HL Deb 13 July 1868 vol 193 cc1098-101

Bill read 3a (according to Order), with the Amendments.


said, he had given Notice of an Amendment by way of addition to Clause 6; but in consequence of some suggestions made to him by the noble Earl lately at the head of the Government he had made certain modifications in that Amendment. His Amendment, as he should now propose it, provided that the inhabitants of any ecclesiastical district constituted out of a portion of an ancient parish should not be entitled to vote in that parish in matters relating to church rates; but might, subject to the other provisions in this Bill, assemble and make a rate for their own ecclesiastical district. The right rev. Prelate concluded by moving his Amendment.


said, he had apprehended that the Amendment as framed originally would have prevented persons from voting in respect of church rates for the payment of which they were liable. For twenty years after separation from the ancient parish the inhabitants of an ecclesiastical district continued to be liable for a proportion of the rates imposed for the maintenance of the fabric of the mother church. To relieve them of that obligation would be to throw a new tax on the ancient parish. It was not easy to gather the exact effect of an Amendment from hearing it read; but if the clause, as now worded, would only go the length of depriving persons of the right of voting in respect of rates for no part of which the)' would be liable, he could have no objection to it.

Amendment agreed to; Further Amendmends made.

Then it was moved, That the Bill do pass.


said, he did not at this time oppose the passing of the Bill, as such a course would be now alike fruitless and unusual; but he did feel it to be his duty formally and deliberately to enter his protest against it. He would ask their permission to state briefly why he must firmly say "Not-content" when the proper time arrives. He would not thus trouble their Lordships, if he were not conscious that he was now expressing the sentiments of several other Members of the right rev. Bench, and if he had not reason to believe that in his protest the voices of others more influential were really joined with his own. He protested in the first place against the scope and principle of the Bill. He protested against thus giving up a portion of the heritage of the Church and of the just liabilities of the land to clamour, and that too to a clamour that year by year was becoming less reasonable and less justified by the facts of the case. A principle had been almost gratuitously surrendered, and they were brought face to face with the true beginning of the end. He protested then against the general substance and tenor of the Bill. He protested further and in the second place against the Bill, when compared with the Bill that came up from the Commons. In that Bill there were at any rate some few safeguards; there were provisions that tended to put the Church in a better and safer position than she could occupy when the present measure should become law. Of two measures the worst had been chosen. Lastly he would make bold to say that simple and unconditional abolition of church rates was to be preferred to the present measure. If injustice were to be done, better far that it should be clear and patent rather than masked under what many may be led to speak of as adjustment and compromise. If church rates were unconditionally abolished, the church would fall back upon herself and her own real strength. She would rely not on scaffolding, but on free hearts and free offerings, and she would not rely in vain. He thanked their Lordships for the consideration with which they had listened, and reiterated temperate but firmly his protest.


said, he should have been glad to have an opportunity of saying a few words on the general question of church rates, but could not think of presuming to do so at that moment. But when many of their Lordships hoped rather than expected that that Bill would enable them to hear no more of that question for a long time to come, he must express his entire conviction that the whole agitation against church rates and the proposal for their total abolition were as totally unfounded in justice as any movement that ever occurred in this country, except upon a ground that would go a great deal further, and that would extend even to the abolition of the Established Church. The repeal of church rates had been advocated on considerations of expediency, with a view to conciliate the Dissenters; but he doubted whether it would have that result. He had very slight hope indeed that this Bill would lead to any good, yet, as it had been agreed to by both sides, he could not offer any opposition to it.


said, he disagreed both with the noble Lord (Lord Lyttelton) and the right rev. Prelate (the Bishop of London) as regarded the comparative disadvantage of that Bill as it stood and a measure for the complete abolition of church rates. He thought that measure very much better than one for the complete abolition of church rates; and he had a sanguine hope that in many parishes in the country it would work very satisfactorily. If there was a parish in the country which thought it had got a better machinery of its own than that provided by the Bill, it would be perfectly at liberty to employ that machinery; and that he deemed a merit in the Bill.

On Question? Resolved in the Affirmamative; Bill passed accordingly, and sent to the Commons.