HL Deb 25 June 1875 vol 225 cc541-6

Order of the Day for the Second Reading, read.


, in moving that the Bill be now read the second time, said, that his object waste take another step in the direction that had already been sanctioned on two occasions by Parliament. So, as 40 years ago, the Legislature, acting on the recommendations of a Commission which had examined into the subject of the Ecclesiastical Courts, passed an Act—the 7 & 8 Vict. c. 68—which enacted that the registrar of every Court exerising an ecclesiastical jurisdiction should transmit to the Treasury an annual account of fees received in each year; and by a subsequent Act—the 10 & 11 Vict. c. 98—it was enacted that every person thereafter appointed to any office of any Ecclesiastical Court in England should hold the same subject to all regulations and alterations which might thereafter be made by the authority of Parliament. It was to carry further the principle of these Acts that the present measure was introduced. The Bill provided, in the first place, that all persons hereafter appointed to ecclesiastical offices should hold the same subject to such regulations or alterations affecting the same or affecting the fees receivable in respect thereof as might be hereafter made by Parliament, and that they should make annual returns to the Treasury of the fees received by them. It was true that by the Acts to which he had referred the same conditions were imposed; but as time had passed on the holders of those offices appeared to have forgotten the terms upon which they held their appointments, and it was therefore necessary to remind them of the conditions by a fresh enactment. It was, however, intended by this Bill to deal gently with the present holders of these offices, and merely to remind them that they held their appointments subject to any re-adjustment of fees that Parliament might hereafter choose to make. But the special purpose of the present Bill was to provide that no such person should hold himself entitled to retain to his use the whole of the fees so received; and it was therefore enacted that all persons who should hereafter be appointed to such offices should pay to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners of England such proportion of the fees received by them as they should be required and directed to pay by a body consisting of the Lord Chancellor, the two Archbishops, and the Lord Chief Justice of England; to be placed by the Commissioners to the credit of a fund to be called the Ecclesiastical Pees Fund. This would relate only to the fees or salaries of persons appointed after the present date. It was absolutely necessary that some practical step should be taken in a matter which had from time to time occupied the attention of Parliament for the last 40 years—which had been inquired into by two Select Committees of their Lordships' House, and had been sought to be dealt with by Bills, the first of which he had himself introduced as early as the year 1869. Returns on the subject of the fees proposed to be dealt with had been ordered by their Lordships, but very imperfect Returns had been furnished—the order of their Lordships' House and the distinct provisions of an Act of Parliament on the subject having been in some cases altogether ignored;—and this fact accounted for the late period at which the Bill was presented for their Lordships' consideration. The Bill had one other object, which he would briefly refer to. In the discussion last year on the Public Worship Regulation Bill a question was raised as to the source from which the Judge to be appointed was to be paid, and it was considered that the Judge and the ecclesiastical fees had some sort of connection. The proposal the Bill made was this—that having by the proceedings he had explained obtained a Fee Fund a moderate sum should be paid to the Judge out of that Fund until the matter could be properly adjusted. The two Archbishops had been fortunate enough to find a learned and eminent Judge (Lord Penzance) who had undertaken to discharge the duties of the office, and who was already in receipt of a retiring pension for his previous services to the country. There were, however, certain expenses likely to arise in the administration of justice in the new Court which it would certainly be extremely unfair to require a Judge to defray out of his own resources. The learned and eminent person who had been appointed Judge of the Archbishops' Court of Canterbury and York—Mr. Granville Harcourt Vernon—and who by the provisions of the Act would in process of time become the sole Judge of the Ecclesiastical Courts of Canterbury and York, was ready to undertake those duties, asking only that the moderate expenses to which he had alluded should be repaid to him, and it seemed only reasonable that the Fund in question, which was liable to the distribution of Parliament, should be made available for the purpose. There was one other provision in the Bill—namely, that, whereas in the Provincial Ecclesiastical Court of York the Judge of that Court held various offices under one patent, it was important that he should be able, if he so desired, and as the Bill would enable him to do, to resign the one office without necessarily resigning the other.

Moved "That the Bill be now read 2a."—(The Archbishop of Canterbury.)


said, he did not very well see how they could redistribute fees of which, at present, they had little or no knowledge. The Returns to which the most rev. Prelate had referred had been ordered as long back as May, 1874; but up to the present time the results had been very imperfect. No fewer than 11 dioceses had not returned the amount of the fees, amounting, he believed, to an enormous sum, which had been received by the Surrogates, and 40 Archdeaconries had made no Returns at all, in defiance not only of their Lordships' Order, but of an Act of Parliament which required those Returns to be made year by year. At that moment, therefore, they were totally in the dark as to the fees which were to be dealt with, and which, he believed, would be found to be able to bear a heavier burden than was proposed to be laid upon them. He believed they would amount to, at least, £70,000 if properly accounted for.


expressed a hope that as the Bill had been in their Lordships' hands so short a time, and as its second clause affected, in a certain degree, the existing holders of offices which were widely scattered up and down the country, some little time would be allowed to elapse before the Committee stage was taken. These Returns were made compulsory upon many persons, some of them clergymen, who had not hitherto made them, and if they were not made within a certain date they were to be fined £20, which was to be recovered before two justices of the peace at petty sessions. Ample notice ought to be given of this change of the law, so that a mine might not be sprung upon these people without notice. The 6th clause really referred to the salary of the new Judge. As Lord Penzance was to be the new Judge, he had no objection to the salary of the Judge being under this Bill £1,000 as long as he held the office. It was necessary, however, that this office should be held by a person of great weight and authority, and he trusted that a larger salary would be set apart, if necessary, for those who might succeed that noble and learned Judge. He could not understand how the funds for the salary of the new Judge were to be at present obtained. There could be no funds until some of the present holders died or vacated their offices; but the Act made it compulsory to pay the Judge, and he hoped that the Ecclesiastical Commissioners would not have to pay the money out of their own pockets. The Act further stated that these funds were to be returned by January 1, but their Lordships were not told how much they amounted to.


said, there was not the least intention to draw upon the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, as there would be no payment until there were funds in hand. The sum to be paid out of the Ecclesiastical Fees Fund to the Judge appointed under the Public Worship Regulation Act was to be £1,000, which would include £200, the salary of the Judge's clerk. At present, however, all that the Judge would receive would be £700 a-year from the office of Master of the Faculties, which would pass into his hands. It was only right to state that great pains had been bestowed upon this subject, and that there was a scheme in preparation which would be brought before Parliament next Session by which from 30 to 40 per cent of the whole of the fees would be saved to the clergy. The noble Earl (the Earl of Shaftesbury) had stated the total amount of the fees to be £70,000; but it would, he believed, be found not to exceed £50,000. The only burden cast upon the Ecclesiastical Fees Fund by the Bill would be £1,000 per annum. The Judge would receive £800, which added to the £700, the salary of Master of the Faculties, would make his total salary £1,500 a-year, and there would be £200 for his clerk. This scheme was acceptable to the Judge, and would, he hoped, receive the assent of Parliament.


said, he thought some change would have to be made in some of the clauses. He strongly objected to the 4th clause, under which anyone who failed to transmit an account of fees received by him within the time appointed might be taken up like a poacher, or other like offender, before two justices and fined £20. There was, moreover, a strong feeling with regard to several of these fees, especially as to churchwardens' fees, the Returns of which were included in the Bill. The reason was that, some time ago, when the authorities who had the power revised these fees throughout the country, they found that they were high in some dioceses and low in others, and they struck an average, and by so doing raised up the latter to the level of the former. Thus the fee for the admission of churchwarden used to be 12s. 6d. in his diocese. It was now raised to 18s., and so much dissatisfaction was caused that it was sometimes difficult to obtain payment of the fees at all. He hoped before that Bill became law some alteration would be made in Clause 5, and that it would be made clear that there was an intention to reduce the fees. It was true the objections he took might be met by Amendments in Committee; but he mentioned the points now because he feared the Bill would cause some dissatisfaction, which might be allayed if assurance were given that its defects would be considered in Committee.


said, the remarks of the right rev. Prelate had reference to matters of detail, which might be re-considered in Committee: for instance, he did not consider it right that the existing officers should be put under penalties to which they were not at present subject. The Bill was professedly a temporary measure, and he agreed with the right rev. Prelate in the hope that this Bill might be regarded as a solemn pledge that the whole question of fees would be dealt with without further delay.


, in reply, thanked his right rev. Brother (the Bishop of Carlisle) for his criticism, and promised that the points he had raised should be considered before the Bill went into Committee. He concurred with the noble and learned Lord in regarding the Bill as a pledge that the matter was to be dealt with seriously, and was to be no longer played with. The noble Earl (the Earl of Shaftesbury) had complained that certain Returns had not been made through the surrogates; but as those officers were paid for duties of quite a different character they were not to blame, and he might also mention that the fees estimated by the noble Earl at £70,000 were really £50,000 a-year. It had been said that certain fees which for some years had been received from the proctors, amounting to £3,000, had fallen in, and ought to have been applied by himself and the Bishop of London to the payment of the Judge under the Public Worship Regulation Act. The answer to that was simply that they had no such power. The fees in question lapsed to the person by whose consent they had been diverted for a certain number of years. With regard to time for consideration, if the Bill went into Committee on Friday next, would that satisfy the noble Earl?



Motion agreed to; Bill read 2a accordingly, and committed to a Committee of of the Whole House on Friday next.