HL Deb 26 March 1863 vol 169 cc1919-27

, who had given Notice "to call the attention of the House to the Ecclesiastical Patronage vested in The Lord Chancellor, and to present a Bill on the subject," said: My Lords, I rise with some anxiety to call your Lordships' attention to a subject which is certainly one of importance, and which has been to me, for a long time, a matter of much care and consideration, Your Lordships are aware that great ecclesiastical patronage is vested in the Lord Chancellor. The antiquity of that right in the Lord Chancellor, as the Keeper of the Great Seal, makes it difficult to ascertain its origin. As early as the rolls of Parliament of Edward III. the right of the Lord Chancellor to present to all the Crown livings rated at twenty marks and under is acknowledged as being incontestably vested in that officer. Subsequently —probably about the time of Henry VIII., when the denomination of the coinage was changed—£20 was substituted for twenty marks; and by the courts of law, and on various other occasions, the right of the Lord Chancellor to control and dispense the patronage of all the Crown livings not exceeding £20 has been acknowledged to be uncontested. I make these few observations at the outset, because it is important to show that I am not going to take away any part of the property of the Crown; for if the language were courteous —which it would not be—the Crown might properly be described, in respect to these livings, as the trustee of the Lord Chancellor. With regard to the Crown livings, which by constitutional usage belong to the Premier for the time being, the Premier, when he presents, takes the pleasure of the Crown; but when the Lord Chancellor presents, he presents, as a right, without taking the pleasure of the Crown. The writ is couched in words carefully selected for the purpose of acknowledging that right, for it contains these words:—"Which presentation doth to the Lord Chancellor as of right fully belong." Such is the origin and nature of the Lord Chancellor's right of presentation to certain Crown livings. These livings are numerous, but the greater part of them are small and insignificant in value, and many of them lie in unfavourable dis- tricts. Being small and so situated, they have had the fate which constantly attends patronage of that description. There being no resident proprietor interested in the living, they have been greatly neglected; they present a most unfavourable contrast with other livings equally small in value, and they show by their condition—frequently in respect of the church, oftener of the parsonage, and also by the want of schools—the absence of any person interested in the welfare of the advowson. Moved, therefore, by these and other considerations, I have selected out of the number of the Lord Chancellor's livings 320 of the smallest; and the object of the measure which I seek to introduce is to give me power to sell the advowsons of these livings on certain definite terms stated, and to apply the proceeds of that sale to the augmentation of their value. Then, instead of those 320 livings being held in the barren hand of the Lord Chancellor, they will be vested, I trust, in 320 landed proprietors, each one of whom, living on the spot, will take an interest in the maintenance and welfare of the Established Church. What I particularly desire to do is to bring back the present state of things to that which originally existed— because advowsons originally came into being from great lauded proprietors building and endowing churches; and then, by the sanction of the spiritual authority, lie who had created and endowed was thought best entitled to have the presentation to the living. This is in accordance with the great constitutional principle that the Church should be united, as it were, with the landed property of the country. Your Lordships must be familiar with the contrast between a parish which has no resident landed proprietor and a parish which has a proprietor resident, who, having a right to nominate, takes a pride in the maintenance of the parish church, in its ornamentation, in the maintenance of the parsonage, and in the building and endowing of schools. There is just as much difference in the condition of such parishes as there is between an estate where the proprietor is resident and an estate where he is always an absentee. Those circumstances have led me to believe that the time has come when some measure of this kind should be initiated, and I have every confidence that such a measure will lead to an augmentation of the welfare of the Established Church. All men who have paid attention to the state of the univer- sities, and observed plainly what is going on there, have been impressed with the conviction that the Church as a profession, in point of worldly advantage, does not offer adequate inducements for young men to enter it. I have long been of that opinion. I have been very anxious on the subject, particularly when I looked into history and observed the changes effected at the Reformation and the manner in which some of them have failed. The Roman Catholic Church had the advantage of a large number of cathedral, conventual, and monastic establishments. In these it gathered round it a large number of boys of all denominations and descriptions, who assisted in the services of the establishment and the Church; and from the most promising of these, after being carefully trained, the clergy were selected for the service of the Church. Our great reformer, Edward VI., observing this, endeavoured to provide for it by the establishment of grammar schools throughout the country. These grammar schools were almost always connected with some collegiate establishment in the universities; and the desire was that the grammar school should be a sort of seminary for the college, and that boys should be carefully trained there to be sent to college afterwards, and there be trained for the Church. Unfortunately, from the insufficiency of the endowments, and the inefficiency of the means employed, that plan has in a great measure failed; and hence it is, that unless we increase the number and value of its endowments, the Church at the present time, in the mutter of worldly inducements, is in a state of entire inferiority when contrasted with other professions. It is in the case of 320 of these livings only that I have ventured to propose any change. I am perfectly well aware—and I desire particularly to attract attention to it—that, however promising this scheme may seem when stated in the abstract, the real practical utility of it depends entirely on the wisdom and prudence shown in the due selection of the details for carrying it into effect. If your Lordships will bear with me a few moments, I will endeavour to explain the nature of the scheme which I have embodied in this Bill, rather as a matter of consideration than with any kind of notion that what I have here written down is to be the plan which in all things is to be carried into effect. If your Lordships approve the principle of the Bill, I shall entreat you to grant me that mode of proceeding in which, from my experience, I have the greatest confidence—a Select Committee of this House, to which I am sure all parties will be desirous to send Members who will treat this subject without the smallest political bias. In that Select Committee I shall submit the details of my Bill to your wisdom for discussion and consideration, trusting that your Lordships will find the best practical means for giving full effect to the measure. I shall now explain to your Lordships how I propose to fix the standard of value of advowsons. This is an extremely difficult part of the measure, and requires the greatest consideration. It is extremely difficult to lay down, with any amount of certainty, what is the standard market value of the thing that is sold. I am sure your Lordships will have found, from your own experience, that nothing is more unsound than the estimate of surveyors. If you employ two surveyors, the great probability is that you will have a very different estimate from each. In fixing the standard, I have taken the most approved table of value of advowsons, and from the amounts given in these tables I have deducted one-fourth, to allow for the practical difference which almost always exists between theoretical value and market price. By that deduction I arrive at something like an accurate expression of the market value; and I have then, ventured to double that value, for the reason which I shall explain to the House. Your Lordships will be aware that the principle of my measure is, that the purchaser has nothing to pay to the party who sells. The purchase money is expended on the improvement of the subject of the purchase. But, further, I do not propose that he shall expend the whole of the purchase money instanter. I propose that he shall pay one-half instanter, either in a solid sum or by way of annuity. Let me suppose for a moment that the advowson is worth £100 a year, and that the incumbent is fifty years of age; according to the tables, taking the value of money at 6 per cent, the advowson would be worth 6 years' purchase. I have deducted one-fourth, and taken the money at 4 per cent, in order to estimate the allowance which should be made for the remuneration of the services of the incumbent; for when a man buys a living, he buys that for which he is to do duty. Therefore, in calculating the price which he should give for it, he must make a deduction for the value of his services. I allow for that deduction. I take the value of money at 4 per cent, and double what remains after the deduction of one-fourth from the theoretical value. Take a living of the value of £100 a year. At ten years' purchase the value of the purchase is £1,000. If the purchaser proposes to pay this in money, I propose that he shall begin by paying £500—one-half. With regard to the other £500, the purchaser is to give security for payment, when the living shall become vacant, of such a sum as shall be equal to the amount which the £500 would produce, if it were duly accumulated with compound interest at 4 per cent, between the time appointed for the completion of the purchase and the next avoidance of the living. Your Lordships will thus see, that though the purchaser pays his money, he parts with it to be laid out on the subject he has bought. I have ascertained that the propositions in my Bill would not be deemed unreasonable by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. I do not mean to represent that those Commissioners assent to the principle of my Bill. All I mean to say is, that what I have put in it with reference to the value of these advowsons is not so unreasonable as not to be likely to be entertained by them. Your Lordships are aware, that if any proprietor advance a sum not exceeding £1,000 for the augmentation of the value of a living, the Ecclesiastical Commissioners have a rule by which they may grant an equal amount for the same object. I propose, that when the Lord Chancellor sells an advowson, he shall, to the extent of a limited number of livings in the year, hand to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners a portion of the purchase money. In the case of an advowson sold for £1,000, the moiety of £500 would be handed to them, and they would be required to add to that a sum of £500, making £1,000, which would create an annuity of 3½ per cent, charged on their common stock. The £500, the first moiety, would in this way produce an instant annuity of £35, which would go to the present augmentation of the living of £100 a year. When the living becomes vacant, the remaining £500, with the accumulated interest, may be applied in a similar manner, or may be applied to the purpose of tithe rent charges, debentures, or Government securities, the income to be applied to the augmentation of the in- come of the living. In this way I estimate that those small livings may ultimately be augmented to the amount of, in some cases, two-thirds, and in others one-half of their original value. I offer the purchaser another advantage — that instead of paying the first moiety of the purchase money at once he may grant a rent-charge of 5 per cent, to be secured upon freehold or copyhold property; and as to the other moiety which would be paid upon the next avoidance of the living, such a rent-charge as shall be equal to 5 per cent upon the principal sum with its accumulations at 4 per cent. The whole principle of the measure is, that the purchaser, either in the shape of money or an annuity, is to pay one-half the consideration of the advowson instanter; the other one-half, with compound interest, not to be paid till he comes into the actual possession and exercise of his advowson. Your Lordships will see that my object is to give an immediate benefit, but a greater augmentation to the living when the advowson comes into the enjoyment of the purchaser. I cannot imagine a more beneficial manner of dealing with an advowson. I will give an instance. A gentleman has an estate in the country, but the advowson of the living does not belong to him; it belongs to the Lord Chancellor. It may be matter of importance to this gentleman to have the control of the presentation in his own hands; and he might be glad to give a sum of money to have that right. Under the present Bill the owner of the land would be enabled to become the purchaser of the advowson. I have inserted a proviso in the Bill to prevent a purchaser of one of these advowsons from being at liberty to sell it until at least after a period of five years from the time of purchase. It would be no satisfaction to me to strip the Lord Chancellor of this patronage if it were to fall into the hands of societies or bodies of persons formed for the purpose of inculcating and promoting particular opinions, and getting subscribers to become purchasers of the advowsons with a view to effect particular purposes. I have therefore put in a proviso that no person or body of persons shall purchase or cause to be purchased more than four of these advowsons. I trust and hope that these advowsons will get for the most part into the hands of landed proprietors, who will become desirous not only of being owners of them, but also of discharging their duty to the Church, by taking a particular interest in the welfare of the parish and of religion. There are many other provisions in the Bill which I hope will be thought good by your Lordships, but with the details of which I will not weary you at present. I have just indicated the details of the Bill; they may be very different from the details which shall be ultimately arrived at in Committee, but I believe your Lordships will find them so far well-considered and accurate as to serve to show that this great principle of converting these advowsons into a source of strength to the Established Church is a practical one, and I hope and trust that this measure may leave your Lordships' House in a shape well adapted to fulfil the expectations which may justly be entertained of it.


congratulated his noble and learned Friend upon the part which he had taken in framing so able and important a scheme. As for the details of the plan, of course it could not be expected that any noble Lord would express an opinion until time was given for further consideration. Having had the honour of holding the Great Seal, he felt bound to say that he thought the measure would be not only beneficial to the public, but extremely useful to whoever might, for the time being, be in the position of Lord Chancellor. These advowsons were now generally scrambled for, and experience showed that those who obtained them were not the fittest persons to hold them. He thought, however, his noble and learned Friend had greatly over-estimated the probable value of these small advowsons. For instance, a living of the nominal value of £100 would probably not be worth more than £40, as £60, or thereabouts, would have to be deducted for the services of a curate to administer the living.


said, he felt great satisfaction that the noble and learned Lord had turned his attention to this most important and interesting subject. This was not the time to enter into details, which he hoped would be carefully considered by the Select Committee to which it was proposed to refer the Bill, and which he hoped would include some Members of the right rev. Bench. The principle of the Bill, however, had his entire and cordial concurrence. Nothing could be more embarrassing to a person holding the Great Seal than the proper mode of presenting to those small livings; for no matter how zealous a man might be, if he had not in- dependent means, it was no kindness to give him the presentation. No matter how poor a clergyman was, an idea always prevailed among the destitute of a parish that he must have sufficient means to assist them in their difficulties, and that he failed in his duty if he did not assist them. This Bill would, he trusted, be of the highest possible advantage, as it would transfer a patronage, which was most irksome, perplexing, and painful from the Lord Chancellor, to persons who must have an interest in the parishes to which it referred, and who would be able to do what was certainly not in the power of the present official patron with regard to schools, churches, and other matters.


said, he begged to state on the part of his right rev. Brethren, that they felt deeply grateful to the noble and learned Lord for having taken this matter in hand. The details of so important a subject must, of course, be reserved for the Select Committee, or for some future occasion in their Lordships' House. No person, who had sat on the Ecclesiastical Commission, could be ignorant of the fact that there were very many livings which did not deserve the name of livings —the labourers in these unremunerative parishes would now have a chance of being repaid for their toils. He would suggest, as the matter was one of great importance, that as little time as possible after Easter should be lost in proceeding with the measure and settling the details.


said, that having some time since had the honour of proposing in the House of Commons a measure somewhat analogous to that of the noble and learned Lord, he could not but express his gratification that a Bill of this kind should have been introduced. The great object was to bring up the smaller livings to a higher amount. He would therefore suggest that the Lord Chancellor should sanction the sale of some of the larger and more valuable livings, and add the value to the smaller livings.


said, he was much gratified by the kind expressions of concurrence from the noble Lords, and his right rev. Friends who had spoken on his proposition. He had, in his original statement, made an omission which he should be glad to supply. The greater number of the livings contained in the schedule—about three fourths—were under £200 a year. A small number ran up to £250 a year; and there was a provision in the Bill that those now under £200 should be augmented to £300 a year, and that any surplus should be carried over for the augmentation of smaller livings. That arrangement was subject, however, to a proviso. Power was taken for applying a portion of the surplus to the building and repairing of parsonage houses, provided the purchaser was ready to add a proportionate sum of money to the fund for that purpose. The very thing desired by the noble Duke was therefore, as far as possible, endeavoured to be attained by the Bill. His Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury was unable to be present in his place that night, but had wished to express his entire concurrence in the general objects of the Bill. He should ask their Lordships to read the Bill a second time to-morrow, in the hope that it might be referred to a Select Committee immediately after Easter. By so doing he trusted it might be sent down to the other House of Parliament in good time, so as to escape being lost in the "ruck" of Bills which usually took place towards the end of the Session.

Bill for the Augmentation of certain Benefices the Right of Presentation to which is vested in The Lord Chancellor—Was presented by The LORD CHANCELLOR; read 1a; to be printed; and to be read 2a To-morrow. (No. 59.)