HL Deb 06 July 1874 vol 220 cc1073-8

Order of the Lay for the Second Reading, read.


, in moving that the Bill be now read the second time, explained that he had introduced it on behalf of the Governors of the Queen Anne's Bounty Board. It might be thought, from the title of the Bill, that it was a measure to authorize the sale of glebe lands, and that no such power at present existed. The power, however, did exist, and was already so wide that it required to be modified rather than extended. The present was, in fact, a restrictive Bill, and, if it became law, the effect would be, not that a greater number of globes would be sold, but that the money would be applied in a manner more conducive to the good of the Church than could be done under the existing Acts. A beneficial change had come over Queen Anne's Bounty Board in the mode of dealing with applications to sell glebe land acquired through the Board, as would be shown by a comparison of two quinquennial periods. During the period from 1864 to 1869, 159 applications for leave to sell were made to the Board, of which 150 were approved, 8 were postponed, and only I was refused. On the other hand during the years from 1869 to 1874, 239 applications for sales were received, of which only 97 were approved, 105 being refused and 37 postponed. These figures proved that at present the views of the Board were of a Conservative character—and of these views he highly approved, for he thought that only under exceptional circumstances ought land to be parted with. No endowment was more certain to keep up its value than land, which was likely to go up while the purchasing power of gold went down. In fact, the present condition of things was this—a constant conflict was going on between incumbents who wished to sell their glebes and the Governors of Queen Anne's Bounty, who wished them to be retained; and, consequently, the Board never sanctioned the sale of glebe land unless a very high price was offered. Forty years' purchase was generally obtained, and, in his own diocese, even as much as 65 years' purchase had been obtained. Under these circumstances, it was thought an arrangement might be come to, by which, to a certain extent, the claim of the incumbent to sell, and the claim of the Board to preserve the glebe land, might be met; and he had accordingly introduced this Bill under the sanction of the Board. The principle of the Bill was contained in the 10th and 11th clauses. By the 10th clause it was competent for the Governors, by arrangement between them and the incumbent, to retain a portion of the annual income to be derived from the investment of the purchase money. This portion so retained would accumulate as an addition to the capital for the permanent increment of the living, and the residue would be paid to the incumbent. He had been instructed by the Committee of the Board to ask the highest authority, whether there was anything objectionable in principle in such a proposal. The Lord Chancellor was good enough to say that he saw nothing objectionable in the principle itself; but that he reserved his opinion as to the clauses and the working of the Bill until it was laid upon their Lordships' Table. What, then, would be the working of the measure? He would suppose the case of an incumbent having glebe land which brought him in £80 per annum, and which was sold at 40 years' purchase. The purchase money having been invested in the Funds at 93, brought in £100 per annum. He would now explain how it was proposed to deal with the extra £20. Ten pounds would go to the incumbent as the increased value of the living, and he would accordingly receive £90, instead of £80; and the remaining £10 would be invested at compound interest. The 11th clause provided that every 10 years the incumbent might apply to the Bishop to recommend the Governors to pay to him (the incumbent) the whole or any increased proportion of the annual income of the original fund and of the accumulations. At the end of every 10 years, therefore, the incumbent would have a rise of income. The result would be that, at the end of 40 years, the possessor of the living would have exactly the sum he would have had if the whole of the profit had, in the first instance, been given to the incumbent. Carrying the calculation out to the end of 100 years—which, though a long time in the life of a man, was not a long time in the life of a living—the result would be that the income, instead of £80 a-year, would be no less than £130, minus only 10s. If that principle commended itself to their Lordships' minds, they would have no difficulty in giving this Bill a second reading. The Bill contained a clause specially guarding against any interference with the powers of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners; nor did it make it obligatory on the incumbent to sell—it simply enabled the Board to carry out any voluntary arrangement he might enter into with it. It might be said that, at this period of the Session, a Bill of this kind could not pass through that and the other House of Parliament. Now, he was by no means desirous of having hasty legislation on the subject; he only asked their Lordships to give the Bill fair consideration on its merits. The question of what should be clone with it afterwards would depend on other considerations.

Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2a"—(The Lord Bishop of Carlisle.)


said, he had been asked his opinion before the introduction of the Bill as to the accumulation of the proceeds of sales of glebe lands, and he stated that it was always open to Parliament, if there was any sufficient object, to depart from the strict rule and permit accumulation; but he certainly did not express any opinion in favour of the arrangements of this Bill. He thought nothing could be more injurious to the interests of the Church than the severing of the connection between the Church and the land to any great extent. Now, he doubted very much whether the existing powers for authorizing the sale of certain parts of glebe lands were not already too ample. There was a great tendency on the part of clergymen to seek for powers to sell portions of the glebe lands for the purpose of augmenting their income. The tendency was not, perhaps, unnatural, but it required to be watched and guarded—certainly it ought not to be encouraged. This Bill was, however, calculated to promote that tendency by inviting incumbents to bargain with the Board in relation to the sale of their glebes; and, so far as it tended to enlarge the existing powers, he should be sorry to give his assent to it. The right rev. Prelate said that the pith and marrow of the Bill lay in the 10th and 11th sections, but these contemplated an operation that required the aid of an actuary to explain what its effects would be. He doubted whether it would be a desirable thing to invite sales under these particular clauses. One effect would be that a Bishop's time would be very much occupied with numbers of applications—which might be made every 10 years—for augmentation of the benefice; and there was also an appeal if he refused to sanction the increase. He could not understand on what principle a bargain should be made with an incumbent for the sale of any portion of his glebe lands not for the purpose of increasing the living of the existing incumbent, but of making up a surplus for his successor. The consequence would be that the chance of obtaining an additional £10 a-year would operate as an inducement to an incumbent to turn the glebe land into money. The less bargaining there was of this kind the better. It was better it should go forth at once that Parliament was not going to encourage clergymen in any wholesale conversion of their land into money. He did not mean to say there might not be exceptional cases in which it might not be done; but the less clergymen turned their minds to the question of selling glebe lands, the better would it be for the interest of the Church.


said, he was prepared to move that the Bill be read a second time that day three months, because he thought it better that the issue should be raised at once. The Bill would stimulate the clergy to do that which he believed it would be a bad thing to do—namely, to sell the glebe lands of the country; and in his judgment no proceeding could be worse. He should be more pleased to support a Bill repealing the existing powers of sale than to support one to enlarge them and encourage sales. Mr. Pitt—by whose maxims they had lately been told they were to be governed—objected to the sale of glebe land, because he held that we ought on no account to separate the clergy from the land. If the right rev. Prelate were prepared to carry out his opinions to the fullest extent, he supposed they would carry him as far as the sale of the land of the Bishops; and, indeed, the principle would apply to their Lordships' lands as much as to these of the clergy. Under the present law the proceeds of a sale went to improve the income of the incumbent, but the right rev. Prelate proposed to "keep back" part of the price, the property of the minister, in order to benefit his successor. Such a scheme to come from a Bishop he had never expected. The Bill would take away part of the property of the present incumbent, of the succeeding incumbent, and of the owner of the advowson, to be managed by the Bishop of the diocese. It would be a retrogressive step, which he believed would be most objectionable. He had acquiesced silently in the proposal to trust the discretion of the Bishops in another measure of a different character; but he could not admit of their discretion in meddling with the temporalities of the clergy.

An Amendment moved to leave out (" now ") and add at the end of the Motion ("this day throe months.")—(Viscount Portman).


said, that if the Bill would encourage the sale of glebe land he would oppose it; but he believed it would have a deterring influence, because it would not give the present incumbent the immediate benefit of the prospective increase in the value of the land, but would rightly reserve a portion of that growing value so as to prevent the deterioration of the living. If a living of £100 would be worth £130 in 100 years, it would be unfair to discount the future increased value for the present incumbent, and leave the living worth only £100 a hundred years hence. The present incumbent would get more than he could get now, but he should not be allowed to make matters worse for his successors. Therefore, no undue encouragement was given to sales of glebe, and there was no keeping back part of the price in the sense implied by the noble Earl.


should regret if a division were taken upon the Bill, because it was evident that the majority of their Lordships would prefer that the matter should be further considered. The Bill must have the effect of, in some way, increasing the powers of the Queen Anne's Bounty Board, because it provided that all the powers they now possessed should remain in full force. It would be observed, also, that the provisions of the Bill were not to come into operation except where the Governors of Queen Anne's Bounty and the incumbent consented; so that in practice the Board would have the fullest discretion in applying the Act. If the powers of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners and of the Bounty Board, in the cases to which this Bill would apply, were at present concurrent, he did not see why it should be proposed to give a new power to exact special terms to the Bounty Board only, and not also to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners; especially if, as he understood the proposal, such power would be applicable to all benefices, whether aided by Queen Anne's Bounty or not. He doubted very much whether it would be well to hold out any inducement to sell for special terms in cases not otherwise desirable, and the whole question of entrusting powers of this kind to two co-ordinate and independent public Boards, instead of one only, seemed to require consideration.


supported the Bill, and contended that it involved neither danger to the Church nor injustice to the incumbents.


also approved of the principle of the Bill, but recommended its withdrawal for the present.


said, that after what had passed he should not press the Motion for the second reading, and would withdraw the Bill.

Amendment, and original Motion and Bill (by leave of the House), withdrawn.