HL Deb 04 May 1858 vol 150 cc1-19

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.

THE EARL OF DERBY moved the second reading of this Bill, and said, he trusted he should not be considered as abusing their Lordships' time if, for the purpose of more satisfactorily explaining the objects and intentions of the Bill, he recapitulated very briefly the course of legislation adopted of late years with respect to church property, with the view of rendering it more available for ecclesiastical purposes, and increasing the means of endowment in reference to the parochial clergy. The first Act having a direct bearing on this subject was the 6 & 7 of the late King—the first at least relating to this part of the United Kingdom; for two or three years before he had, while in office, introduced an Act relating to Ireland, which dealt with a considerable part of the same subject in respect to the Church in Ireland, and which had the effect of suppressing a certain number of eccle- siastical dignities, and of causing their revenues to be paid over to a common fund for ecclesiastical purposes, It contained also provisions to cause certain rich sees to make contributions out of their revenues to the ecclesiastical fund, and to enable lessees holding on renewable leases to convert them into perpetuities, on paying over to the common fund purchase money equal to the difference of the value between a perpetuity and renewable lease. Two or three years after this, there was passed the 6 & 7 of the late King. By that Act it was provided that some of the rich sees should make fixed money payments to the episcopal fund, so as to reduce their net receipts to a certain amount, while to certain of the poorer sees fixed and definite payments were made, in order to raise their incomes to a certain annual average amount. There was, however, no transfer of the management of the property; but by, he believed, the 3 & 4 Viet., power was given to the bishops and chaplains to transfer to the management of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners the estates vested in them, and there was created a common fund, derived from canonries and prebends and other ecclesiastical preferments which were suppressed, which was made applicable to the augmentation of small benefices. The operation of that Act was not rapid, but it was very satisfactory as far as it went. In the 6 &c 7 of Queen Victoria an Act was passed, known as Sir Robert Peel's Act, which enabled a more immediate application to be Made of the surplus revenues of the Church. By the provisions of that Act 200 ecclesiastical districts were forthwith to be established, to which was to be assigned an annual income of £150 each. But, in order to meet this immediate demand on funds not realized, the Ecclesiastical Commissioners were empowered to borrow £600,000 from the Queen Anne's Bounty fund, in exchange for a perpetual annuity amounting to £18,000 a year; and it Was calculated that by the time the capital sum of £600,000 should be exhausted, the endowments of the ecclesiastical districts accruing from the provisions of previous Acts would increase, so as to enable the fund, not only to meet the charge to which it was already subject, but also the additional charge of the £18,000 annuity. This anticipation had been completely realized—the money was borrowed and the income of the Commissioners had been found adequate to meet its engagements. The next Act was one of a very important character, and was the basis of the present system. By the 13 & 14 of the Queen, there were to be taken from the Ecclesiastical Commissioners three Commissioners, to be called the Estates Commissioners, in whom was to be vested the management of all property devolving to the Commission. Of these Commissioners, two were appointed by the Crown—one paid and another unpaid; and a third paid Commissioner was appointed by the Archbishop of Canterbury. The Bishops were to have a certain definite income, and all above that they were left to pay over to the Ecclesiastical Commission. By this Act also the Episcopal and Common funds were merged into one, and the proceeds, from whatever source arising, were to be applied indiscriminately either to the necessary augmentation of the incomes of the poorer sees, to the increase of sees, or to the augmentation of the poorer benefices of the Church. By an Act of the following year, the Bishops and Chapters were empowered, with the consent of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, to enter into arrangements with their tenants for the purpose of enfranchising their property. That was a most important step, and was in accordance with the principles laid down by their Lordships' Committee in 1851. The Committee of 1851 recommended that the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, instead of continuing to pay the Bishops and Chapters a certain fixed income, should retransfer to them estates of sufficient magnitude to yield an income equivalent to that previously assigned to them. These estates were to be transferred free of all obligations, and to be held in fee simple, subject to no drawbacks whatever; but it would be necessary, of course, to lay down certain regulations under which alone the estates so restored should be managed. The enfranchisement of estates had worked in the most satisfactory manner. In order to show that the enfranchisement of the property of the Church had worked greatly to the advantage of the Church, he would refer to what had occurred in regard to the Chapter of York. The total value of their estate was £437,000; there was under lease, £413,700; enfranchised, £13,000. At present there was enfranchised £252,592, and there remained to be enfranchised £161,000. After making allowance for all claims the total income of the Commissioners had allowed them to make arrangements of the most satisfactory kind, and after defraying all charges, a large surplus was realized capable of being applied to the general purposes of the Church. Those operations had been carried to a considerable extent, but were checked by Sir Robert Peel's Act. Since that time the Commission had had, after paying all expenses, a small surplus in hand—last year he believed it was £7,000, and this year £12,000. He believed he was correct in saying that the Commissioners had come to the determination to apply that sum for the purpose of endowments. Having stated the general course of legislation on the subject up to the present time, he would shortly state the objects of the measure he had to propose. It was very nearly the same as passed through the House of Commons last year, and failed in obtaining the assent of their Lordships only because of the lateness of the period at which it came before them. The transfer of the management of estates to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners had hitherto beets a purely voluntary act; but, with few exceptions, all the Bishops and Chapters had already adopted that course. One of the objects of the present Bill was to render compulsory upon the avoidance of a See a measure which had already been found practically beneficial. But there was a further provision to the effect that the Commissioners should, as soon as conveniently may be after the es- tates of the See shall have become vested in the Commissioners, transfer to the Sec lands of sufficient value to afford the statutory income to the See, which should be held as an endowment in fee simple, and in lieu of the money payment. From that time no interference would be allowed with the estate so restored; except to see that it was kept in proper condition, and that no improvident or improper leases were granted. The same arrangement might be carried into effect on the request of any existing Bishop. A Chapter never died, and therefore the same provision could not be made with respect to it; but what the Bill proposed was that the Commissioners should have the power of compelling Chapters to keep their accounts in a certain form, and also of controlling the payments made out of the Chapter funds, It likewise provided that no renewal of leases should be granted after the passing of the Act, but that Chapters should be entitled, upon showing that their revenues individually and collectively were diminished by the deprivation of the fines payable on the renewal of leases, to incomes secured upon the general funds of the trust equivalent to what was received by them at the present time. There was in this Bill no provision that the same principle which was applied to episcopal estates, namely—that after the estate was freed from the claims of the lessees an equivalent value should be restored to the Bishop—should be extended to capitular estates; but it was intended to introduce such a clause in Committee, His noble Friend on the cross benches (the Duke of Marlborough), who was as familiar with this subject as any man could be, had laid on their Lordships' table a Bill for extending the operation of this principle to the estates of Chapters; but it proposed to attain this object in a mode different from that proposed in the Bill, which he now submitted to their Lordships' consideration; for instead of simply prohibiting the renewal of leases on fines, and trusting to the individual interest of the members of the Chapter to bring the estates under the control of the Commissioners, he proposed that as each dignity in these Chapters, each deanery, canonry, and so on became vacant, its share of the capitular property should be vested in the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, and the successor to it should receive, not the whole share, but a certain amount equal to that winch his predecessor received; and that when three-fourths of the members of the Chapter had died, and consequently the interest in three-fourths of the property had been transferred to the Commissioners, they should take into their hands all the property of the Chapter and deal with it as was proposed by this Bill. He was quite open to consider whether the mode suggested by his noble Friend or that proposed by this Bill was the most desirable means of arriving at the same end, and he saw so little practical difference between them that he should be very much disposed to adopt that course which upon discussion should appear to be most satisfactory, or, he was afraid he must say, least unsatisfactory, to the Chapters themselves. He ought not to conclude without informing their Lordships that in Committee a noble Earl near him would propose the insertion of clauses for the purpose of dealing with the Paddington estate, the case of which was very peculiar. The course which he proposed to adopt was to ask their Lordships to give a second reading to the Bill as it stood, and as it had received the entire assent of the other House of Parliament, and then to send it to a Select Committee, for the purpose of considering what clauses it would be necessary to introduce in order to give greater security to individuals, and to meet any special cases which might arise. He had forgotten to say that there were in the Bill clauses of a general character for securing to particular localities funds, or a certain portion of funds, arising within them from sources other than the tithes. He should not object to their Lordships, after passing the second reading of this Bill, reading a second time that of the noble Duke (the Duke of Marlborough). The two Bills might then be referred to the same Committee, and it would be easy so to incorporate them as to embody the various provisions in such form as should be most satisfactory to their Lordships. Looking to the great interests involved in this question, and to the earnest desire exhibited by the Bishops of the Church, the Chapters, and more especially by the lessees, that the matter should be brought to a speedy and amicable conclusion, he earnestly hoped that their Lordships would read this Bill a second time, and that, although introduced rather late, it might pass both Houses of Parliament during the present Session.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.


said, that the course pursued by the noble Earl in explaining the provisions of the Bill to the second reading of which he was about to ask their Lordships to agree, had rendered it unnecessary that he should occupy the time of the House; but he could not let the present opportunity pass without expressing his sense of the importance of the question with which both Bills proposed to deal—the question of the enfranchisement of leaseholds. In the first place as some doubt had existed as to whether the plan of enfranchisement embodied in the Report of the Episcopal and Capitular Commission in the year 1850 or that which emanated from their Lordships' House was the better one, he would quote the authority of Mr. Smith, the surveyor of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, who, when examined before the Committee of the House of Commons, in 1856, stated that while under the plan of the Episcopal and Capitular Revenue Commissioners the Church would, out of every £100 of Church property, receive only £48, £44, or £37, under the scheme of their Lordships' Committee it would receive £57 or £55. In another portion of his evidence he stated that the gain to the Church by the adoption of the recommendations of their Lordships' Committee would be equal to £60,000 a year. As it was now hopeless to expect to obtain any grant from Parliament for the relief of spiritual destitution, it was of the deepest importance that they should consider how funds could be provided out of the surplus revenues of the Church for the exigencies of spiritual destitution. The noble Earl had referred to what was called the "Common Fund" and its purposes. This fund bad been gained out of the suspension of the canonries and prebendal stalls and the surplus revenues of the capitular endowments. But there was now a new source of revenue, first brought into action in 1854, derived from the enfranchisement of leaseholds. At the present moment a Committee of their Lordships' House was sitting to inquire into the spiritual destitution of our large towns. He had no doubt the result of that Committee would lead to some suggestions better than any that he could submit to their Lordships. But he could not allow that occasion to pass without dwelling for a few moments on the vast importance of the step about to be taken, viewed in the light of the great wants to be supplied. The second Report of the Church Inquiry Commissioners appointed in 1836 stated that there were 3,528 benefices under £150 a year; and that it would require no less a sum than £235,000 a year to raise all benefices with a population of between 500 and 2,000 persons to au annual value of £200; all benefices with a population of 2,000 and upwards to £300; and all those with a population of 5,000 and upwards to £400. Since that time the number of benefices augmented by the Commissioners was 882, the annual rent-charge paid for their augmentation being £46,833. But in 1836 it was stated that there were 1,253 benefices under public patronage requiring augmentation, there would thus remain 371 benefices still to be augmented. The balance of the sum then deemed sufficient for the augmentation, and now remaining to be provided was £81,072. He had, however, before him the records of an inquiry of a more recent date. He alluded to the Commission moved for by a noble Earl when in the other House of Parliament to inquire into the practicability of subdividing densely populated parishes. Those Commissioners reported that there was a pressing need for 600 new churches and several very striking cases of destitution were mentioned. To give their Lordships some idea of the requirements still to be met, he might mention that in the parish of St. George the Martyr, Southwark, with a population of 51,824 persons, there were only 500 free sittings. In St. Mary's, Carlisle, with a population of more than 16,000, there were but 250 free sittings. He might go through a long list of similar cases, in all of which new churches and new endowments ought to be provided. Such being the destitution with which they had to deal, he would now direct their Lordships' attention to the probable amount to be gained by the transfer of property which he proposed. He would take the case cited by the noble Earl who had just sat down—namely, the transfer of the property belonging to the Chapter of York. That was a case in which a real augmentation of property had been the consequence of the transfer having been made. Before the transfer the average income of the property of the Chapter was £3,000 a year; the income agreed for by the Commissioners was £4,400, and it was stated that the value of the estates in fee simple was £427,000. The effect of the transfer in that case upon a fair computation would be, that a surplus of £81,000 would be paid over to the funds of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners when the transactions were completed. Now, assuming that the system of enfranchising in capitular estates was extensively carried out, and that the amount derivable from renewals of leases was 30 per cent of the annual value—as stated in evidence before the Committee alluded to—the entire yearly income from the Chapter estates, with the additional sum which would be acquired from enfranchisements, might be assumed to be £422,850. If, therefore, the incomes of the Chapters were paid as fixed by the Act of Parliament at £2,000 for each dean and £1,000 for each canon, the total expenditure upon the 28 Chapters would be £287,620, leaving a balance of £135,227 to be paid to the common fund of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. He thought that his estimate of the probable income from these transfers was exceedingly moderate, and his calculation of the expenditure excessive; and his belief was, that a sum of £150,000 a year was yet to be provided by the enfranchisement of capitular property. He feared, however, that without some such change in the law as he nosy proposed there was no prospect of the process of enfranchisement being speedily carried out. The enfranchisements which had already taken place were very few in number; nor was that fact a surprising one when they remembered that the present law provided that whatever surplus might accrue from that process should go to the common fund of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. It could not be expected, therefore, that the Chapters should be as anxious to effect enfranchisements as they would be if they derived some immediate benefit from them. It was found that whereas most of the estates of the Sees were under the immediate management of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, and the Bishops of those Sees had little or no interest in the property, inasmuch as they received fixed incomes from the Commissioners, the enfranchisements actually carried out upon the episcopal estates since 1852 were 923 in number, and the purchases 94. From 1852 to 1857 there were only 448 cases of enfranchisement by the Chapters, and 32 cases of purchase. It thus appeared that the number of enfranchisements for each of the 28 Chapters did not exceed an average of three per annum. However beneficial the process of enfranchisement might be, it did not then seem likely that it would be carried out very rapidly, in consequence of the provision which deprived the body who had the conduct of the operation of any interest in it. As the noble Earl had alluded to the Bill which he had had the honour of laying on their Lordships' table, he would take the Opportunity of pointing out some of the differences between that Bill and the Bill of the noble Earl. The Bill of the noble Earl proposed to transfer the estates of Chapters to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, in the same way in effect as the estates of Bishops were transferred, but in a different manner, and in a manner which appeared to him to be open to very serious objections. In the first place, the plan proposed by the noble Earl was not a direct mode of proceeding. It was very advantageous that the public should know the actual effect of Acts of Parliament, and one evil connected with Acts affecting ecclesiastical affairs was that the subject was so recondite that the public at large were hardly aware of the true effect of those Acts. By the Bill of the noble Earl no lease could be renewed beyond 1880.


interposed to explain that that was the period fixed beyond which Church leases should not be renewable on the payment of fines; that this was done with a view of more easily estimating the value of these estates and the interest in the leases which still remained.


If this Bill became law, the Chapters could not renew their leases beyond the year 1880; so that the effect must be that the property of those Chapters which depended for their incomes upon the renewal of leases would become much diminished, and they would be compelled to apply for compensation to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, the Bill provided that such compensation might be given by the Commissioners upon the Chapter in question being willing to surrender the property, in respect of which compensation was demanded, and thus the property of the Chapters would, as it were by piecemeal, and in small portions at a time, be transferred to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. It had always been provided in former Bills that when estates were transferred to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, no part of the revenues so derived should be made available to the purposes of the Common Fund, until an estate was conveyed to the Chapter; but there was no such security given by the Bill of the noble Earl. That he looked upon as a very important difference between his own Bill and that of the noble Earl, As the propositions of his measure had already been referred to by the noble Earl he need not trouble their Lordships by going into them. They were not new. He had made similar proposals in "another place," and it had there been objected that it would not be desirable to transfer suddenly too large an amount of property to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners; but by the provisions of the Bill which he had laid upon their Lordships' table the transfer would take place very gradually. For his own part, his sole object was to strengthen the hands of the Church in the great work in which she was engaged, and he would leave the matter in the hands of their Lordships, sure that their desire was to adopt that course which would prove most advantageous to the cause which they all had at heart.


said, that the question involved in these Bills was of such great importance to the Church, that as one of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners he thought he ought not to avoid making one or two observations. Several of the provisions of the Bill of the noble Earl (the Earl of Derby) were founded on the evidence given by himself and others of the Commissioners before the Committee of the other House; but he wished it to be understood that the measure did not emanate from them, but from Her Majesty's Government, and was founded upon the Resolution contained in the Report of the Committee of the House of Commons. As one of the Commissioners himself, he entirely approved of the general provisions of the Bill, which he thought would tend very much to facilitate the administration of the estates of the Church, in some respects simplifying that administration, and assist in developing the resources of the Church—an object which was equally sought by the Bill of the noble Duke. With regard to the Bill of the noble Duke, he had no objection to the principle suggested by his noble Friend as the best principle upon which the enfranchisement of Church property should be expedited; but he thought his noble Friend had very much exaggerated the amount of gain that would accrue to the fund of the Commission by the transfer. He hoped that, in Committee, both the Bill of his noble Friend and the Bill of the Government would receive such consideration as would enable their Lordships to pass a good and useful measure.


said, he did not rise to offer any objection to the principle of the Bill, but one part of it seemed liable to much doubt. He entirely concurred with the noble Duke as to the extreme importance of such a measure, especially with reference to the great need of religious instruction alluded to by his noble Friend on that, and by a right rev. Prelate (the Bishop of Exeter) on a previous evening. It was of great importance to our national progress that the vast estates of the Church should be improved to the utmost, and that the income of the dignitaries of our Church should be provided for in a manner best adapted to secure their independence and promote their usefulness. But he did not believe that the mode of managing Church property laid down in the Bill would have the effect anticipated. The principle upon which Parliament had for some time acted and which this Bill proposed to carry out was that of gradually converting the tenure of Church estates into a tenure similar to that by which their Lordships held their estates. It hail been stated that the total value of Church property was about £35,000,000, but nearly half of that sum represented the beneficial interest of lessees. Of that great estate therefore only one half really belonged to the Church. It was now proposed to convert the whole of this large estate, of which the Church had only one half of the interest into a smaller estate in which she should possess the whole, and to place the whole under one general management. He was afraid that plan would not answer. Their Lordships were aware what discretion and judgment were needed for the proper management of landed property. Questions continually arose upon the expediency of giving assistance to tenants, upon the prudence of accepting the highest or some other offer, upon the granting of a new lease, and upon matters of a like nature, which were often beset with great practical difficulties; and he was persuaded that they were questions with which no public Board sitting in London could satisfactorily deal in the case of estates scattered over almost every English county. The inevitable result of such a system would be to throw a power which was particularly liable to abuse into the hands of local agents. Though their Lordships, no doubt, intrusted a great amount of power with perfect confidence to their private agents, yet it must be remembered that the agents of a public body were in a situation which was much more liable to abuse, because they were not under the same responsibility, and did not act with the same amount of freedom in the exercise of their own discretion as the agents of private individuals. He was persuaded, therefore, that the property held at rack-rent was never likely to be well managed by a great public department, and he contended that experience fully proved that large landed estates administered by a public body were never, for any length of time, administered in a satisfactory manner. This had been very clearly elicited in the course of the inquiry which had taken place into the management of the Royal forests; but they need look no further for an illustration of the truth of the statement than to property under this very Commission. When they considered that it was quite a new institution, that new brooms proverbially "swept clean," and that there had been little time as yet for abuses to creep in, they might expect that property held by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners would have been well managed. The evidence which had been taken before the Committee of the House of Commons in 1856, proved, however, that great extravagance and mismanagement had even in these early days been attained, particularly in reference to the Nottinghamshire estates; and he was satisfied if the whole landed property of the Church were converted into estates held at rack-rent under the Commissioners that the receipts that would be derived from them would be much less than was anticipated in consequence of the enormous expenses which would be incurred in their management. It must not be supposed that he blamed the Ecclesiastical Commissioners for any particular cases of mismanagement which had occurred; for he repeated that it was utterly impossible for gentlemen sitting in London to exercise that control over agents acting in the country which was necessary to prevent abuses. He asked the Members of the right rev. Bench seriously to consider what would be the position of future Bishops under the arrangements provided by the Bill. It required that the estates which were to furnish the incomes of the Bishops should be assigned to each See, and that then the Bishops should manage those estates, subject to the control of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. The proposition was full of difficulties. A Bishop often succeeded to a see at an advanced age; he had no interest beyond his own life in the estates, and was it likely that he would, under such circumstances, apply his mind to the permanent improvement of the land as a good landlord would do? In bad years there might be losses from insolvent tenants or other causes, and, in fact, circumstances were continually arising which, if a person had only a short and doubtful interest in an estate, made it impossible for him to derive any income from it for two or three years. The position of a Bishop, then, whose time was required for the discharge of more important and sacred functions, was, that he was called upon to manage an estate which the Commissioners had assigned to him, and from which it was doubtful whether he would derive any income. But that was not all—the Bishop was liable to the control of the Commissioners with respect to the expenses which he was to incur, and he had to provide for such works and repairs as to them seemed necessary. Thus, these dignitaries would be placed in a position in which no man ought to be placed; where their interests and their duties would be in continual conflict, and where their own interests and the interests of their successors would possibly be antagonistic. He asked the right rev. Bench whether they thought that that would be a pleasant position for a Bishop to be placed in. There was no doubt that under the old system the interests of existing Bishops were brought into continual conflict with those of their successors and of their lessees. It must, unfortunately, be admitted that in some cases great abuses were perpetrated, and there could be little question that owing to the tenure under which the property was held, a great part of its value remained undeveloped, and there was not such an amount of improvement as there ought to have been. He therefore agreed in thinking that it was absolutely necessary to have a complete reform in that system; but he was by no means satisfied that the principle recommended by the, Church Commissioners themselves in 1850, but rejected in 1851, was not still the soundest principle; namely, to make such alterations in the terms upon which the land was held by the existing lessees, that the dormant value might be realized and divided upon a fair principle between the Church and the lessees. He repeated that he was by no means satisfied upon the point; but all he would urge upon their Lordships was, that the subject ought to undergo far more consideration than it had yet received, and so thinking, that their Lordships would do right in sending both Bills to a Select Committee.


said, he thought the Government had exercised a very wise discretion in adopting the Bill which had already passed the other House of Parliament, and in referring it, along with the Bill of his noble Friend on the cross benches (the Duke of Marlborough), to a Select Committee. But, although he concurred in the conclusion to which his noble Friend (Earl Grey) had come, he could not go along with him in all the preliminary steps by which he had arrived at that conclusion. He considered that, in point of fact, Parliament had already settled the question raised by the noble Earl, and that they had not now to determine whether the old mode of administering the property could be improved, for the arrangements which had been made by the Ecclesiastical Commission, and sanctioned by Parliament, had been adopted by common consent, and he thought it was therefore now practically impossible to revert to the question. Although he was by no means blind to the disadvantages of the scheme proposed by this Bill, yet he must say that, after weighing the matter as carefully as he could, he thought the objections which might be urged against any other plan now open to Parliament preponderated over those which could be advanced against this measure. His noble Friend had pointed out the obvious objections which must arise to Chapters and Bishops leasing at rack-rent the estates which furnished their official incomes; but a still graver objection in his mind than any that had been mentioned by his noble Friend was the great and fundamental objection of making the Bishops and other officers of the Church mere stipendiaries. The mere fact of so separating them from the great body of the clergy would be, in his opinion, most objectionable. The influx of gold which was likely to take place would really reduce those stipends far below the value which nominally attached to them, and the difficulty of raising the stipends to the sum at which Parliament might now fix them—although those who held such offices at present could scarcely be affected—seemed to him to present a grave objection to the proposal that Bishops and Chapters of the Church of England should be made mere stipendiaries. He thought this subject was one which could be most conveniently dealt with in the Select Committee, where he would give his careful attention to any suggestions which might be made by his noble Friend on the cross benches. He wished to take this opportunity of calling their Lordships' attention to the circumstance that there was one important class of officers in the Church—important not only so far as the Bishops were concerned, but also with reference to the great body of the clergy—for whose remuneration, in consequence of recent legislative measures, no sufficient provision existed. He alluded to the Chancellors, who conducted the legal and disciplinary business of the different dioceses. It was of the greatest importance that persons who held these offices should be men of character, possessing an intimate acquaintance with the law, for they did far more to prevent legal proceedings than to adjudicate upon differences which might arise. The value of having in diocese a man of character and station, learned in the law, and interested in the affairs of the diocese, who was ready to give advice to the clergy and to prevent troublesome and angry legal proceedings, could only be appreciated by one who had for some years held the position of a Bishop. These officers, however, had derived their only remuneration from the discharge of duties which the recent legislation of Parliament with reference to wills and other matters had removed from their jurisdiction. In fact, there were at present no means of providing for their adequate remuneration. The responsible office of Dean of the Arches' Court of Canterbury was at present vacant by the death of Sir John Dodson, and it was of the utmost importance that it should be filled by a competent person; but the net income of that office—important as it was—was only about £12 a year. It was impossible that for such a remuneration the most rev. Prelate (the Archbishop of Canterbury) could obtain a duly qualified person to undertake the office, for all appeals from different dioceses upon matters of doctrine and other high questions were referred to the decision of the learned individual by whom it was filled. It had been suggested that the office should be held in conjunction with the judgeships of the Probate, and of the Divorce and Matrimonial Courts, as the income attaching to those offices would supply the deficiencies in the income of the Dean of the Court of Arches. He (the Bishop of Oxford) thought, however, that by such an arrangement they would mix up two judicatures which were essentially different, for the Judge of the Court of Probate held his office under the Crown, while the Dean of the Arches Court was appointed by the Archbishop. He conceived that the Dean of Arches might very properly be paid out of the funds derived from the episcopal estates vested in the hands of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners; because, for the sake of the clergy at large, it was necessary that the duties should be as efficiently performed as those of any other episcopal office, With regard to the Chancellors, it could not be expected that they should be paid by the Bishops whose incomes had been fixed without any idea that such a charge would be made upon them. Parliament having fixed the incomes of the Bishops at what it believed to be a proper level, they could not be called upon without injustice to provide out of incomes thus limited for the payment of important officers who had, by recent legislation, been deprived of the remuneration they formerly enjoyed. The charge could not be thrown upon the general taxation of the country, and it seemed to him that it might with the greatest propriety be defrayed from the proceeds of the episcopal estates vested in the hands of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. He did not believe the charge would be at all onerous, and he would propose in the Select Committee that it should be placed upon the Ecclesiastical Fund. He must add that he believed the learned Judge who presided in the Court of Probate and the Divorce and Matrimonial Court was probably the fittest man in England to discharge the duties of such a position, but he (the Bishop of Oxford) objected to transfer to the Judge of those Courts the jurisdiction of the Dean of the Court of Arches.


said, there was undoubtedly great difficulty in dealing with a question of this nature, and he concurred in the propriety of referring the two Bills to a Select Committee. The noble Earl (the Earl of Derby) had alluded to the importance of settling this question. He did not think it possible at present to make any permanent settlement, though it was very desirable that an Act should be passed in the present year for a temporary settlement. The Bill of the late Government had had the recommendation of a Committee of the other House, and therefore it would be well, in effecting the settlement, to endeavour to coincide as much as possible with the suggestions of that Committee. The noble Earl had rather apologized for moving the second reading of the Bill at so late a period as the month of May. He did not know whether the House was to regard that as an intimation of an early prorogation; but, at all events, it was desirable that the Bill should undergo careful consideration in Committee,


rose to express his hope that the inquiry of the Committee would not be limited to the mere questions raised by these Bills. He had before expressed, and must now express again, his opinion that, as in the distribution of sequestrated property preference was to be given to local claims, it was right that the exigencies of a large population, which might suddenly rise upon a mining district, or he collected together by the extension of house property, should be included among the local claims. He had a strong opinion that the Ecclesiastical Commission would break down, and he hoped a better means of providing for the wants of the community in the distribution of Church property would be adopted than by the continued existence of the Ecclesiastical Commission as at present constituted.


said, that the matter alluded to by the right rev. Prelate did not escape the attention of the late Government when the change was made in the Probate Courts, and he then pointed out that such an officer as had been alluded to should not be remunerated by fees taken from persons who had nothing to do with ecclesiastical matters, but out of some ecclesiastical revenue. With regard to the office lately held by Sir John Dodson, he was enabled to say that his learned Friend, the Judge of the Probate Court, was perfectly willing to render any services in his power for the performance of the duties attached to that situation; but such an arrangement must at present be regarded as temporary.


thought that the provision by which the episcopal and common funds were merged together ought to be well considered. The right rev. Prelate had said that the Chancellor of the diocese should be paid out of the ecclesiastical fund, but there was a prior claim for the extension of the number of bishops and for providing retirements for bishops. As the funds were mixed at present, there was no prospect of ever having a definite sum supplied for episcopal purposes.


suggested, as the best mode of meeting the difficulty, the granting of leases renewable for ever to the lessees of ecclesiastical property, upon the payment of an annual fine calculated like the tithe rent-charge upon an average of the last seven years.

After a few words from Lord DUXGANNON, Motion agreed to.

Bill read 2a accordingly, and referred to a Select Committee, The Lords following were named of the Committee: The Committee to meet on Thursday next, at Four o'clock, and to appoint their own Chairman; and the Petitions praying to be heard by Counsel against the Bill (presented on the 22nd and 29th of April last), and the Petition against the Bill (presented this Day), severally referred to the Committee:—Lord Archbishop of CANTERBURY, LORD PRIVY SEAL, Duke of SOMERSET, Duke of MARLBOROUGH, Earl of DERBY, Earl Of DONCASTER, Earl Of SHAFTESBURY, Earl of CHICHESTER, Earl of POWIS, Earl GREY, Earl GRANVILLE, Viscount EVERSLEY, Lord Bishop of LONDON, Lord Bishop of WINCHESTER, Lord Bishop of OXFORD, Lord LYTTELTON, Lord WYNFORD, Lord EBURY.

House adjourned at half-past Seven o'clock, to Thursday next, at half-past Ten o'clock.