THE BISHOP OF CHICHESTER
(who was very imperfectly heard), in moving the Second Reading of this Bill, said the object of the measure was to remove a serious practical difficulty in the way of supplying additional spiritual instruction for populous districts. Under the Church Building Acts, 1385 when a new church was proposed to be erected notice was required to be given to the patron and the incumbent of the parish, in order that if they were willing to undertake the expense of providing more church accommodation they might have the priority in doing so. But in certain districts where there was an increasing population no patron and no incumbent had existed for centuries past. The right rev. Prelate was understood to state as an instance, that some four centuries ago an encroachment of the sea destroyed several parishes lying between Hastings and St. Leonard's, leaving a narrow slip of land between the sea and the steep cliffs which rose above. Of late years a great number of houses had been built here, occupied by a population of several thousand persons, and churches had been erected; but it had been found impossible, as the law now stood, to place the ministers of these churches in the full and proper relation in which they ought to stand towards those to whom they ministered. When he applied for an assignment of a district to these churches to the Church Building Commissioners, and afterwards to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, to whom had subsequently been transferred the powers formerly possessed by the Church Building Commissioners, he was always asked, "Have you given notice to the patron? Have you given notice to the incumbent of the parish?" Why, ever since the parishes had been swept away by the irruption of the sea, leaving only these fragmentary slips of land, there had been no patron, there had been no incumbent. "Well," replied the Commissioners, "under the circumstances we can do nothing. We cannot assist you in accomplishing the praiseworthy object of placing the ministers of the different churches in a right position towards their congregations." The Bill which he now asked their Lordships to read a second time had no other object in view than to remedy this difficulty, and to enable the ecclesiastical Commissioners, in cases where there was neither patron nor incumbent in existence, to proceed as if the provisions of the Church Building Acts requiring notice to be given to the patron and incumbent had been complied with.
§ LORD PORTMAN
thought the Bill was not so simple as the right rev. Prelate described it. It dealt, not with St. Leonard's only, but it went elsewhere. How could it be said that there was no patron? Why a man might start up any day and say, 1386 "I am the patron." The specific instance proposed to be dealt with was that caused by the incursion of the sea at St. Leonard's but the Bill said, that wherever, by the encroachment of the sea or any other cause, there was no incumbent the consent of the incumbent should not be required. The Bill, therefore, interfered with the rights of the Crown and of private patrons without providing carefully for ascertaining who the persons entitled might be. Again, the Ecclesiastical Commissioners were to be considered the patrons where there was no other patron; and all marriages celebrated in the churches affected by the Bill were to be deemed marriages in the parish church. The Bill required much consideration on the part of their Lordships before they agreed to a second reading.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
said, he was not prepared to give advice with regard to this Bill. There were already so many Church Building Acts that if they were bound together they would make an unwieldy volume. He concurred with the noble Lord who had last spoken, that the Bill required careful consideration before the second reading was assented to.
THE BISHOP OF CARLISLE
remarked that these churches were in a most novel and anomalous position; and it was most desirable to place the ministers on a proper footing in relation to their congregations.
THE BISHOP OF CHICHESTER
stated, that in framing the Bill he had obtained the assistance of a professional gentleman, who had had at least as many dealings with the Church Buildings Acts, and as much experience in drawing Bills, as any man in his profession; he meant Mr. Bellenden Ker. He was quite willing to postpone the second reading, in order that their Lordships might have time to fully consider the subject.
§ Second Reading put of to Thursday next.