 11 years' purchase. From this statement it appeared that if the bishops and deans and chapters had been in the habit of renewing leases, which secured 5 per cent to their lessees for lives, and 8 or 9 per cent to their lessees for terms of years, it would be as disadvantageous to the Church, considered as an enduring body, as if they had sold property which ought to have brought 30 years' purchase, for 11, 16, or 20 years' purchase. There 1211 was then ample opportunity for making these estates productive of a larger income for the Church, and for placing them on a tenure more acceptable to the lessees. Very opposite views had been taken as to the principle which ought to regulate the final adjustment of the rights and claims both of the lessors and the lessees of this species of property. It had been asserted by some that the Church should be dealt with as if it might properly run all its leases out, and at the end of subsisting terms enter into the absolute possession of the property. It had been asserted by others that the lessees were entitled to a renewal of their leases on the same advantageous terms which they had hitherto practically enjoyed. Now, it was clear that, according to the strict letter of the law, and according to the precedent adopted by the Crown towards its lessees—although the lessees of the Church were not, as he would show hereafter, in a situation exactly similar to that of the lessees of the Crown, an argument might be raised favourable to the extreme views taken by the Church, or, in other words, the lessors. It would, however, be a very grave matter utterly to extinguish the connexion which for ages had existed between the owners and lessees of Church lands—and, if he might use a phrase but too well known at present, to "ignore" all the advantages to which the Church lessees had hitherto been accustomed. There had been such confidence placed by the lessees of the Church in the practice and terms on which their leases were renewable, that they had long reckoned upon their property as all but equal to freehold, and had made it subject to mortgages, family settlements, and devises by will. Let it be remembered in what position the parties respectively stood. These fines constituted the actual income of existing bishops, and deans and chapters. If they did not renew the leases, they had no income. It was often the object of the lessees to wait; but the bishops could not wait; if the bishop was an old man, or in precarious health, or expecting a removal, he might be led to continue the lease at a disadvantageous rate to his successor. He (the Earl of Carlisle) was of opinion, and he thought their Lordships would agree with him, that no class of men should be less liable to an uncertain and fluctuating income than those who filled high dignities in the Church. It was therefore impossible, without the aid of Parliament, to effect an arrangement favourable to the Church 1212 by giving them power to run out the leases, which they had hitherto never failed to renew; and, to such an arrangement as that, he did not expect that Parliament would willingly assent. The Commissioners had recommended a compromise between the extreme views taken by the Church on the one side, and by the lessees on the other; and that compromise was incorporated in this Bill. The main ground of this compromise was a recommendation of the Commissioners to give to the lessees a perpetual right of renewal. That was, indeed, a large concession; but he did not see in what way their Lordships could improve the property of the Church without making some such arrangement with the lessees, who had many ways, as their Lordships could easily imagine, of making their views and just wishes felt in the other House of Parliament, and who, he was sure, would never consent, without adequate consideration, to give power to the bishops to run out their leases. It was therefore proposed that the lessees should have a perpetual right of renewal. He would first deal with the lessees for lives. That had always been deemed, and on good grounds, a most objectionable form of arrangement. It exposed both parties—both the Church and the lessee—to great precariousness and uncertainty; it might suddenly destroy the anticipations which both parties had been led to form, and compelled the lessees in many instances to insure the lives of the parties in their leases. It was, therefore, proposed to convert leases for lives into leases for an equivalent term of years. There might be cases where there were precarious and uncertain lives, and where the lives of members of the lessees' families had been insured, which might render them desirous that their leases should not at once be converted into leases for years. It was therefore proposed that in such cases the Commissioners should keep up the existing lives, and only have the power to substitute a term of years for the third or new life in the leases under which they now held. Thus in the course of a few years all leases would be brought under the category of leases for terms of years. In what way, then, did the Bill propose to deal with those leases? He would explain as briefly as he could. Suppose a farm worth clear 100l. a year let on a lease of twenty-one years, renewable every seven. Suppose seven years to have expired, and that the lease has now fourteen years to run. In the ordinary course the lease would be re- 1213 newed, that is, another term of seven years would be added upon payment of a fine differing in different districts. The more usual fine is a year and a half's purchase, that is 150l. in this case. This process would be repeated septennially, so that the lessee would receive a septennial fine of 150l., which the Commissioners state to be equivalent to 25l. per annum. Now, if the lessor should determine to run his lease out, he would receive no fine, and at the end of the fourteen years would become entitled to enter upon this farm of 100l. a year. It was found that a perpetual rent of 100l., to commence fourteen years hence, which was the extreme right of the lessor, was equivalent to a perpetual rent of 63l., to commence immediately. Accordingly the beneficial interest which the lessor (the Church) practically would enjoy from this farm of 100l. per annum under the present system of renewal, is equivalent to 25l. per annum; but if the lessor were to run out the lease, his beneficial interest would be equivalent to 63l. per annum. Now it was proposed by the Commissioners—and he would give their Lordships the words of the Commissioners themselves—to divide this difference between the lessors and lessees in the following way. They propose, that—"henceforth a septennial fine should be paid to the Church, calculated at the same rate of interest as at present, but only on half the annual finable value; and that at the end of the now existing term an annual rent should thenceforth be paid to the Church equal to the other half of the annual finable value. We may in other words express the arrangement thus, viz., that as to one moiety of the annual finable value, the Church should, as it were, run out the lease; and, as to the other moiety of the annual finable value, the Church should renew the lease upon a fine calculated at the same rate of interest as at present.Now, he would apply this to the instance which he had just selected. Instead of paying, as now, on the renewal of his lease a fine of 150l., the lessee would have to pay a fine of 75l. in respect of one moiety of the annual value of the property, and a like fine of 75l. at the end of every seven years, and as to the other moiety, he would have to pay a 50l. rent, to commence at the end of fourteen years, when his lease would, unless renewed, have expired. The Commissioners have ascertained that the septennial fine of 75l., and the annual rent of 50l., to commence at the end of fourteen years, are together equivalent to an annual rent of 44l., to Commence immediately prœsenti, so that by 1214 the arrangements proposed, the lessor (the Church) would receive what is equivalent to 44l. per annum, instead of the septennial fines of 150l., which, as before stated, are equivalent to 25l. per annum, showing a gain to the Church of 76 per cent on the present fines. He knew the difficulty of following such nice and intricate calculations; but the result of the arrangement was, that the Church, instead of running out the whole lease, would only run it out so far as half the annual value of the property was concerned, and, instead of receiving the fine on the whole annual value of the property, would receive it upon an annual rent equal to the other half of the annual finable value; and thus the Church would only get half of its extreme rights, and the lessee only one-half of his extreme claims. It was proposed to employ the agency of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners to ascertain the precise rates of the fines now levied, that is, the proportion which the fine bears to the value of the property. Those Commissioners would also have a further power. It appeared that there were certain districts of the country, especially in the north of England, where, either from some notion of ancient right, or from invariable usage, the lessees were so confident of the renewal of their leases at the ordinary fine, that a twenty-one years' lease was of as much value as the fee-simple of the estate. In these districts, which would be defined by the Commissioners under the Bill, greater indulgence would be shown to the lessees. Instead of running out the lease as to half its annual value, and continuing the system of fines as to the other half, the lessor would in these districts run out the lease only as to one-third its annual value, and continue the system of fines as to the other two-thirds. Property in houses did not stand on the same footing as that in lands and farms; but it was intended even in that case to bring about a nearly analogous result. From the deteriorating nature of house property, it would be impossible to make a reservation of rent to the extent of half the finable value upon the expiration of the lease. It was proposed, therefore, with respect to house property, to give the lessee the right of renewal upon the present amount of fines; but in such cases there was to be reserved, besides the rent which he would have contracted to pay, a further additional rent, equivalent to half 1215 the value of the right now to renewal to be conferred upon him. By these means the advantage would be divided between the lessor and the lessee in equal proportion as in the other cases. Property in mines was to be placed on the same footing as property in land. There was, however, one species of property which was not to be put on the same footing as other property, and that was tithe rent-charges. The greater portion of these rentcharges were let on leases for lives or twenty-one years. The Commissioners were of opinion that they should be dealt with on different principles from those suggested for the management of land. They recommended that they should be suffered to run out, and not be renewed, except in special cases, to be approved by the central board. They founded this recommendation on the fact that these rentcharges had neither been formed by the past exertions, nor were likely to be improved by the joint future exertions, of lessees and lessors; there was not here the plea of lands being intermixed with other freehold lands of the lessee; and they stated generally that there were no circumstances of association and attachment to the property like those which actuated the leaseholder who had long occupied the estate, and might have other freehold property in the district. With respect to manorial rights, he thought they could hardly be looked upon as a very fitting ecclesiastical appanage: it was therefore proposed to let the leases run out, or to put them up for sale, or otherwise dispose of them. It was also proposed, in cases of copyhold property, to give the lessees facilities for enfranchising their lauds by surrender; and any money accruing from this or any other source was to be vested in the Ecclesiastical Commissioners—first, for the purposes of this Act, and next, for the purposes of the Act under which they received their appointment. He had not mentioned what was proposed to be done with respect to timber—a species of property which had suffered most from the existing arrangement. The lessee had no right to cut it; the lessor had no right of entry on the land, and therefore had no power to cut it; and the lessee, having no interest in it, would neither enclose nor protect it. The consequence was, that the timber on the estates of the Church was in a very bad and unsatisfactory condition. It was therefore proposed that all timber now growing on the leasehold es- 1216 tates held under the Church should be valued at the next period of renewal, and paid for by the lessee, and thenceforth be considered as his property. It was also proposed that the future fines should be assessed upon the value of the land, without reference to any timber growing thereon. There were also facilities provided for the reimbursement of any sums expended, either by the lessor or the lessee, for the improvement of the estate, which would occasion unusual outlay; but, in future, those arrangements would be made on a valuation at the end of every twenty-one years, instead of every seven years, as at present, a circumstance which would be at once a benefit to the lessee, and a security to the interests of the Church, for it would afford scope for the improvement of the property, without depriving the Church of any ultimate advantage which might accrue from that improvement. He thought that these details would remove from the Bill the imputation that it was a Bill for the alienation of the property of the Church. He would not defend himself from such an imputation, as he trusted that, with his well-known opinions, it was quite unnecessary. He thought the Bill would enable the Church to improve its property, and by its improvement to increase its means for the spiritual instruction of the people. Such were the material provisions of the Bill, so far as regarded the relations between the Church and the lessees of its estates. The Bill also comprised other arrangements not wanting in importance for the management of the estates vested in bishops, deans, and chapters. It would give to those high dignitaries fixed instead of fluctuating incomes. That had always been the intention of the Legislature, but hitherto it had been inadequately realised. Some bishops had received more, others less, than the income intended for them. To put an end to this state of things, to secure the regularity of the incomes of the right rev. Prelates, and to guard them against any injury which might accrue from this change of system, it was proposed in the case of all bishops appointed subsequently to the passing of the Act of 1848, to vest the management of their estates in the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, the bishops receiving in the meantime the fixed incomes assigned to them by law until they were provided with separate estates and endowments to that amount, while the surplus was to be transferred to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners 1217 for the purposes of that Commission. It was not proposed to take the management of the corporate estates belonging to our cathedral and collegiate churches, nor the estates of deans and chapters, out of the hands of those bodies. Where their incomes were fixed by law, those incomes would be paid to them. Any deficiency would be made good by the Commissioners, and the sums so advanced would be charged on the estates attached to their incumbencies. In order to provide for any unforeseen emergency which might arise out of these changes, power was given to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners to borrow money on debentures. With respect to the whole measure which he had now introduced to their Lordships—and he well knew how imperfectly—he had only to repeat the observations with which he had commenced, that he presented it to them in the hope that it would receive their careful and deliberate consideration. If their Lordships should take, as he hoped they would do, the usual course of reading the Bill a second time, and should then refer it to a Select Committee, they would be able to decide which of its provisions ought to remain, and which ought to be omitted. It was not for him to give advice to the right rev. bench of Bishops—advice as to the course which they ought to pursue: but this he might be permitted to say, that he thought it would be impracticable to carry through Parliament, as it was at present constituted, or as it might be hereafter constituted, any Bill for the purpose of enabling the Church to run out its leases, and to enter into the full enjoyment of their estates without full consideration for the lessees—and that even in ease such a provision could be carried, it would be matter of doubt whether it would be prudent that bishops and ecclesiastical dignitaries should be changed into the holders of landed property, and become landlords at rackrents, and liable to all the inconveniences and vicissitudes of such a position. If such a large amount of income could be raised by such a measure as the present for the benefit of the Church—an amount which in the opinion of some might be doubled and even tripled by the new system of management—if such an increase of revenue could be realised for the Church either by this or any similar measure—then he put it to the right rev. Bench to consider whether it would not be most conducive to their own interests to give—he 1218 would not say a courteous and careful, but a scrutinising and even suspicious, attention to its provisions. Feeling confidence in the character of the measure itself, and in the advantages which it was calculated to produce, and feeling confidence also in the character of the illustrious body to whom he submitted it, he now moved that this Bill be read a second time.
The ARCHBISHOP of CANTERBURY
said: My Lords, the noble Earl who has opened this complicated and delicate subject to the House with so much clearness and candour began by saying, that he approached the subject with much anxiety; and I trust that your Lordships will give me credit when I say, that I rise with peculiar reluctance and embarrassment on the present occasion. It is not without the greatest pain that I speak a word in disparagement of a measure proposed by Her Majesty's Government, with a sincere desire, I am assured, of promoting the best interests of the Church. And I know that it proceeded from a Commission which has been justly characterised by the noble Earl, two of the Members of which I had the privilege of naming, and which had no other object (it could have no higher object) than to make better provision for the religious wants of the community. Under these sentiments, which are shared, as I know, by my right rev. Brethren around me, no other than the strongest motives could impel me to desire any delay in the second reading of the Bill. But, my Lords, we are impelled by the strongest motives, by a paramount sense of duty, to express our apprehensions regarding this measure. We cannot, as at present advised, give assent to the principle of a Bill which we consider as tantamount to an alienation of the last remaining possessions of the Church—possessions of which the corporations now holding them are for the time trustees and guardians, and which their successors have a right to receive from them, as they received them from their predecessors. My Lords, the Bill before us gives to present lessees of Church property the right of perpetual renewal; and the right of perpetual renewal seems to us to be possession. To concede such possession seems to us the violation of a trust which we cannot conscientiously surrender. But, my Lords, the noble Earl has declared, in the distinctest terms, that in sending this Bill to a Select Committee, we do not pledge ourselves to support it finally, or to admit the principle of per 1219 petual renewal. My Lords, if this can, be established and generally understood, the apprehensions which influence me will be greatly relieved. I had apprehended that, according to Parliamentary usage, a Select Committee would have the power of inquiring into the several clauses of the Bill, of examining, revising, and changing its details; but not of altering its general purport, or of inquiring generally into the subject of Church leases. It could not be at liberty to inquire, for instance, whether any better mode than that proposed in the Bill might be devised for delivering the estates of the Church from their present state of thraldom, and making them more available to the general interests of the Church at large. But if I am misinformed in this respect, and if the Committee are at liberty, not only to consider the present measure, but to receive such other plans of treating this property as may be proposed, to compare them with the recommendation of the Commission, and report to your Lordships the result of their deliberations, the object which we had in view in desiring the postponement of the Bill will be, in a great measure, attained. If it shall then appear, after the large and full inquiries of the Committee, that no better mode of dealing with Church property can be recommended, more free from the objections to which the present measure is exposed, we shall still have that measure before us; and if it be then approved by your Lordships, our consciences will be so far relieved that we shall not be yielding to a primâ facie expediency, but to a sort of moral necessity. For your Lordships must not suppose that, in objecting to the proposed change, I am defending the present system. The present system is neither defensible in theory nor satisfactory in practice, and has nothing to recommend it except that it has been acted on for 300 years. I am so far from upholding that system, that I signed a petition to Her Majesty in favour of Church extension, which assumed that the management of Church property might be improved. I shall he most happy to concur in any measure which may produce such an effect, consistently with security of the property itself. My Lords, I have thus ventured to state the grounds of my hesitation concerning the second reading of this Bill. If it be clearly understood that the Select Committee is at liberty to take the whole subject into consideration, with reference to the present 1220 measure alone, my objections to the second reading will be in a great measure removed.
The BISHOP of LONDON
wished that some one of their Lordships better acquainted than himself with the rules of that House would point out how far the noble Earl (the Earl of Carlisle) was correct in stating that by assenting to the second reading of this Bill, they were not committing themselves to its principle. He strongly objected to the principle of giving the power of perpetual renewals of Church leases; and the House ought not to assent to that principle without considering carefully what the right of the lessee was in a legal, an equitable, and a moral point of view. He certainly thought the lessee's right was not a legal, nor an equitable, much less a moral one, and that all he was entitled to was the exact value of his interest, whatever it might be, and which must be capable of a definite estimate. The Ecclesiastical Commissioners, who bad now vested in them a large amount of property in lands and tithes, had dealt with the lessees on the assumption that the latter had no legal or equitable right; and if they adopted the principle of this Bill, they would, to a certain extent, throw a doubt upon the transactions of the Commissioners as to the sale and purchase of reversions. He did not agree that there were no other measures for providing for the spiritual destitution of the country but measures like this, which would subject the property of the Church to great diminution. No one was more desirous than he was to see the property of the Church made available for relieving that spiritual destitution; but that would not be accomplished by that Bill. In fact, the Bill would deprive the population of a future day of the means of supplying that destitution. It would rob posterity. He and his right rev. Brethren held the property of the Church in trust for the people of this country, and they felt that it would be a dereliction of their trust if they needlessly sacrificed one iota of what the Church was bound not to surrender. He was ready, however, to admit that the ancient system of managing Church property, which had come down from the times of Elizabeth to the present day, was imperfect and defective; and therefore he wished to see the whole question investigated before a Select Committee of their Lordships—for he was sure there could not be a more competent or impartial tribunal—in order to discover 1221 how the resources of the Church could be made more available for the spiritual instruction of the people; and also to consider, he would not say the rights, but the claims of the lessees, which, as far as they were fair and just, ought certainly to be considered. He hoped that their Lordships would pause before they sanctioned the principle of giving the lessees at once a right of perpetual renewal. Whatever course was ultimately pursued, the present occupiers of sees were in no way personally interested, because they would receive sufficient protection from the Legislature; but no lay Lord having risen to express his opinion, he had felt it to be his duty to the Church, for which he was a trustee, to make the few observations he had addressed to their Lordships.
§ The DUKE of RICHMOND
thought this Bill would operate much more against the lessees than against the lessors; but he was willing to allow the Bill a second reading, on the distinct understanding that in assenting to the second reading, noble Lords were not pledged to any thing but a full and fair inquiry before the Select Committee. The Select Committee, he could assure the right rev. Prelates, would have the power of altering every single word in the Bill, except the word "whereas," at the beginning. He did not assert that the lessees had a strictly legal right, but he said they were placed in a position in which the lessors were so completely interested in granting them a renewal, that they hardly ever ventured to refuse. The lessees in England were not nearly so provident as their brother lessees in Ireland; for if their Lordships looked to the Act of Parliament in Ireland, they would find it contained a clause allowing the lessees to force the renewals of their leases. The lessees ought to have done the same in this country, and then we should not have had these discussions so constantly taking place on that subject. But he had risen to say that to many of the details of this Bill he strongly objected; but he could scarcely be one who wished to give up to the lessees the property that belonged to the Church, because he desired to see the Church have more means at its disposal than it had; but, in considering this question, he thought they were bound to take into account the fair and moral right of the lessees of Church property. He thought the Ecclesiastical Commissioners ought to have treated these lessees in the same way as they treated their own tenants—they ought not to have 1222 rackrented them, but dealt liberally with them in a way that would have done justice both to themselves and the tenants.
The DUKE of BUCCLEUCH
said, that he had lately presented a petition from the Dean and Chapter of Westminister, praying, as he believed other petitioners had prayed, to be heard by counsel at the bar of the House against the Bill. This was a reasonable request, which he thought their Lordships ought not to refuse. Here was a Bill, which though professed to be brought forward on public grounds, was in reality a Bill affecting particular interests. He feared if they were to assent to the proposition of the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Carlisle) and read the Bill a second time, it would be tantamount to affirming its principle. He did not much approve of the suggestion of referring the Bill to a Select Committee. It was a convenient and expeditious device for pushing the Bill through the second reading, but it certainly was not that course which was best calculated to promote careful discussion and mature deliberation upon the question, the importance of which must be evident to all. The best course, and the most creditable by far, would be to refer the whole question of the management of episcopal and capitular estates to a Select Committee, with instructions that they should also take into consideration the Bill now befor their Lordships. Such a Committee would, no doubt, devote to the question all the attention that its complicated importance required; and it would be time enough for their Lordships to undertake to legislate on the subject after the labours of that Committee had been concluded, and their report sent in. He admitted that he had only glanced over the present Bill; but the impression which his mind had received frem the superficial view that he had been enabled to take of it was, that it was the commencement of a system for the alienation of the property in the hands of the Church, and that its inevitable tendency would be to destroy that independence which a Church, especially in this country, ought always to enjoy. It would, in fact, be only leaving them stipends out of their own property. At a, moment like the present, when the aggression of a foreign Potentate had created such an excitement in the public mind, it was the duty of the Legislature to take care lest an encroachment no less dangerous should be attempted from a quarter not so remote. He confessed that he looked upon the present measure with some distrust, because 1223 he believed there were good grounds for apprehending that it would do more to destroy the independence of the Church than to benefit its revenues. With these convictions, he could not consent to give a silent vote. He had stated his views as briefly as was consistent with perspicuity, and he hoped their Lordships would consider the suggestion he had taken the liberty to submit.
§ The EARL of HARROWBY
was understood to express his general approval of the principle of the Bill, and of the suggestion for referring it to a Select Committee. Such a course was not unusual, and he believed it might with great propriety be adopted in the present case. A reference to a Committee did not necessarily imply an affirmation of the principle of the measure—it would merely indicate an opinion on the part of their Lordships that the present state of Church property was far from satisfactory, and that it was desirable that it should be inquired into with a view to its better regulation. He would not enter into the details of the measure; but he could not conceal his conviction, that his right rev. Friend the Bishop of London had dealt rather too hardly with it. He was far from expressing an unqualified approval of all the provisions of the Bill; but he should be sorry that their Lordships should rashly reject the only measure that had yet been submitted to provide for the great and growing wants of the Church.
My Lords, whatever difference of opinion there may be as to the details of this measure, there is one point, at all events, upon which there appears to be an unanimous concurrence of conviction, namely, that the correspondences which have taken place upon this question, and the amount of attention which it has attracted amongst the public, and the reports of the various Committees which have been appointed to consider it in both Houses of Parliament, have created a necessity for some legislation upon the subject. On the one hand, I believe that the public mind has been so excited upon this question, and that so strong a feeling has been aroused throughout the country as to the propriety of instituting an investigation into the management of this description of property, that it has become desirable, and indeed essential, with a view to the interest as well of the Church as of the lessees, that Parliament should expeditiously—yet not with more expedition 1224 than may be consistent with due deliberation—determine upon a clear and definite course of policy upon the subject. On the other hand, it cannot be denied that there prevails amongst the public a very general, and, indeed, I think, a very justifiable impression, that Parliament ought not to think of taking this question in hand without having previously given to all parties concerned at least as full a notice and as clear an intimation of the intentions of the Government and the Legislature with respect to it, as it is customary to allow even to persons who have an interest in a private Bill. For my own part, I should have no hesitation as to the course I should be disposed to pursue, if I could bring myself to believe that the statement which has been made by a noble Lord who spoke in this debate, was strictly accurate, namely, that the option we have to exercise in this matter is simply this—whether we shall affirm or reject the principle of this Bill? But I do not think that the case can be so stated. It appears to me that the question may be compressed into narrower limits, and that it does not comprise so important a proposition. If I could think that by voting for the referring of this subject to a Select Committee, I was necessarily rejecting the Bill, and expressing my disapproval of its principle, I should be averse to take such a course, for I should be sorry to do anything the effect of which would be to negative the only project that has as yet been submitted with a view to the attainment of an object which all must admit to be desirable. But I do not think that, by acceding to the suggestion that has been made for the reference of this Bill to a Select Committee, the House shall be taking a course which can in any degree tend to the rejection of the principle of the measure. Neither do I think that the House would, by so doing, be necessarily affirming the principle. It seems to me that my right rev. Friend opposite (the Bishop of London) very much over-estimated the powers with which the Select Committee are proposed to be invested, when he hazards the opinion that the principle of the measure will be affirmed if your Lordships should think fit to refer it to that Committee. I am sure that my right rev. Friend will not hesitate to admit that it would not be unworthy of the Legislature to enter upon an investigation to ascertain by what means those objects may most effectively be attained which are detailed at length in the preamble of this Bill. The 1225 Bill appears by its preamble to be devoted to two principal purposes: firstly, to the improvement of the present system of leasing and managing the real property of the Church, and to render it most productive and beneficial to the Church, and most conducive to the spiritual welfare of the people, due regard being had to the just and reasonable claims of the present holders; and also to the improvement of the law and practice relating to the incomes of the bishops and members of cathedral establishments, so as best to secure to them fixed instead of fluctuating annual incomes. I am inclined to think that the noble Earl opposite was in error in assuming that the principle of allotting fixed incomes to the bishops has been adopted by Parliament. Undoubtedly it has been felt that there was a great variety and fluctuation of income among a body of men of equal rank, and that the income was not proportioned to the amount of duty, and endeavours were consequently made more to equalise both the labours and revenues of the respective seas, and to amend a system under which one prelate, by the number of fines falling to him, might be extremely opulent, and his successor in the see comparatively very poor. But these attempts cannot be said to have passed into a system, nor can it yet be affirmed that the principle of giving to all the bishops a fixed annual income has received a formal recognition from the Legislature. It is expressly stated in the last Report of the Commission upon this subject, that the object which they think it desirable for the Legislature to attain, is not to equalise the income of all the bishops for each particular year, but rather to establish such a state of things that, upon an average of years, the incomes of all the bishops shall appear to bear some proportion of equality. Therefore, it appears to me that the noble Earl opposite has spoken rather inconsiderately in saying that the Legislature, as yet at all events, has laid down any definite system on the subject of fixed incomes for all bishops. The last portion of this Bill involves some complicated arrangements whereby it is proposed that the whole of the episcopal revenues shall be taken into the management of the Commissioners—that, after being under their control for some time, they shall be reconverted into landed property, with a view to their being assigned again to the bishops, and distributed amongst the different sees, so as to provide equal endow- 1226 ments arising from land. Now, without pausing to examine the elaborate details of such a proposition, I am sure your Lordships will at least go with me to this extent, that such a proposition is one of unusual importance, and that the magnitude and the variety of the interests concerned, require that it should be made the subject of the most careful and the most deliberate consideration. The earlier portion of the Bill refers to the relative positions of lessors and lessees. The right rev. Prelate opposite (the Bishop of London) did not hesitate to express his disapproval of this portion of the measure. I understood him to say that he must always look with extreme disfavour on any proposition for granting to a tenant a right of renewal in perpetuity, because he could not but regard any such right as tantamount to a complete alienation of the property of the Church. Now, it is very certain that the lessees of Church property have no right, legal, moral, technical, or indefeasible, to a renewal of their leases. That we must take to be unquestionable; hut, at the same time that we make that admission, we cannot refuse to consider what is the immemorial custom with respect to such tenures, and what has been found in all times to be their practical result. We cannot but be aware that, as things now stand, it almost invariably happens that the lessee occupies this position in relation to the lessor, and has this kind of holding on the lessor, that although he may not have a legal right to the renewal of his lease, the lessor finds it his interest to renew it, and recognises in the lessee a moral claim almost as strong as a legal right. The difference between the value of a freehold estate and a lease renewable for ever, may be measured with accuracy, and represented by precise figures. A fee-simple property may be calculated, upon an average, to sell for thirty years' purchase; whereas, property held under a Church lease, with the understanding that the lease will be continually renewed, will sell for twenty-four or twenty-five years' purchase. The difference is only that between twenty-five and thirty. Now, my Lords, however anxious I may be to improve the estates of the Church, and however deeply sensible I may be of the importance of the Church's being in the possession of property adequate to her great requirements, I cannot bring myself to look upon this question in the light of the Church's being in full possession of all 1227 these estates, so that she has nothing to do to get them, in an absolute and unqualified sense, into her own hands, except to run out the lives, and let the leases revert to herself. We see that the control which she desires to exercise over them cannot be conferred otherwise than by an Act of Parliament; and if the Act be passed for her benefit, I think it is but equitable that the Church should grant some co-relative advantage to those against whom the Act will operate. We must look upon this question in an impartial aspect, and admit it to be one in which something must be conceded upon one side and upon the other. Such is the view which I take of the matter; but if the right rev. Prelate, or any body else, can point out to me any method whereby, without any injustice to the existing holders, the Church property may be increased to the requisite amount, without granting to the lessees the right of perpetual renewal, and without altering the present position, in that respect, of lessee and lessor, I do not hesitate to say that I should greatly prefer such a method to that now under consideration. There is one point to which I wish to call your Lordships' attention. The Bill proposes to do away with leases for lives renewable for ever. Now, in the case of agricultural property, a lease for lives is not generally found to be an advantageous description of property; but in case of a lease for lives renewable for ever the lease has an undying interest in keeping the property in a beneficial state, and in permanently improving it. This Bill, however, proposes to convert leases for lives into leases for terms of years. In a political point of view, this is a very material alteration, for it is converting a freehold into a mere personal property. The Bill proposes to alter altogether the incidents of a very large amount of property, which, if it were held upon leases for lives renewable for ever, would be of a most valuable description, and to take away both civil and political rights. This is a subject which, in my opinion, deserves most serious consideration; and, though I would be very unwilling to appear to reject what is said to be the principle of this Bill, there are some words in the preamble which excite great doubts in my mind. The preamble not only recites the object of the Bill, but adds that the Commissioners had reported, and that it is expedient to carry into effect their recommendation; and it is difficult to say whether, by assenting to 1228 that preamble, your Lordships would not bind yourselves, to a certain extent, to an approval of the principle of the measure. I think it is most desirable, for the interests of all parties, that some adjustment of this question should be effected without any undue delay. I do not desire to reject this Bill; but, on the other hand, I think it desirable that the subject should be investigated calmly, carefully, and deliberately, and that the fullest opportunity should be afforded to all parties of stating their respective cases. I will, therefore, suggest to the noble Marquess opposite whether a course may not be taken by which your Lordships would neither affirm nor reject the principle of the Bill. I apprehend that there will be a technical difficulty in the course recommended by my noble Friend (the Duke of Buccleuch), because the House cannot refer a Bill to a Select Committee until it has been read a second time. I will suggest whether the second reading may not be postponed, and a Committee appointed to investigate the subject, to whom may be referred, not the Bill itself, but the reports of the Commissioners upon which the Bill is founded.
§ EARL FITZWILLIAM
thought there would be great danger in adopting the proposition just made by his noble Friend, because, if his advice were followed, no Bill on this subject would pass in the course of the present Session. He believed that his noble Friend was aware of the interest which was felt on this question by all classes of persons connected with this description of property, as well lessors as lessees; and when he recollected how long this question had been hung up already, he thought his noble Friend would agree with him that it was not desirable to take a course which would have almost the necessary effect of suspending legislation upon the subject till another Session. He agreed with his noble Friend that, in a pecuniary point of view, the lessees would not stand quite so well under the Bill as at present; but, at the same time, they must consider the advantages which they would derive from certainty of tenure. The right rev. Prelate said that lessees had no rights, either legal, equitable, or moral—
§ EARL FITZWILLIAM
observed, that there were difficulties in making distinctions between claims and rights, but the lessees certainly had claims. He con- 1229 ceived that the lessees had a strong claim for consideration. Two centuries ago much of the Church property was sold by a Government, which, if not a Government de jure, was at all events a Government de facto. At the Restoration a good deal of this property was restored to the Church, but under this condition—that the Church should grant the proprietors of the restored estates those leases which have been renewed ever since. Now, those persons had, in his opinion, a strong claim for consideration, although they might not be able to show any absolute right. There was another point in respect of which the lessees deserved to be treated with consideration, and that was the relief which they had afforded to the lessors from all troubles connected with landed properties during the past few years, when the occupation of land had been attended with some inconvenience and loss. He was quite sure that it was desirable that they should adopt such a course as would at least not have the effect of further postponing legislation upon this subject. He would support the second reading of the Bill, with the view of its being referred to a Select Committee, although he was far from saying that he was entirely satisfied with all its provisions.
§ The MARQUESS of LANSDOWNE
had no intention of entering upon any discussion in regard to the merits of the Bill, but would merely make a few remarks upon the course of proceeding which, according to the general expression of opinion, it appeared desirable for the House to pursue. He would begin by saying that there was very little in the speech of the noble Lord opposite with which he (the Marquess of Lansdowne) would be inclined, to disagree; but he did think that the noble Lord would see, upon consideration, the advantage of that course which had been proposed by his noble Friend near him (the Earl of Carlisle) and which was perfectly consistent with the objections entertained by the noble Lord and many others to the provisions of the Bill. That course was to give the Bill a second reading, without pledging any person whatever to any of its provisions, beyond the general declaration contained in the preamble, that the present state of Church property was not such as ought to be continued, and that it was desirable that the Legislature should interfere with the view of putting it on a better footing with respect to its objects, and with respect to the interests of those who held that property, 1230 as well as of those who occupied under them. Beyond this he considered nothing to be affirmed by giving the Bill a second reading. Their object was that the Bill should be considered; and unless they were willing to read it a second time, with the view of referring it to a Select Committee, the Committee could not go into the consideration of the Bill itself, although they might institute an inquiry into the reports of the Commissioners, on which the Bill was founded. What he wished was, that a Committee might have the opportunity of considering both the Bill and the reports of the Commissioners together. He would ask their Lordships whether it was not a great advantage in Committee upon any difficult and complicated subject that there should be a skeleton and outline of a Bill, which pledged no person to details, to form a substratum for the consideration of the Committee? Their Lordships might, if they thought proper, reject in detail every one of the specific enactments of the Bill; in case their Lordships agreed to the second reading he did not consider they would be in any degree pledged to the principle of the right of the lessees in all cases to an absolute renewal. The preamble of the Bill spoke of carrying into effect the recommendations of the Commissioners; but its terms were not such as to exclude all proposals for altering or adding to those recommendations; and he saw nothing to prevent them being either approved, rejected, or modified in the way most conducive to the interests of the Church, with a due regard to those claims which the right rev. Prelate admitted to belong to the occupier. He (the Marquess of Lansdowne) concurred with the noble Earl on the cross benches (Earl Fitzwilliam), that if they sent the reports of the Commissioners to a Select Committee, without giving it the power of considering the provisions of that Bill, it would be equivalent to postponing indefinitely all legislation on the subject. It was now fourteen or fifteen years since the question had been first brought forward, and all who were interested in it had been led to expect that some settlement would shortly take place. The interests of the Church and the interests of the occupiers had both been affected in a material degree by the delay already occasioned, as it had been found impossible, in the unsettled state of the question, to make any new bargains upon which the resources of the Church depended. The subject was one intimately connected with the spiritual instruction 1231 and the general interests of the people; besides that, it had an important bearing upon a great body of landed proprietors, and he thought, therefore, that in order to have it fully discussed, the Bill should now be read a second time pro formâ, and then referred to a Select Committee.
The BISHOP of OXFORD
rose to make a specific Motion in the direction pointed out by the speeches of the noble Duke (the Duke of Buccleuch) and the most rev. Prelate, namely, that a Select Committee of the House be appointed to consider by what system of management the capitular and other property of the Church could be rendered most productive to the said Church, and most conducive to the spiritual welfare of the people, due regard being had to the just and reasonable claims of persons now holding such property, whether under lease or otherwise. The noble Marquess (the Marquess of Lansdowne) had answered a most forcible objection brought against the course proposed to be pursued, by saying that although it was quite true the preamble of the Bill proposed to carry into effect the recommendation of the Commission, yet it contained certain qualifying words—namely, "with such modifications and additions." But the noble Lord had overlooked the conclusion of the sentence—"as hereinafter contained"—which did not leave the question an open one in any degree, but only modified the recommendations in the special manner provided by the clauses. He thought it was most desirable to approach the subject, pregnant as it was with the spiritual interests of future generations, in a manner the most unfettered and unprejudiced, and in which time could be given for the consideration of those claims and alleged rights a due regard to which was an essential part of that great duty of trusteeship, which primarily indeed belonged to his right rev. Brethren, but which in a secondary manner devolved upon all their Lordships. It might be objected that this course would produce delay, but it was a case to which the proverb "most haste is worst speed" might be applied; and he trusted they would at least be extremely cautious what measures on such a subject they carried through Parliament that Session.
To leave out all the words after the word 'That' to the end of the Motion, for the purpose of inserting the following words; namely, 'a Select Committee be appointed to consider by what System of Management the Real Property of the
Church in England and Wales belonging to the Archbishops and Bishops, to the Cathedrals and Collegiate Churches, and the several Members thereof, being Corporations Sole, and to the several minor Corporations aggregate, within the said Cathedrals, and also that vested in the Ecclesiastical Commissioners for England, could be rendered most productive and beneficial to the said Church, and most conducive to the spiritual welfare of the people, due regard being had to the just and reasonable Claims of the present Holders of such Property under Lease or otherwise.'
§ The EARL of CARLISLE
would give his most decided opposition to the Amendment. After the discussion which had taken place—after the general concurrence in the opinions which had been expressed—after the subject had been under consideration for upwards of ten years—after a Committee had been specially appointed last year, as to the report of which there had been no complaint—and after the Government had brought forward a measure founded upon that report—he thought it would be acting a most ungracious part now on a sudden to refuse the Bill the courtesy of a second reading, for—he thought the noble Lord had admitted—at least the present Session. He (the Earl of Carlisle) had been most astonished at the observation of the right rev. Prelate (the Bishop of Oxford) with respect to the preamble; because it would be perfectly open to the House in Committee to strike out the preamble; besides which they might alter every single provision in the Bill; and then the words "hereinafter contained" would apply to the clauses so altered. If a Select Committee were appointed, he thought that the person would be very sanguine who should suppose that its report would finally dispose of the question; and as he considered that the effect of the Amendment, if carried, would be a virtual withdrawal of the Bill, he should give it his most strenuous opposition.
§ The EARL of ABERDEEN
said, the noble Earl who had just sat down had spoken of a second reading as a matter of courtesy; but the fact was, that the second reading, whatever might be the understanding they had come to, affirmed the principle of the Bill. He knew it was often difficult to explain what was the principle of a Bill; but that principle, whatever it might be, was, as he had said, undoubtedly affirmed by the second reading. If the principle of this Bill were, as had been represented by the most rev. Prelate, the renewal of leases in perpetuity, that would be admitted by the second reading, and 1233 they would be debarred from touching it in Committee. The provisions of the Bill they might deal with in Committee, but the principle they could not. The second reading was, therefore, not exactly a mere matter of courtesy.
§ EARL GREY
entirely concurred with the noble Earl who had just spoken, as to the adoption of the principle of the Bill being implied in the second reading of it; but what was the principle of the Bill? The noble Lords had both stated that they were willing to take as the definition of that principle the first, and the first part only, of the preamble, namely—and this was all that the House was asked to decide by the second reading—that it was acknowledged on all hands that the existing management of Church property was such as to be most injurious to the Church, the lessee, and the public, and that they would endeavour to pass an Act which should substitute for the present such a system of management as should render it most beneficial to the said Church, and most conducive to the spiritual welfare of the people, due regard being had to the rights of the present holders of such property, whether by lease or otherwise. They might alter the preamble in Committee, and even say that whereas a report had been presented with which they did not agree, such an alteration was proposed. Although the Amendment was not that the Bill be read a second time that day six months, it did, in fact, negative the Bill; and considering the present condition of Church property, he considered that the House would incur a great responsibility if they thus decided against any legislation on the subject whatever.
The ARCHBISHOP of CANTERBURY
stated, that after the explicit declaration of the noble Marquess and the noble Earl, as to the instructions of the Select Committee, and also of the noble Duke and noble Lord opposite, as to the powers which the Committee would possess, he would no longer think himself justified in opposing the second reading of the Bill.
§ After a few words from Earl POWIS,
§ On Question, that the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Motion,
§ The House divided:—Content 46; Non-Content 28: Majority 18.
§ Resolved in the Affirmative.
§ Bill read 2a accordingly, and referred to a Select Committee.
§ House adjourned till To-morrow.