HL Deb 05 August 1875 vol 226 cc550-3

asked the First Church Estates Commissioner, Whether, the Bishop of Lichfield having refused his consent, as visitor to the Dean and Chapter of Lichfield, to the scheme for commuting their capitular estates, under 31st and 32nd Victoria, chap. 114, unless they comply with a stipulation that has no reference to the scheme or the Act under which it is framed, the Ecclesiastical Commissioners intend to acquiesce in such refusal, or whether they will in the next Session of Parliament introduce a Bill to amend the Act by either dispensing with such consent altogether or giving an appeal to the Archbishop of Canterbury? The noble Lord said, that the question was one of considerable local interest, and the whole of the circumstances had been already published. The right rev. Prelate, actuated, no doubt, by conscientious conviction, had refused his assent to the scheme because it did not contain two conditions which the Dean and Chapter and the Commissioners both said they had not sufficient funds to carry out; but it was evident from the Report of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners that they did not approve of the action of the right rev. Prelate. If that was the case he wished to know whether the Commissioners were going to allow the matter to rest there. Great benefit would accrue from the adoption of the scheme, and he wished to know whether that benefit was to be lost because the right rev. Prelate wished to force his will upon an unwilling Dean and Chapter.


said that, so far as he knew, the Ecclesiastical Commissioners had no intention of applying to Parliament for additional powers, and that, in fact, it was not the duty or the practice of this Commission to originate legislation. In answer to the noble Lord's other Question—namely, whether the Commissioners acquiesced in the course taken by the right rev. Prelate, he would just refer to what had actually occurred. In the Report of the Estates Committee, dated the 30th of January, 1873, they stated— The scheme for giving effect to this agreement is framed under certain statutory provisions which it may be observed have now been applied, or are in course of being applied, to all the other Capitular Bodies in the Kingdom, the only two Chapters which have not so commuted their estates being now in communication with the Commissioners with that view, and one of these provisions makes the consent of the Visitor of the Dean and Chapter a necessary condition to enable the Commissioners, after agreeing with the Chapter for such commutation, to submit for ratification by Her Majesty in Council a scheme for carrying Out the agreement. It appears, however, to the Committee impossible to conceive that the discretion thus given to the Visitor was intended to be used, or that it should be used otherwise than in reference to the provisions of the scheme laid before him by the Capitular Body. No action was taken by the Board upon that Report, nor did he see that any further steps were within the powers of the Estates Committee or of the Board. The Estates Committee in the Report expressed their opinion, he thought, clearly and strongly, as adverse to the course adopted by the right rev. Prelate. In that opinion, he (the Earl of Chichester) entirely concurred. It was quite true that the delay complained of inflicted a considerable hardship on the incumbents of small livings in the patronage of the Chapter, since it indefinitely postponed the consideration of the local claims with the view of their augmentation. The delay was also to be regretted on the ground that the Chapter estates continued to be granted out on beneficial leases, and their unimproved and unimprovable condition was prolonged. That was a loss not only to the Church, but to the country. He did not feel called upon to say a word either in favour of or against the project of the right rev. Prelate to which the Dean and Chapter refused their consent, or, rather, to which they demurred, beyond this, that his late friend the Dean of Lichfield (Dean Champneys) was the last man in the world to offer an obstructive opposition to any scheme which, in his opinion, might tend to the welfare or efficiency of the Church.


said, the course adopted by the noble Lord who had asked that Question seemed to be unusual and inconvenient. A discretion was given by law to the Bishop to withhold his consent from a scheme for the transfer of the capitular estates to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. If that discretion was used unlawfully, the remedy lay in an appeal to a Court of Law. If the discretion so vested in the Bishop was in itself inexpedient, it could be withdrawn by the Legislature. The question related, in fact, to a conflict of discretions. The Dean and Residentiary Chapter of Lichfield had a discretion to refuse to bring into operation the provisions contained in two Acts of Parliament for the revival of two suspended Canonries. The assumption of the noble Lord that he (the Bishop of Lichfield) was the only person to blame, seemed to him unfair. It was said that he hindered the augmentation of poor benefices in the patronage of the Chapter. If the Dean and Chapter were to agree to his proposal, he would sign their scheme, and then the difficuly would be at an end. The other party was as much to blame as he was, unless their reasons were altogether good, and his altogether bad. That remained to be proved, and ought not to be assumed. It was not likely that he should have disagreed with an honoured friend like the late Dean Champneys, without some strong reason touching his sense of duty. That was not the time or place to state all his reasons, some of which were of a very delicate and personal kind; but he might say that when a large sum of public money was to be placed at the disposal of any corporate body, the common sense of mankind required that body to fill up its vacancies, and make itself in every way as efficient as possible. The General Chapter of Lichfield had passed a resolution that the number of canonries ought to be raised to six, by the revival of the two which were now suspended. It was not the case, as the noble Lord had said, that he (the Bishop of Lichfield) was trying to impose his will upon the Dean and Residentiary Chapter; but that he was endeavouring to carry out the Resolution which the General Chapter had adopted, and to bring into operation the provisions of two Acts of Parliament for the revival of suspended Canonries.

House adjourned at a quarter before Eight o'clock, till To-morrow, a quarter before Five o'clock.