HL Deb 30 April 1868 vol 191 cc1570-4

Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee read.


said, he had already intimated that, although he should have preferred that the Bill should be considered in Committee of the Whole House, he should not object to the Amendment of which the noble Earl the Lord Privy Seal had given notice to refer it to a Select Committee. He did so, of course, on the understanding that the declaration made by the noble Earl, and also by the most rev. Prelate (the Archbishop of Canterbury), as well as by the Lord Chancellor, that the principle of the Bill would be adhered to, and that the Amendments proposed would be in the spirit of carrying out that declaration, so that the Bill might become an Act of Parliament, and were not to be made with the view of destroying the Bill altogether. It was on that understanding only that he agreed to the Amendment of the noble Earl. He would only further say that two points seemed absolutely essential—the one was that the compulsory power for collecting church rates should be abolished, and the other was that the Church of England should have the most convenient means which legislation could afford for collecting the funds necessary for those objects to which church rates were devoted. These were the objects of the Bill, and he hoped they would be carried out by the Bill as it came from the hands of the Select Committee.

Moved, "That the House do now resolve itself into a Committee on the said Bill."—(Earl Russell.)


said, that he was obliged to the noble Earl for assenting to the House going into Committee upstairs; because he was quite sure that they would be more likely to arrive at the object sought on both sides by that means; and that they would thus be able to make a comparatively good measure of it much more easily than could be done in a Committee of the whole House.


said, he regretted extremely that his noble Friend (Earl Russell) had assented to the Bill being referred to a Select Committee; for he was quite sure that the measure could be properly discussed in a Committee of the Whole House, and indeed that it was necessary for the public excitement that there should be such a discussion. The matter was of great public interest, and there was no subject that would have given the country a more favourable opportunity of judging how their Lordships perform their public duties than this question of church rates. Some of the speeches made on the second reading showed how admirably their Lordships were qualified to discuss such a question; and besides, in the House they had the assistance of all the right rev. Prelates, whilst in a Select Committee they would have but three or four of them. He ventured to say that the course which he suggested to their Lordships in 1860 was the one which it would be most proper to pursue on this subject; and that was to put an end to compulsory church rates—which was the object of this measure—and afterwards to introduce a Bill to regulate such voluntary assessments as should be made in lieu of church rates — that was a matter to which neither the Dissenters nor anybody else could, object; but he thought that it would be much better to enact these regulations by a separate Bill. The main object of the present Bill was the abolition of church rates; and he was glad to see that upon the right rev. Bench there was an altered tone to that which prevailed there in 1860. He himself had always thought that for the sake of the Church, church rates should be abolished. There was no proper objection to the majority taxing the minority—the real objection was on religious grounds; and he thought that the Church had done quite right in consenting to abolish church rates now; for he believed that every contest about church rates made an additional number of Dissenters. The objection on the score of religious feeling once put aside, it would be perfectly easy to make satisfactory regulations for voluntary assessment. But this Bill did not contain clauses such as he should like to see passed upon that subject. He thought there was some confusion which would require to be carefully adjusted. He hoped that it was not intended to take evidence before the Committee, but merely to consider the clauses. The Bill had been called a compromise, but it was really no compromise at all; it was a concession made by the Church to the religious feeling of the country. It was much nore likely that it was a compromise in the Cabinet. Lord Stanley had declared his opinion against the levying of church rates, in writing and in speaking, and it might be that the Bill was to be referred to a Select Committee to get out of any difficulty upon that head. He feared that the delay arising from having a Select Committee might end in the rejection of the Bill—a result which would produce great danger to the Church. It was most desirable that the public should know that there would be no evasion, and that their Lordships would follow the lead of the other House and settle this question at once and for ever.


said, he could not but think that the remarks of the noble Lord (Lord Lyveden) would have been much more appropriate if made on the second reading of the Bill. The noble Lord could not forego the opportunity of drawing a comparison between the Bill which he had himself introduced some years ago—and to which, no doubt, he had a laudable partiality—and the measure now under discussion. But he (the Duke of Richmond) had no doubt the Bill now to be referred to a Select Committee would be found, when it came out of Committee, a better measure than that which the noble Lord introduced on a former occasion. The noble Lord had stated, as a reason why this Bill was assented to by the Government, that it was a sort of compromise among the Members of the Cabinet. Unfortunately for the Cabinet, they had not the benefit of having the noble Lord among them. If they had that advantage, the noble Lord would be able to state his opinion to the Cabinet; until, however, he favoured them by belonging to that body, he could not be accepted in that House as the organ of Her Majesty's Ministers. But the noble Lord regretted that this Bill should be referred to a Select Committee, and said that the public out-of-doors would think their Lordships incapable of dealing with a measure of this description, because it was so referred; but only two sentences after the noble Lord contradicted himself, because he said it had been ably discussed by the most rev. Prelate and those who followed him. He also gave the most conclusive reasons why the Bill should be referred to a Select Committee, because he said there was great confusion in its various clauses, that would require great care in their adjustment. He (the Duke of Richmond) agreed with the noble Lord that there was some confusion in regard to particular clauses; for instance, the second clause, according to the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack, was such as no one could well understand; and the Bill dealt with a great number of local Acts, the operation of which a Select Committee, constituted as, no doubt, this would be, was a much better tribunal for discussing than a Committee of the Whole House. The purpose for which it was proposed to send the Bill to a Select Committee was in order that all those parts of the Bill which were at present obscure might be made clear, and in adopting that mode of proceeding there was not the least intention to smother the Bill. It was with these views that he was glad the House had acceded to the proposition for referring the Bill to a Select Committee.


thought it should be clearly understood for what purpose the Bill was sent to a Select Committee. In his opinion, the object of referring the Bill to a Select Committee was not for the purpose of taking evidence, as the general principle of the Bill was well understood; but for the purpose of arranging and perfecting those clauses which provided for the voluntary collection of church rates, and of examining and considering those other clauses which affected local Acts, so that nothing might be done indirectly which was not intended to be done directly.


said, that, as the Bill was not a Government measure, it was not for him to state what course the investigation in the Committee might take; but it might be necessary for the Committee, without going into the general question as to whether church rates should be voluntary or not, to take evidence in reference to the effect of the Bill on local Acts.

Motion (by Leave of the House) withdrawn and Bill referred to a Select Committee.

And, on Friday, May 1, the Lords following were named of the Committee:—

Ld. Chancellor E. Beauchamp
L. Abp. York E. Russell
Ld. Privy Seal E. Kimberley
D. Somerset V. Halifax
D. Richmond L. Bp. London
D. Buckingham and Chandos L. Bp. Oxford
L. Bp. Carlisle
E. Shaftesbury L. Delamere
E. Carnarvon L. Stanley of Alderley
E. Romney L. Westbury.

House adjourned at a quarter before Six o'clock, till To-morrow, half-past Ten o'clock.