HL Deb 09 March 1875 vol 222 cc1470-82

Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee, read.

Moved, "That the House do now resolve itself into a Committee."—(The Lord Lyttelton.)


rose to move an Amendment that the Bill be referred to a Select Committee. The noble Lord (who was very imperfectly heard) was understood to express his regret that he should feel bound to take this course with a Bill brought in by his noble Friend (Lord Lyttelton) who paid so much attention to the subject, and who combined so much industry with the highest possible knowledge. If he could see his way to avoiding the course which he now proposed he would gladly do so; but he did not see that it was at all possible that the Bill could be so amended in Committee of the Whole House as to be made a workable measure, and there- fore the best course was to refer it to a Select Committee, where the objections he had to its details could be better considered. The first objection he had to the measure was that, as an Act of Parliament, it was permissive only; whether or not it would ever be put into operation at all would depend on the will of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners; but he was not aware that those distinguished Gentlemen had expressed any desire to put such a Bill into operation, and there was nothing to indicate how it could be put into action should the Commissioners decline to do so. It was to be left to their choice whether the Bill should ever be put in force in any single case. There was no way of bringing public opinion to bear on the Commission. Even where it was manifestly the desire of a district to obtain a Bishop, he did not see any way in which the Commission could be compelled to give effect to that wish; for, at best, any pressure which might be brought to bear on that body would be very indirect and inadequate. He believed that to be a fundamental objection to the Bill; and that giving power to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners to grant or withhold an increase to the Episcopate at their discretion was a course which would never receive the approbation of their Lordships. His next objection was that there would be a risk that the Bishops appointed under this Bill would not be either financially or socially of equal status with the existing Bishops. There was no minimum of remuneration named in the Bill, and therefore there would be the danger of an acceptance of inadequate remuneration by persons who might desire the appointment. He thought, therefore, that the Bill ought to make an endowment to a certain amount obligatory in every case before the scheme for the formation of the new Bishopric could receive the sanction of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners; and his own opinion was, that the amount to be provided ought to be such as would give the new Bishop a remuneration equal to what was the revenue of the present Members of the right rev. Bench. He must express his opinion that a sufficient case had not been made out for such a measure as this, because we knew from the precedent afforded by the See of Manchester that new Sees could be created now. Again, he held that you might make as many new Bishops as you pleased, and still the numbers would be insufficient if the right rev. Prelates continued to discharge a large amount of duty which could be performed by persons in an inferior ecclesiastical position. He remembered asking the private secretary of a most esteemed Prelate how it was that the Bishop managed to get on so well; and the reason given was, that the Bishop directed his secretary never to let him see any letter that the secretary could answer himself, and to let no business be referred to him that could be disposed of otherwise. The truth was, that the Bishops had undertaken too much, and but for this fact there would be no necessity for the present Bill. He hoped that the Bill would be referred to a Select Committee, where the difficulties connected with it could, if not overcome, be considerably mitigated, so that their Lordships might not sanction the passing of a Bill which would not tend to the satisfaction of their Lordships or to the good of the Church.

An Amendment moved, to leave out from the word ("that") to the end of the Motion, and insert ("the Bill be referred to a Select Committee.")—(The Lord Houghton.)


said, he had never before known a Motion for referring a Bill to a Select Committee, unless an intimation of such Motion had been made on or before the second reading. His noble Friend's (Lord Houghton's) arguments could scarcely have been used in earnest. He had commenced by asking—"Who is to put the Bill in motion?" Anyone might put it in motion. The parties who were willing to subscribe money for the endowment of a new Bishopric had only to bring their scheme to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, and ask for their sanction. The Bill was not one for increasing the Episcopate, but for enabling persons who wished to increase it, to do so on certain conditions. Those who desired to see a new Bishopric established, and were able to provide funds, would go to the Commissioners and express their wish; and the duty of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners would be to prepare schemes, and there was not the slightest reason to doubt that they would discharge that duty. His noble Friend said there were no means of bringing public opinion to bear upon them. But every one of them was friendly to the general purpose of the Bill. As to the status of the Bishops, if his noble Friend had given attention to what passed in their Lordships' House on the second reading of this Bill, he would have known that he (Lord Lyttelton) stood on the same ground with him in that respect. He stated in the debate on the second reading, that he was anxious that there should be no difference whatever between the status of the new Bishops and that of the existing ones; but the latter right rev. Prelates had not all exactly the same income, and as the income which would be sufficient in one place might not be so in another, he proposed to leave that matter to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. As to what his noble Friend had said about the See of Manchester, that was inapplicable to its present position; he knew that if public funds were available for the purpose, new Bishoprics might be created without such a Bill as this; but that was not now in question. He wholly differed from his noble Friend's last argument. If his noble Friend's opinion was that a Bishop should only be a judicial functionary, and that they had undertaken too much in the way they now discharged their duties, he should be much surprised if one other Member of their Lordships' House agreed with him in that view. He trusted their Lordships would not give their assent to his noble Friend's Amendment.


said that, as he found he was wrong in matter of form, he would not press his Amendment.


observed that, though the custom was as the noble Lord (Lord Lyttelton) had stated it, the noble Lord (Lord Houghton) was quite in Order. It was quite competent to the noble Lord to move his Amendment, but he had certainly taken an unusual course.


said, he did not think it right to press the Amendment.

On Question, Whether the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Motion?

Resolved in the Affirmative.

Then the original Motion agreed to; House in Committee accordingly.

Clauses 1 to 9, inclusive, agreed to.

Clause 10 (No endowment from funds of Commissioners).


objected to the prohibition. He could not see why the funds taken from overpaid Bishoprics should not be applied to the endowment of Bishoprics which were required; but to absolutely forbid the Commissioners to so apply them appeared to him to be monstrous.


said, he had here again to observe, that if his noble Friend had made himself acquainted with what took place on the second reading he would have known that he (Lord Lyttelton) quite agreed with him as to the propriety of applying the "common fund" to the endowment of Bishoprics; but when his noble Friend asked why the prohibitive clause appeared in the Bill, he must refer him to a noble Earl near him (the Earl of Shaftesbury) who would be able to answer the question.

Clause agreed to.


rose to move the following clause, to follow Clause 10:— It shall be lawful for the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, if they think fit, in any scheme for the formation of a new bishopric under this Act, to attach to the bishopric thus formed:

  1. 1. Such portion of the income of any bishopric diminished by the formation of the said new bishopric as shall not reduce the said income below the sum of £4,200 per annum:
  2. 2. Any living in the new diocese which may have been hitherto in the gift of the bishop whose bishopric has been thus diminished, such living to be held by the bishop of the new diocese from the date of the next avoidance of the said living:
  3. 3. The income of any canonry in the cathedral church of the bishopric thus diminished which may be in the gift of the bishop of the said cathedral church, such income to be thus transferred from the date of the next avoidance of the said canonry, and the canonry to be then suspended."
His reasons for moving that clause was that he feared the diocese of Exeter, which required division more than perhaps any other, would not be provided for under the Bill as it stood. It was not at all likely that the necessary endowments for a new bishopric could be raised in Cornwall, and therefore he was anxious that funds should be provided by other modes. He named £4,200, not because that sum had any abstract fitness, but because it was the amount now appropriated to the Bishops of Manchester and Hereford, and was the minimum now received by any Bishop of the English Church. As to the subsection for allowing the new Bishop to hold a living, the intention was that the Bishop should reside in the living, and with the assistance of his chaplains, acting as curates, discharge its duties. Lastly, as to the stall in the cathedral church, there were five canonries in the cathedral of Exeter, and if it were divided it would be only reasonable that the part cut off should have a portion of the cathedral revenues. He had consulted his Chapter on this point, and though they did not think it was the best plan of providing for a bishopric, he was authorized to say they assented to the proposition. It would diminish their number from five to four, and consequently impose heavier cathedral duties on the latter. He would not propose this plan, only the need was so great. He did not think it would be easy to convey to their Lordships an adequate sense of the necessity of a division of the Diocese of Exeter—the work of the diocese was now so heavy that it could not be well done. But the difficulty of providing the necessary funds would be very great, and unless some means of providing for the new See such as those he had indicated could be found, the Bill would never be applicable to the district.

Moved to insert new Clause after Clause 10.


said, he thought the Diocese of Exeter would be a suitable one for the experiment; but he objected to the specific sum it was proposed to introduce. He would remind their Lordships that when a Bill the same in principle as the one now before their Lordships was referred to a Select Committee, that Committee recommended that in the Bill itself no sum should be fixed as the income of the Bishop. He would, therefore, suggest to his right rev. Brother to omit the words "the sum of £4,200," and substitute the words "such sum as the Ecclesiastical Commissioners may think fit,"


said, he had no objection to adopt the suggestion.


thought the second item in the clause proposed by the right rev. Prelate open to serious objection—it was a return to the old abuse of holding benefices in commendam—when a man might be a bishop in one place, dean of another, canon in a third, and hold a rectory in another. He had not thought that in these days anyone would propose to allow a Bishop to hold a living in his own diocese. How could a man do the work of a parish properly while he was at the same time discharging the functions of a Bishop? Again, at the time when an Act had just been passed to enable the number of canonries to be increased, he could not consent to a proposition to cut down the number of canons in a diocese in order to find an income for a now Bishop. As to the question of providing a sufficient endowment, if the people of Cornwall or any other county wanted a bishopric, let it find funds to endow that bishopric, as it would find ten times the amount for a new railway, or a harbour, or a breakwater. It was impossible to say that this country, with all its enormous wealth, could not found new Sees; and for a mere fraction, as compared with the amount which they expended for secular purposes, they might surely be content with a spiritual, instead of a pecuniary, return.


said, he wished to make a few observations on the proposals of the right rev. Prelate. In doing so he would be speaking only his own sentiments—for he did not know how far his noble Friends behind him would agree with him, or whether they might not take a different view. He was not able to agree in the analogy which the noble Lord who had charge of the Bill had drawn between the construction of a railway and the endowment of a bishopric; and he thought his noble Friend had borne a singular testimony to the zeal of the people of Cornwall:—because they had always been ready to employ money for making railways or breakwaters, they would, therefore, employ money for making bishoprics. That was what he ventured to think was taking a rather coloured view of matters. Well, to the second proposal of the right rev. Prelate he entertained great objection. They had been accustomed to hear a great deal about the misappropriation of the estates of the bishoprics and chapters to the "common fund" for the benefit of the parishes—but here were funds intended strictly for the benefit of a particular parish, and the right rev. Prelate proposed to allocate them to the Bishop of the diocese. He knew that the right rev. Prelate proposed that the Bishop should reside in the parish the living of which was to be given to him; but it was obvious that the Bishop was to be appointed for episcopal work, and he could not do the work of a diocese and the work of a parish. The result would be that the work of the parish must be done by the curate, while the funds of the parish would be paid to the Bishop. Talk of a misappropriation of trust funds! Could there be a greater misappropriation than that? Then, as to the proposal to do away with one of the canonries, he did not think the canons of the Church were in excess of the work which there was for them to do. If anything were to be done in the direction proposed by the right rev. Prelate, he would prefer that one or more of the canons should be taken from the old diocese and given to the new one; but to suppress a canonry in order to apply its revenue to the endowment of a bishopric was a scheme which ought not to receive the approbation of their Lordships' House. He did not propose to submit to their Lordships any Amendments, but he entertained considerable doubt as to the working of the Bill. It was a Bill to enable new Bishoprics to be created without any limit as to number, except that limit which no doubt would result from the difficulty of providing funds. The object was to provide for the performance of diocesan work, which it was admitted on all hands could not be satisfactorily performed at present. The Bill would leave abundant work still to be done in the existing dioceses, but the hope was that it would be better done than it could be now, when some of the dioceses were too large. According to the present constitution of the Church, there were a number of Bishops possessed of ample endowments and having seats in that House, and it was sought to establish side by side with them another class of Bishops having no endowments except such as were to come from private contributions, but who were nevertheless to be entitled to the same privileges as the other Bishops of the Established Church. He was afraid that the proposal now before the House was capable of being wrested by those hostile to the Church to its disadvantage. Now, if any feasible plan could be devised for the due performance of the work of the Episcopate, he should regret to see it contemplated to a greater degree than at present that where a new bishopric was created and a diocese carved out of an existing diocese, provision should be made out of the existing diocese for the purpose. He did not at all approve a proposal which assumed as a matter of course that by the mere division of an existing diocese a new bishopric should be created. It might well be that the division of existing bishoprics would not suffice to endow new Sees as they ought to be endowed, and, so far as the first part of the Amendment tended in the direction of making up the deficiency, he should not object to it.


said, he thought that the noble and learned Lord had done him the honour of repeating what he had suggested, and that his observations showed that the Bill ought to have been referred to a Select Committee. He believed that they had been led away by reference to a false historical analogy, for the old commendam system had nothing to do with the present proposal, which was that the new Bishop should not be non-resident, but should reside in the parish. He would take as an instance the case of Dr. Hook when vicar of the large parish of Leeds; under this Bill he could have been made a Bishop and still have retained the vicarage.


asked how a Bishop could be resident in his parish and perform well all the duties of his diocese, and how would such a Bishop work the Public Worship Regulation Act? Suppose three of his parishioners presented a charge against him. He could not refuse to hear it, and he might by process of law be obliged to suspend himself from, or deprive himself of, his living, which was yet vital to his bishopric, by Act of Parliament.


wished to remark that Dr. Hook, during the time he was at Leeds, built one church and one schoolroom every year that he was there, and that he could not have clone if he had been Bishop of Leeds with other duties to perform.


stated his belief that five-sixths of the people of Cornwall were Dissenters from the Church of England, and that there was no very great desire in that county to have a new Bishop. They considered that their present Bishop did his work very well.


said, that was no argument against his Bill, which was not intended to provide for the case of those who did not want a new Bishop, but for those who did. If the people of Cornwall, or of any other place, did not want another Bishop, he did not wish to force one upon them. He did not know about the Dissenters; but he should be surprised if there were not many laity, and still more clergy, in Cornwall, who would be glad to see a Bishop there.


was also of opinion that a Bishop was very much wanted in Cornwall. He did not see any objection to reducing the canonries in Exeter Cathedral from five to four for the purpose of promoting the object; and he approved of the reduction, to a small extent, of the income of a Bishop, who had been relieved of a portion of his duties. Cornwall might not have a great wish for a Bishop of its own; but, assuredly, it had great need of one. He was afraid the wish was not very strong as yet.


said, he did not quite agree with what had fallen from his noble Friend the Lord Lieutenant of Cornwall (Lord Vivian). The amount of Dissent now existing in that county was owing to the neglect of past years. He had heard of the case of a parish in Cornwall in which it was said that a Bishop had not been seen since the Reformation—perhaps he might say since the Con-quest. He firmly believed that the people of Cornwall did want a special Bishop, and the appointment of one would set the Bishop of Exeter free to attend to his own diocese of Exeter.


suggested that the first portion of the clause proposed by the right rev. Prelate (the Bishop of Exeter) should be adopted; with a modification in the sense suggested by his right rev. Friend (the Bishop of London).


thought the better course would be to accept the Amendment of his right rev. Brother, modified as the noble Duke suggested. With reference to remarks made in the course of this discussion—he should be sorry if the impression went forth that the present Bishops found it impossible to perform the duties of their several stations. He by no means agreed in the view propounded that evening by his noble Friend opposite as to episcopal duties. No doubt the Bishops had great difficulties to encounter in performing their duties according to the high standard they had, to their honour, established for themselves; but he had no hesitation in saying that the duties of the episcopal office were most satisfactorily performed by his right rev. Brethren in the difficult dioceses of Winchester and Exeter, although no doubt they might be still better performed under some such sub-division of those dioceses as was now proposed. While anxious to give his best support to this Bill, he confessed that he was not very sanguine as to its success. It might be that the people of Cornwall would be as liberal as some had supposed, or as unwilling to increase the efficiency of the Episcopate as the Lord Lieutenant of that county thought; but he could not help feeling a little doubtful as to the success of his noble Friend's measure. That, however, would be tested in the way that his noble Friend wished it to be. Those who felt a great desire to increase the Episcopate would, no doubt, come forward for that purpose; on the other hand, if such a desire was not really felt, then people would not come forward, and the Act, if passed, would become a dead-letter. Nor was he very sanguine as to the success of the measure when it went elsewhere: but he was, on that very account, all the more anxious that there should be no misconception as to why they urged the measure on their Lordships. It was not that the duties now attached to the episcopal office could not be performed, but that, like all other human duties, they might be better performed, and that they would be neglecting what devolved on them if they did not give every facility for the most perfect discharge of those duties that was practicable. If he had had the management of this matter, and had complete control, both in their Lordships' House and in the other House of Parliament, respecting it, he should have thought it—as he had always done on former occasions—a wiser plan to propose a definite scheme for the formation of a particular bishopric in some one of those cases where there was an obvious want. His right rev. Brother might with great propriety have proposed a definite scheme for the endowment of a bishopric of Cornwall. He might have said there were some exceptional circumstances in regard to the Cathedral of Exeter—namely, that it had five canonries, whereas other cathedrals had four; and he might have proposed that one of those canonries be appropriated to the endowment of that new bishopric. It was possible also that there might be livings in Cornwall, the emoluments of which were so large that it would be right to charge some of them for that purpose. He did not know that there were such livings in his own diocese, or many of them in England; for he believed that the English parochial clergy were poorly paid indeed, and that even those of them who were reputed to possess large livings found a very small sum come to them after all payments for charities and curates were discharged. But they would, perhaps, have been in a better position for discussing that important question if they had before them a definite proposal for the division of the diocese of Exeter. Then, too, all danger as to the jealous feeling of Parliament would have been avoided; because the consent of Parliament would have been taken as to the foundation of the bishopric. It might also be desirable that a distinct scheme should be submitted to Parliament for the division of the diocese of Winchester—the most trying case of all the dioceses in England—and a plan suggested for providing sufficient funds for the new See. He hoped that at some future time such an idea might be entertained. At the same time, the only practical plan before them was that of his noble Friend (Lord Lyttelton); therefore, he thought the Episcopal Bench had no course left them but to give it their cordial support, and he should be very glad indeed if the hopes of the noble Lord were fulfilled, and if a great number of persons were found ready to assist in the formation of new Sees.


said, he would not press that portion of the clause to which objection had been made. He admitted that he had his own diocese in view in proposing it, and there might be serious objections to taking that diocese as a type. This Bill appeared to afford the only opportunity of procuring the necessary resources for carrying on the work of the Church. He pointed out that the canonries of Exeter differed from those of other cathedrals as to the number, and that one of them might be appropriated to the formation of a new bishopric without any improper alienation of funds.

Clause withdrawn, and new Clause inserted, as follows:— It shall "be lawful for the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, if they think fit, in any scheme for the formation of a new bishopric under this Act, to attach to the bishopric thus formed a portion of the income of any bishopric the diocese of which is diminished by the formation of the said new bishopric.


moved that the following clause be added:— It shall be lawful for the patron of any benefice situated within a diocese formed under this Act to charge the said benefice with a perpetual annuity, payable from the date of the next avoidance of the said benefice, to the Bishop of the said diocese; provided always, that in the judgment of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, having regard to the area and population of the said benefice, the payment of the said annuity shall leave a full and sufficient income to the incumbent of the said benefice. It was at present the law of the land that the patron of two livings might, with the consent of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, increase the endowment of one at the expense of the other. The exercise of this power was of great advantage in cases where one of the livings was rich and the other poor. By the present proposal the same principle was sought to be applied under different circumstances; and it would afford many private patrons an opportunity of assisting in the formation of a new bishopric.


opposed the clause.

After short conversation.

On Question, resolved in the negative.

Remaining clauses agreed to.

The Report of the Amendments to be received on Thursday next; and Bill to be printed, as amended. (No. 35.)