HL Deb 08 March 1878 vol 238 cc954-70

My Lords, in moving the Address of which I have given Notice, praying Her Majesty to issue a Royal Commission to inquire into the law and existing practices as regards the patronage, sale, and exchange of ecclesiastical livings—to me a somewhat difficult and invidious task —I desire, at the outset, to state that I have not the slightest desire to do away with, or to diminish lay patronage, in the Church of England. The late liberality of the laity of the Church, and the fact that they have subscribed £300,000 as an addition to the £100,000 in the hands of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners is a proof of the sincerity of their interest in the Church; and is in itself security that, as a rule, lay patrons are anxious that the best men should be appointed to the cure of souls. My Lords, in moving the appointment of a Royal Commission on a subject which your Lordships have had before you on a former occasion, I feel that I am bound to make out a case for withdrawing the question from your Lordships' House and consigning it to a Royal Commission. In 1874 my right rev. Friend (the Bishop of Peterborough), in a remarkable speech, in which he put before you many instances of the breaches of the law of simony which took place day after day, moved the appointment of a Select Committee to consider the subject; and under the influence of the statements by my right rev. Friend, your Lordships agreed to the appointment of the Committee. The right rev. Prelate showed the House most clearly that there existed in this metropolis offices in which constant breaches of the law against simony were committed day by day. The Committee entered upon their inquiries immediately, and very shortly after presented their Report, in which they made certain recommendations; and in the following year a Bill based on these recommendations was presented by my right rev. Friend, and consisted of 28 clauses. The Committee had recommended that no clerk should be instituted unless he brought testi- monials signed by there beneficed clergymen and the Bishop of the diocese from which the candidate had come. That recommendation was included in the Bill; but the provision was considerably modified by your Lordships; and as it left this House the signature of the Bishop was dispensed with, and only the signatures of three beneficed clergymen were required. Now, my Lords, in my opinion, the safeguard of the Bishop's signature is all important. A friend of mine once remarked to Mr. Justice Wightman that it was curious how experts, when examined in a law case, were found to give such contradictory opinions; when the learned Judge observed that often he should have liked to ask the party this question—"To how many experts had you to go before you could get the opinion you liked?" There were very few candidates for a benefice who, by going round, could not obtain the signatures in their favour of three good-natured clergymen. In the case of Mr. Voysey he had got three clergymen to testify to the soundness of his doctrine, and every one of those three clergymen afterwards volunteered to me, as Archbishop, the expression of their regret at having so rashly signed that document; but it took hundreds— I believe I might say thousands—of pounds to undo what had been done by means of their signatures. There was another case, in which three clergymen signed for a young clergyman, though then knowing of conduct on his part which subsequently led to his removal. In that case, also, great regret was expressed. I will not anticipate what the Royal Commission will do; but I think that it is desirable in all cases to retain the signature of the Bishop, or to require some form of testimony from him. The next recommendation of the Committee was that physical or mental incapacity should be a bar to induction. That recommendation, I am happy to say, was retained in the Bill. But it must be remembered that learning and other qualifications are requisite besides those which would come under the general head of moral and physical capacity. The third point was the recommendation of an amended process to try the validity of the Bishop's refusal to institute; but that recommendation was omitted from the Bill. Now, I would ask your Lordships to consider the position of the Bishop in this matter. Of necessity he is the person who, in the first instance, stands in the gap. Under the old process, the Bishop was first judge and next defendant. If he refused what was asked, and proceedings were taken against him in a higher Court, he was bound to defend his position, and the process of reviewing his decision became extremely expensive and dilatory. I would suggest that, whatever the conditions imposed in connection with his action in such matters, the Bishop should be judge in the first instance, and that there should be only one appeal from his decision, which decision should be given in writing, the Bishop not being obliged to follow his judgment personally into the Court of Appeal; so that the case would be heard in his absence. That would relieve the Bishop from a process extremely tedious in its nature, and extremely costly and vexatious in its character. The next recommendation of the Select Committee was that a right of objection should be given to the parishioners. That was adopted in the draft Bill; but no provision was made as to what the Bishop was to do when he got the objection. The proposal, therefore, was open to the objection that if the Bishop did not do what he was called on to do, he would be accused of slighting the parishioners; whereas, if he did it, he might be doing what his own judgment did not approve. The adoption of such a proposal would put the Bishop in a false position towards the parishioners. The Select Committee recommended—I believe unanimously— that every clergyman should have had an experience in the ministry of three years as a curate before he would be eligible for appointment to the permanent cure of souls. The Bill did not contain that proposal. Again, the Committee recommended that no clerk over 70 years of age should be appointed to a cure of souls, and a clause to that effect was inserted in the Bill; but the House thought it right to rehabilitate reverend gentlemen from 70 to 75 years of age by fixing 75 as the age at which such disqualification should commence to operate. But few persons reached 75, and fewer still were the clergymen who before that time of life had not found a permanent cure of souls. There were stories told of the induction of venerable clergymen who, despite the administra- tion of strengthening port, had not been able to get beyond the Seventeenth of the Thirty-nine Articles—but he had never met with such a case. At present the person concerned made a declaration that no contract was made by him or for him which, in his opinion, was simoniacal —the result of which was that the clergyman himself was made the judge of what was simoniacal. As his right rev. Brother (the Bishop of Peterborough) said, that was a premium on ignorance on the point, because the less a man knew of simony the better for him. That was amended in the Bill by the introduction of a declaration against simony, contained in a Schedule which was afterwards struck out. In the matter of exchanges, no adequate provision was made to meet abuses of this description, which were almost as great as in the question of simony. I think some means ought to be taken to prevent misrepresentation and fraud in respect of them. In 1870 the present Home Secretary introduced a Bill in the other House prohibiting the sale of next presentations. The measure passed the other House without a division; but when it came up to their Lordships' House, after being read the second time without debate, the Order for Committee was discharged. The state of matters seemed to be this —that their Lordships did not appear to be at one with their own Select Committee, and were not in concert with the other House as to the fundamental principles which should guide an inquiry of this kind. Under these circumstances, I respectfully submit to your Lordships that you may very well resort to a different mode of treatment altogether; that you may have a Royal Commission which, if Government would grant it and organize it properly, would reflect every shade of opinion in the Church. In that case, there is a reasonable hope that the recommendations which may come from thorn, if they are at all unanimous, will carry such weight in both Houses that they will lead to good legislation. The Subscription Commission is a case in point. It sat for a long time, it was extremely well arranged by the Government of the day, and it was impossible to say that any shade of thought was not represented. The Government adopted its recommendations, and I have never heard any complaint of what was done by it. I do not stand alone in this matter. Since I put my Notice on the Paper, the Convocation of the Province of York has passed a unanimous resolution in favour of a Royal Commission; and from what I have heard I believe that the Convocation of Canterbury would pass a similar resolution if it were now sitting. It is not within the walls of this House that the feelings which are entertained on this subject can be understood. Abuses such as these would not be permitted to exist in secular matters. They are abhorrent to the minds of Englishmen—especially when they relate to holy things. It is not easy to catch those cases, but of their existence there can be no doubt. In a speech which has been made in "another place," it was stated that there was published a list of 94 advertisements for the sale of next presentations, and that in 57 cases of those 94 immediate possession was guaranteed. It was not too much to say that in almost every one of those 57 cases means were about to be adopted either to evade or break the law. Some years ago a gentleman was presented to a living in my own diocese. Among the papers forwarded there was a letter from the gentleman's "affectionate uncle" to myself, and it explained the mode of operation by which he was about to complete a clear act of simony. The price paid for it was £150, but the gentleman never became the vicar of the place; because the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack was applied to to fill up the living on the ground that it was a ease of simony. This kind of thing was going on in hundreds of instances. Now, my Lords, the objection to a remedy of these abuses does not come from your Lordships' House—nor does it come from the other House of Parliament. Does it, then, come from the laity? Certainly not—the laity out-of-doors cannot understand how it is that these things are allowed to go on—they do not desire it —they feel that it brings the system of lay patronage into contempt; every layman who is worth anything would combine to effect a remedy for the existing state of things. Parliament, the Clergy, and the Laity of the Church of England are unanimously opposed to the continuance of those abuses; and in a spirit friendly to the Church, Dissenters have condemned them in the other House of Parliament. It is said that lay patron- age is so intermixed with the question of Establishment that the one cannot be interfered with without injuring the other. Now I, for one, will never, even for a single day, consent to leave an abuse untouched upon the ground of some real or fancied harm that trying to remove it might do to the Established Church. I do not believe that abuses tend to strengthen the Church Establishment. I am also of opinion that the present problem, most difficult and intricate though it undoubtedly be, and though with respect to it any change is to be viewed with great jealousy, is one which it is most desirable should be solved. In the name, then, of the Clergy of every school of thought, who are of one mind on the subject; in the name of the Laity, who are constantly twitting the Church with a shocking scandal, I ask your Lordships to take the practical mode of dealing with a question which must sooner or later be dealt with.

Moved that an humble Address he presented to Her Majesty, praying Her Majesty to issue a Royal Commission to inquire into the law and existing practice as to the patronage, sale, exchange, and resignation of ecclesiastical benefices, and to recommend remedies for abuses if any are found to exist.—(The Lord Archbishop of York.)


said, that he rose thus early to offer a few remarks, for the reason that he might not have another opportunity of addressing their Lordships on the subject, and that the same thing might occur as on the last evening, when the noble Earl the Foreign Secretary addressed a House of only eight Members. It was, in fact, almost impossible to conduct a debate of that importance to any satisfactory conclusion, notwithstanding all the amiable protests which were made the other evening upon the subject of time and empty benches. Although he felt unequal to meet the most rev. Prelate upon a question of this kind; yet he would endeavour to offer a few suggestions on some points which the most rev. Prelate had not so much left out as declined to bring forward. The most rev. Prelate had, as he understood, objected to the system of lay patronage; when it was through the great liberality of laymen that the Church had been built up, and might be said to be a large voluntary institution. The most rev. Prelate assumed a scandal, and then proceeded to deal with it as if it really existed, which he (Lord Houghton) for one would venture to deny. The most rev. Prelate's speech was, in effect, an attack upon lay patronage. The most rev. Prelate objected to the sale of next presentations; but such sale was by law allowed. The advowsons were the property of the patrons, and next presentations were attached to that species of property—they were entitled to the full enjoyment of their proprietary rights, and if they took those rights away they would alter, or diminish, or change the value of that property. His most rev. Friend seemed to have been actuated by an undue deference to public opinion upon the subject, and he had hoard these sales denounced as a great abuse. That it was an abuse he assumed from the beginning to the end of his speech; but the question was whether there was an abuse, and, if so, whether any remedy could be found, and what course would be the most judicious in regard to the sale of next presentations? He did not think that it was for the members of the Church of England to be guided in this matter by the practices or opinions of the Nonconformists on the subject. He did not think that that amount of abuse existed which had been spoken of. He did not think the most rev. Prelate had made out any case for consigning the question to the inquiry of a Royal Commission. What was meant by appointing a Royal Commission? Why, the giving great and needless publicity to small abuses and exaggeration of evils in the Church of England. The Commissioners would not be able to conduct their inquiries secretly—the evidence would come before the public and be discussed; and he thought the very opening of the question would be equivalent to offering a reward for accusations. He did not think that it was a convenient course to discuss this question in the absence of the Lord Bishop of Peterborough, who had introduced a Bill upon the subject in 1875, and he did not see how it was logical that the most rev. Prelate should force on the Legislature a new edition of that Bill by means of an inquiry by an extraneous body, when the Legislature had already decided the question by the rejection of the right rev. Prelate's Bill. The livings in the gift of the Lord Chancellor were, under the Act passed by Lord Chancellor Westbury, sold under certain circumstances, and the greatest religious body, founded by the late Mr. Simeon, took advantage of that Act. The advertisements which had been referred to did not all relate to the sale of next presentations, but to advow-sons as well, and with as much pictures queness. He felt that, by passing the Bill for the abolition of lay patronage in Scotland, they had laid down a dangerous precedent in this matter. He objected to that Bill, and he did not hear that it had given much comfort or satisfaction to the people of Scotland. At the same time, the English question was larger and of very different proportions, and must, therefore, be dealt with differently. The main point he wished to urge on their Lordships was that it would be impossible for the Commission, if it were appointed, to deal satisfactorily with this question without dealing in some form with lay patronage; because, if the Report of the Commissioners were not to deal with that point, the evils would remain just as they were. He trusted, therefore, that their Lordships would agree that there was very little ground for his most rev. Friend asking for this Commission, which would be unable to make any Report either satisfactory to the Legislature of the country or beneficial to the Church of England.


said, he would not detain the House for more than a few minutes, and would not remark upon the question whether the audience of the preceding night had been large or small. He thought, however, that the source whence this Motion had come demanded for it the respectful consideration of the House, and that, whatever might be their individual opinions on the subject, the arguments of a high dignitary of the Church on such a subject deserved close attention. He did not propose to follow the noble Lord (Lord Houghton) in his somewhat discursive remarks on the views entertained by the Nonconformists as to the subject matter of the Motion. The noble Lord had said it would be inconvenient to discuss the question in the absence of the Bishop of Peterborough; but, having said that, he had plunged into the subject at length, and gave them a long lecture on it. There was no doubt the question was one of very great complexity, and the very fact that it had been the subject of attempted legislation in both Houses showed the very great difficulty attending upon its solution. He thought, therefore, that the course which Her Majesty's Government proposed to take was one that ought to commend itself to their Lordships' minds, and that course was to agree to the Motion. He did not propose to offer any opposition to the Address. He thought, after having said that, that he would be wanting in respect to their Lordships if he went into very knotty questions which required very careful consideration. There was one remark he would make upon a criticism of the noble Lord which related to the Scotch Patronage Bill, in which he (the Duke of Richmond and Gordon) entirely disagreed. He had said that the Scotch Patronage Bill was a measure which had not commended itself to the people of Scotland. Now he (the Duke of Richmond and Gordon) knew quite as much of the opinions of the people of Scotland as the noble Lord, and he ventured to protest against the noble Lord's view being entertained.


said, that though he did not intend to offer any opposition to the Motion, he felt that there were many arguments against the reference of the question to a Royal Commission. His noble Friend (Lord Houghton) had not given the best of those reasons, and had misconceived the tenour of the speech of the most rev. Prelate — who had, indeed, guarded himself against the idea that he had intended to attack the system of lay patronage. If the abuses of which they had heard were at all characteristic of lay patronage, its days were numbered; the evidence produced before a recent Select Committee, on which he had had the honour to sit, went far to prove that those abuses were not underrated. But the fact of their not being very numerous was irrelevant, for the mischief created by these occurrences was not to be measured by their frequency—they acted like the splash of a pebble dropped into a still pool, the ripple of which went on extending in ever-widening circles—and the scandals resulting from them inflicted a considerable amount of humiliation on Churchmen. The most rev. Prelate had told them that the Commission would reflect every shade of opinion in the Church of England. Now, it occurred to him that the calm deliberations of a Committee of their Lordships' House might be more effectual than the protracted and probably tempestuous discussions that would arise in a body in which every shade of opinion in the Church of England was represented. His principal objection to a Royal Commission was this—he understood that it was usual when a Royal Commission was appointed to undertake an inquiry of that kind that some attempt should be made to show that the subject of the inquiry was either too technical or too minute for convenient discussion by their Lordships' House. Now, as a matter of fact, that question had been discussed, and very fully discussed, by two Committees of that House; and although those Committees were not in all respects unanimous, there were many points on which they did agree very completely. The first of those Committees contained among its Members the most rev. Prelate himself, four Members of the Episcopal Bench, Lord Harrow by, and other lay Peers, and they took the evidence of one or two right rev. Prelates, the solicitors of Prelates, their secretaries, and other witnesses, and they produced a Bill to which reference had been made that evening. That Bill was referred to another Select Committee, than which no stronger Committee ever conducted an inquiry in that House. That Committee revived the Bill which was presented to their Lordships. It was true they made some Amendments in it; but, in the main, they agreed to accept a number of most important recommendations which proceeded from the first Committee. There were clauses with reference to donatives, bonds of resignation, and also a provision for registration by means of which publicity might be given to those transactions which were now so often conducted with secrecy. Now, the object of those clauses was limited to the creation of safeguards against the abuse by patrons of the right of presentation; but they did not attempt to take away from them the whole or any part of their right. Seventy-five per cent of the total value of an advowson was represented by the next presentation; and if an interest of that magnitude was to be dealt with by Parliament, he could not well see how they could avoid giving some compensation to patrons for the interference with their vested interests. The clauses of the Bill to which he had referred were likely to mitigate the abuses of which complaint had been made, and he thought it was not unreasonable to ask that some trial should be given to them.


said, that he regretted the subject should be again submitted to further inquiry. The debates in this House, and the investigations of two Select Committees, had exhausted it. Nothing more was to be learned. They understood the nature and extent of that abuse; and they had learned the difficulty of applying a remedy without inciting greater evils. In the first place, they all admitted that private patronage ought not to be abolished. It must exist. The question was whether the power of sale was not a necessary incident. It certainly was, in one sense, a moral trust; but could they divest it of the incidents of property? Suppose sales to be prevented, and that it must remain in the hands in which it now rested, what security would that furnish for the exercise of the trust? Let it be attached to an estate. The estate was sold and broken up. To what portion of the estate was the advowson to be attached? Was it to be broken up with the estate? Into what hands would it fall? Conceive it either directed away wrong, or left in the hands of one, bankrupt and pauper, and sale forbidden, could they have worse security for the disposal of the trust? Was there any complaint made now of improper persons creeping into livings by sale? On the contrary, sale of presentations had introduced many most excellent servants of the Church, and connected it with other classes of the community, the most religious of the commercial classes, who would have no other means of access. The abuses arose from the abuse of the term of simony, and from the attempt to put down as a crime that which the moral sense did not acknowledge as such. Do away with the name altogether; recognize and. regulate the practice, and give to the Bishop increased power for rejecting unfitting persons.


said, if he had had any doubt about the propriety of the course Her Majesty's Government proposed to take on this matter, he should have been entirely converted by the speech of the noble Marquess opposite (the Marquess of Lansdowne). Comparing the Bill which had been read three times in the House of Commons and twice in their Lordships' House—[A noble LORD: It passed this House.]—One Bill passed this House, and another in 1870 passed a second reading here, after having passed a third reading in the lower House of Parliament. Comparing what was actually agreed to by Parliament with what had been stated to-night, it appeared to him that there was great confusion on this subject, and that the Houses of Parliament did not clearly see their way in this matter. Therefore, it seemed only desirable that as much light as possible should be thrown on this question. He totally differed from his noble Friend on the other side (Lord Houghton), who desired to keep things in the dark. The more light there was thrown on an abuse in the Church, or any other of our institutions, the better, provided you did it in an honest spirit and with the view of getting rid of the abuse. He believed it was the opinion of all the best friends of the Church of England that whatever abuses there were in our system should as soon as possible be dragged to light in order that they might be removed. On that point he could not agree with his noble Friend, who seemed to think—first, that there were no abuses in this matter; and, secondly, that if there were any abuses it was very dangerous to expose them. And he seemed also to think that it was absolutely necessary, if we preserved lay patronage, that we should preserve it in the most objectionable form. We served the Church of England best by seeing that, as far as the law went, it was well administered, and if there was anything such as had been represented in the evidence brought before the late Committee on this subject —if there was anything which brought discredit on the Church and which was not a violation of the law—he thought it was our duty to improve our legislation. He was sorry to differ so much from his noble Friend, who complained that we too often listened to Dissenters on this matter. He did not wish to found his opinion of the Church of England on those who were not its members; but if there were any abuses which they saw very clearly, he, for one, would be much obliged to them for drawing our attention to those matters; and he should not be deterred by the fact that those abuses were pointed out by persons who, though differing from ourselves, might co-operate with us in endeavouring to find a remedy for those abuses. With regard to the particular subject of the sale of next presentations, he felt that there was a marked difference between the sale of the next presentation and the sale of an advowson. It was pointed out by many witnesses who were examined in the Select Committee that the one case was the transfer of the responsibility of finding a fit person to be presented by him who became the possessor of the advowson; but all experience showed that in the other case the next presentation was purchased for some particular person. It was not the responsibility of selecting a fit person that was transferred; but the right of providing for some friend whom you wished to become the incumbent of the living. He had pointed out on a former occasion that past legislation had done very much to encourage that sort of view; and in one point he was fortunate enough to gain the support of the majority of the Select Committee to the proposition that an end should be put to what always appeared to him to be a very great evil in past legislation on the matter. He thought there were faults in the law, and especially in regard to the facilities offered for the evasion of the law. He thought that Parliament—at all events, since 1870—had been endeavouring to remedy these evils. He thought that there was a conflict of opinion between what was now apparently the general view of their Lordships tonight, and the opinion which they adopted in 1870 on the recommendation of the present Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, when a Bill passed the second reading for the abolition of the sale of next presentations. He thought, also, that there was a conflict of opinion between those who carried the Bishop of Peterborough's Bill in this House and those who allowed it drop in the other House of Parliament. He thought, also, that public attention was not sufficiently aroused on this important subject. If there was no other proof, it was sufficient to point out that when so important a subject as this was discussed a very short time since "elsewhere," asufficient number of Members of Parliament were not found in "another place," to remain in their seats, and the discussion had to be closed because it did not command sufficient attention. Therefore, he thought that the appointment of a Royal Commission was a wise measure, which would tend to foster a proper public opinion on this subject, and to settle this question as soon as possible on a sound basis.


said, that, considering the fate of the proposals made in time past to settle this matter, he did not think the time had come when it would be wise to legislate without some further preliminary inquiry; but he had no hesitation in saying that if the sale of next presentations could be abolished, the gain would be very great to the Church of England, because the sale of next presentations was the root of all the other evils we wished to get rid of. The most rev. Prelate had said, that on a former occasion only five lay Peers had voted for a clause, intended to have that effect. It must not, however, be supposed that those were the only lay Peers in favour of the principle. The Bill then before the House had come recommended by a Select Committee, and it was thought wiser first to try the remedies which they had recommended. But there were great difficulties in the way. Before the House could satisfactorily seek to legislate with the view of abolishing the sale of next presentations, they should know whether such a a change would affect the market value of advowsons to a substantial extent; and, in the event of its being ascertained that the value of such property would be so affected by it, then they should consider whether this was a case in which compensation ought to be awarded to those patrons who might sustain loss in consequence of legislation upon this subject; and, if so, by what means that compensation might be provided? It was agreed on all hands that, for the reasons which had been well stated by the noble Earl (the Earl of Harrowby), advowsons must continue to be saleable; and it must be considered, on the one hand, whether any other means of preventing existing evils could be effectual, so long as next presentations were sold; and, on the other, whether, if the direct sale of a next presentation were prohibited, it would not still be liable to take place indirectly under colour of the sale of an advowson. These were the difficulties of the question. The great evil was that cures of souls were, in practice, bought and sold, by or for particular clergymen. He confessed that it seemed to him to be utterly impossible to defend the purchase of a living by, or even for, the clergyman who was to be appointed to it; because this was trafficking in one of the most sacred trusts known to our law. The law would not permit the sale of any other position of trust— even commissions in the Army were no longer permitted to be bought and sold— and, therefore, he could not understand how anyone could venture to defend the system of purchase in the Church. It was not wonderful if, under such a system, clergymen held themselves entitled to introduce strange doctrines and practices into their parish churches against the law, and often against the wishes of their parishioners.


said, that there had already been four attempts to deal with this subject without success. He hoped that some promise would have been made that the subject would be taken up by Her Majesty's Government, and that they would introduce a measure which would put the sale of livings and of advowsons upon a footing satisfactory to all parties; and he still hoped it would be possible to introduce a measure that would meet with the sanction of both Houses of Parliament.


said, that in 1874, when there was a Committee on this subject, he received numerous letters suggesting that episcopal patronage should be made a matter of inquiry. He thought that if lay patronage was to be examined, public opinion would require that episcopal patronage should also be examined into. It appeared that they were to have a Commission representing all grades of opinion in the Church. If that were so, the Commission would be a very large one indeed. He should wait with some curiosity to see the names of the Commissioners.


suggested that it would be advisable to leave the word "patronage" out of the Motion, as the real object was to secure an inquiry into the sale of advowsons and next presentations. With reference to the observation that had been made by several noble Lords and by the noble Duke who had just sat down, he must point out that although Her Majesty's Government assented to this Motion, they did not pledge themselves that every shade of opinion should be represented on the Commission. He quite agreed with the opinion expressed that it was inexpedient to have Royal Commissions on every occasion. They were very important organizations which ought not to be used too commonly. There was no doubt that the question of the sale of next presentations was a very difficult one, and if they reviewed the Acts passed with regard to simony, and those affecting the power of Prelates to admit to livings or refuse admission, they would find they had a mass of difficulty to deal with which was as great as that presented by any other subject. In 1875 a Bill was introduced by the right rev. Bench containing provisions of a stringent character. It was referred to a Select Committee, where its stringency was diminished, and the clauses reduced from 37 or 38 to 21. When, however, it came again to be discussed in their Lordships' House, it was found that the reduced Bill was even stronger than it had been before in that form, and commended itself to the majority of their Lordships' House. The Bill was further reduced to 17 clauses, and in that form it fairly represented the extent to which the House was prepared to go. He could not agree that the subject of next presentations was fully considered in the first instance. It was considered in the Select Committee, and there was introduced into the Bill a most useful and important clause, to the effect that the next presentation was never to be separated from the advowson. Several proposals were made in the House with reference to next presentations and other matters intended to make the Bill more stringent, and thus bring it back to its original form; and upon all those proposals the right rev. Bench were in antagonism to the other Members of their Lordships' House. That was not a satisfactory state of things. There were in the House a large number of Peers who were lay patrons; and where there was a difference of opinion between those lay Members and the right rev. Bench upon the sale, exchange, and resignation of ecclesiastical benefices, the question could hardly be loft where it was, and must be made the subject of further consideration. Therefore, the case was exactly in the position in which it might well be referred to a Royal Commission in order that they might see whether some middle course could be made the subject of a Report to come before Parliament with a view to the removal of these difficulties. On the part of the Government, he was prepared to assent to the Motion if the reference to patronage was omitted from it, and the Motion was allowed to road as follows:— That an humble Address he presented to Her Majesty praying Her Majesty to issue a Royal Commission to inquire into the law and existing practice as to the sale, exchange, and resignation of ecclesiastical benefices, and to recommend remedies for abuses if any are found to exist.


assented to this proposal, and after a few remarks in reply—

Motion amended, and agreed to.

Moved that an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying Her Majesty to issue a Royal Commission to inquire into the law and existing practice as to the admission to, and sale, exchange, and resignation of ecclesiastical benefices, and to recommend remedies for abuses if any are found to exist.—(The Lord Archbishop of York.)

House adjourned at a quarter before Eight o'clock, to Monday next, Eleven o'clock.