HL Deb 09 July 1868 vol 193 cc896-903

Amendments reported (according to Order).


I propose at the end of Clause 7 to re-insert a clause which was in the Bill when it came up from the other House of Parliament. The Bill as it now stands will, as I think, be productive of this inconvenience, that the churchwardens may incur expense upon the faith of persons undertaking to pay their church rates, who may afterwards make default, and there is no power provided in the Bill by which those persons may be compelled to perform the agreement they have made. Now the office of churchwarden is not a voluntary office—it is an office in which a man is liable to I serve even against his will, and from which; he cannot withdraw—and you may put a conscientious man, who is endeavouring to carry out the duties he has unwillingly undertaken, in a very unpleasant position if he has incurred expense on the faith that he will be repaid by persons who have promised to pay but have afterwards re- fused. I beg to move, therefore, at the end of Clause 7, to insert as follows:— Nothing in this Act shall prevent any Agreement to make any such Payment, on the Faith of which any Expenditure shall have been made, or any Liability incurred, from being enforced in the same Manner as other Contracts of a like nature might be enforced in any Court of Law or Equity: Provided that in any Suit or Proceeding to enforce such Agreement as last aforesaid, it shall not be necessary to join as Parties any other Person or Persons than the Party to be made Defendant, and the Churchwardens, Chapel-wardens, or Treasurer hereinafter mentioned."—(The Lard Bishop of Oxford.)


In the Select Committee I stated the objections which I felt to this clause, and I will now shortly repeat those objections. It is not ft question upon which either side will wish to gain any triumph, for I apprehend we are all anxious to arrive at the conclusion which will be the soundest and safest. In the first place, I think that practically this clause will be of very little use, and for this reason—The various sums contributed or promised by individuals will be so small that I cannot believe that any churchwarden would bring an action at law, or file a bill in Equity for the purpose of recovering them. Moreover, the difficulty of showing any agreement to pay would be so great, and the presumption of such agreement arising from presence at a meeting would be so small, and so difficult to bring homo, that I think the action or suit would be certain to fail. My next objection is, that I do not think the clause is necessary. It is said that the churchwarden may undertake expenditure on the faith of promises to pay the rate; that when the work is done he will not have the money to pay for it; and that then he will be personally liable. The simple answer is that, under the new state of things which this Bill will produce, the churchwarden must get in his money before he undertakes expenditure, and then he will be exposed to no risk. My third objection is that, while the clause would be of little use and is unnecessary, it might on the other hand have a seriously deterring effect upon those who might otherwise be willing to contribute. If you ask a man for a subscription which he knows is to be purely voluntary, you may hope to receive it; but if you keep a rod in pickle for him behind your back—if you have something in reserve in the shape of an action at law or suit in Equity—he will think twice before he makes any promise. I know that many persons for whose opinion I have great respect attach a value to this clause, but I cannot subscribe to their opinion.


I can-not hope to add anything to the arguments of the noble and learned Lord; but, as a Member of the Select Committee upon this Bill, I feel bound to support his view. Looking simply and solely at the interests of the Church, I can scarcely conceive that any person should desire that this clause should pass. No doubt the right rev. Prelate sincerely believes that it would result in larger support to the Church; but I think, with the noble and learned Lord, that it would be likely to have just a contrary effect. If it were passed, a large number of poisons—even attached members of the Church—would never consent to make themselves liable to this voluntary rate. They might give subscriptions, but they would not promise to pay the rate; and I hope, therefore, that on the grounds stated by the noble and learned Lord, your Lordships will reject this clause.


said, that if a man wrote down his name as promising to pay a church rate, he might easily be sued in a County Court, and the money recovered at a very trifling expense.

Clause negatived.


I have another Amendment, to leave out Clause 8 as inserted by the Select Committee, and re-insert the clause which was in the Bill when it came up to us from the Commons. It is quite contrary to all the principles of English law to commit the administration of funds and the general power of deciding on expenditure to parties who by the legislation of Parliament have had given to them the power of withdrawing altogether from contributing to that expenditure, and who have exercised that power. When parties in the parish say, "We will give nothing towards the maintenance of the Church," I do not see why you should allow those persons to attend the particular vestry which is to manage the funds contributed for that purpose. The Bill, as it stands, will introduce a troublesome element into many parishes. It is said that we ought to be generous and to trust these people. My Lords, this principle seems to have not the slightest relation to generosity. It is simply a matter of business. Those who contribute should surely have the management of their contributions. Nor is there, as far as I can see, any ex- clusion; for those who, after declining to pay, renew their contributions return to the list of managers of the church funds by the act of contributing. Then it is said that we ought to keep the old machinery going, and that there will be a break if this clause is re-inserted. But in the country parishes there will be no break. The farmers and ratepayers who are willing that the church rate should be continued as a voluntary impost will vote for it and pay. The now vestry will there be the old vestry, because the old vestry will be repeated through the voluntary ratepayers. In the towns, where the rate has ceased to be enforced, subscriptions must always fail, because there are always those who wish to be on the list of contributors upon the cheapest possible terms and who give an insignificant amount, others will not give more, and thus the subscriptions will be brought down to nothing. I think that the management of the voluntary rate should be committed to those who give towards the voluntary rate; and while freely admitting that men may honestly take different views on the subject, I must ask your Lordships to decide the question by a vote.

Moved, to strike out Clause 8 and insert— (No one to vote who has not paid.) No Person shall have any Right to vote upon any Question as to making any such voluntary Rate, or to vote or act, as Churchwarden or Churchwarden or otherwise, in or as to the Disposal of Funds raised by any such voluntary Rate or by such voluntary Contributions as aforesaid (the Rector, Vicar, Perpetual Curate, or other Incumbent of a Parish or Ecclesiastical District excepted), who shall not have paid up his voluntary Kale for the last preceding Occasion on which such a voluntary Rate as aforesaid shall have been made, or paid a voluntary Contribution in aid of the same Fund which in Amount is not less than that of his voluntary Rate."—(The Lord Bishop of Oxford.)


As the Bill came up to us from the other House, the vestry was to make the voluntary rate. In the Select Committee it was shown that such a clause was unworkable, and the Committee therefore reverted to the old vestries. That is a point which mainly influenced my own opinion; and, as I am authorized to say, the opinion of my most rev. Brother (the Archbishop of Canterbury) and my right rev. Brother (the Bishop of London). To insert therefore the clause now proposed would be to destroy the old vestry, which in a former clause we have established. There are a number of peo- ple in almost every parish who are rather indifferent to their connection with the Church. You would say to them in the second year, when they had ceased to contribute to the voluntary rate, "You must not come into the vestry.' Is it the policy of the national Church, which says, "We are the ministers of all for godly things, and if you separate yourselves from us that is your fault, not ours; we would have you if we could,"—I say is it the policy of the Church, when a man is doubtful and wavering in his allegiance, and from some motive or other, perhaps from sheer inability, has contributed nothing towards the maintenance of the Church, to say to him, "You are a defaulter, and yon shall not come in?" I have no doubt that the clause sent up to us by the House of Commons was prepared in a spirit friendly to the Church; but we must not let our judgment be biassed by that fact. I think we ought not rashly to change the existing machinery of the Church, and as no one has demanded a new vestry it will be best to give up the compulsory church rate, and adhere to the old vestry.


I quite concur in the statement of the most rev. Prelate. I believe that, instead of disagreeable consequences following from the plan proposed by the noble and learned Lord, very disagreeable consequences would follow to the Church from the clause adopted by the House of Commons. There are many Dissenters who will be quite willing to subscribe if you do not make any invidious distinctions, such as, I think, are made by the plan proposed by the right rev. Prelate (the Bishop of Oxford.)

On Question, That the Words proposed to be left out stand Part of the Bill? Their Lordships divided:—Contents 46; Not-contents 13: Majority 33.

Canterbury, Archp. Graham, E. (D. Mont-rose.)
Cairns, L. (L. Chancellor.)
Granville, E.
York, Archp. Kimberley, E.
Malmesbury, E.
Cleveland, D. Russell, E.
Devonshire, D. Spencer, E.
Mar. lborough, D.
Richmond, D. Halifax, V.
Somerset, D. Hawarden, V.
Melville, V.
Campordown, E.
Clarendon, E. Carlisle, Bp.
Cowper, E. London, Bp.
De Grey, E.
Effingham, E Bagot, L.
Belper, L. Leigh, L.
Calthorpe, L. Lyttelton, L.
Camoys, L. Monson, L.
Clandeboye, L. (L. Dufferin and Clanebuye.) Portman, L. [Teller.]
Romilly, L.
Clinton, L. Saye and Sele, L.
Colchester, L. Silchester, L. (E.Longford.)
Cranworth, L.
Crofton, L. Stanley of Alderley, L.
Foley, L. [Teller] Templemore, L.
Granard, L. (E. Granard.) Truro, L.
Vernon, L.
Bath, M. [Teller.] Oxford, Bp.
Salisbury, M. Salisbury, Bp.
Derby, E. Chelmsford, L.
Nelson, E. [Teller.] Delamere, L.
Stradbroke, E. Denman, L.
Fitzwalter, L.
Gloucester and Bristol, Bp. Foxford, L. (E. Limerick.)

proposed to amend Clause 8, at line 20, by inserting these words:— If any churchwarden makes default in paying a church rate for which he is rated, a treasurer who shall not have made such default may be elected in his stead, and shall possess all the powers appertaining to such churchwarden in respect of the church rate. He said, as the clause stood, a man who conscientiously dissented from the payment of the church rate, might be called upon to collect and administer it, because the office of churchwarden was not a voluntary one, but one that was imposed compulsorily. The Amendment did not substitute a treasurer for him unless it was found expedient to do so. On nil principles of liberty we ought to allow the possibility of a treasurer being appointed by the parish when a man who conscientiously objected to acting in this matter had been appointed to the office of churchwarden.


said, the Amendment did not discriminate between a churchwarden who conscientiously objected to pay the rate and one who did not pay it for any other reason. In either case the parish was to appoint a treasurer, but there was no machinery provided by which the parish could meet in vestry and do this; and, supposing that difficulty got over, there was a chance that the treasurer so elected might be a Dissenter; and so Dissenter after Dissenter might be appointed until the vestry got a treasurer who was qualified and would act.

Amendment negatived.


said the office of churchwarden was one of observation and report, but not of original power; but for the first time it was proposed to give the churchwardens absolute power to settle matters as if they had direct authority; which was an entire evasion of the ecclesiastical law of England. The church wardens might be Dissenters, and yet it was proposed to give them a wholly new power in. regard to the appropriation of a fund to which they might refuse to contribute. He therefore proposed an Amendment, the effect of which was to make the clause provide that money might be applied to such purposes as might be agreed upon by the churchwardens and the trustees.


said, it had been suggested that the church trustees, having funds in their hands, might require the churchwardens to spend them upon ecclesiastical purposes whether they wished it or not, and that it was therefore necessary' to insert a provision requiring the churchwardens to be consenting parties to any expenditure which might be made upon the church. He believed the words in the clause already attained that object. The effect of the Amendment would be that the trustees, having funds in their hands, and desiring them to be applied to ecclesiastical purposes, would propose that the churchwardens should hand a certain portion of their funds to be applied in that way and it was not at all likely that the churchwardens would refuse the application. Supposing, however, that they did so, he was not aware of any machinery which could be devised to force them to make such expenditure; and it would, in his opinion, be wrong to allow the church trustees to interfere with the fabric. On the whole, he was at a loss to suggest any other machinery than that provided by the Bill.

After some remarks from several noble Lords and right rev. Prelates which were not heard,


said, it was not desirable to make any alteration in the clause with undue haste, and he would therefore re-consider the whole matter before the Bill came on for the third reading.

Amendment withdrawn.

THE BISHOP OF OXFORD then moved an Amendment that the Bill should not come into operation till a fortnight after Easter, 1869.


pointed out that the proposed change would be productive of practical inconvenience.

Amendment withdrawn.

Bill to be read 3a on Monday next.