HL Deb 07 July 1887 vol 317 cc3-11

Order of the Day for the Third Reading read.

Moved, "That the Bill be now read 3a."—(The Marquess of Salisbury.)


, in rising to move, as an Amendment— That no measure with regard to tithe rent-charge will he satisfactory to the country which does not provide for the re-valuation and re-adjustment of the said charge, said, he thanked the noble Marquess at the head of the Government for having postponed the third reading until a day when he (Lord Brabourne) could be present to enter one last word of protest and warning against the shape in which it was proposed to send the Bill down to the other House. He would say that the Bill dealt with a great subject in a manner which unsettled everything and settled nothing. The measure had been introduced by the Government, because there had been certain disturbances connected with the levying of tithe, and the remedy the Government proposed was to abolish the Law of Distraint. But no complaint had been made against the mode of enforcing the collection of the rent-charge; the complaint was against the impost itself, its amount, and its inequality; and the effect of the Bill would be in no way to lessen the grievance. There were two classes who paid tithes—those who occupied their own lands, and those who occupied lands which were not their own. With respect to the latter, the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Salisbury) had said that they were made responsible for a debt which was not their own, but this was scarcely a correct statement, because they had deliberately taken the debt upon themselves in taking their farms and agreeing to the rent. At present the occupiers of land paid tithes, because they had contracted with their landlords to do so, and if the Bill passed the only result would be that landlords would stipulate that their tenants should pay the equivalent to the tithe rent-charge in their rent settlement, instead of paying the actual rent-charge to the owner as at present. His (Lord Brabourne's) noble and learned Friend (Lord Bramwell) had, on a previous occasion, twitted him with ignorance upon this point, saying that the tithe rent-charge was entirely an owner's question. His noble and learned Friend spoke without practical knowledge of the subject. It might seem that if an occupier paid £150 per annum, it mattered not to him whether he paid it all to one person, or £100 to one and £50 to the other. But an occupier knew perfectly well that if he paid the whole to one landlord, he had a much better chance of reduction than if he paid £100 to the landlord and £50 to the tithe owner. Moreover, on hiring a farm, the tenant knew that there was this £50 per annum charged upon it, for which the landlord was liable, and which was, therefore, the basis of the rent he must demand, and that rents would be lower in proportion if the charge did not exist. But the great difficulties of tithe collection did not arise from occupiers, for the very reason that the owners were ultimately responsible. It arose with the small owners, a very numerous class, whose number it was sought to increase by their legislation. His noble and learned Friend had committed himself to the declaration that this class would be under no greater liability than at present under this Bill. But they were to be brought to the County Court, disobedience to whose orders wag punishable by 14 days' imprisonment, and it seemed to him strange to say that there was no increase of liability when a man was to be made liable to imprisonment to which he was not liable under the present law. Throughout the country the amount of tithe was very much complained of, its commutation having been attended with gross inequalities. Great complaint was also made of the manner in which the averages were taken, tail wheat and wheat of an inferior quality not being taken into account, and the average being thereby forced up beyond what was gain. Moreover, a great deal of land now laid down in grass paid arable tithe, which was considerably higher than pasture tithe. He (Lord Brabourne) wished again to enter his earnest and emphatic protest against the doctrine laid down by the noble Marquess, that tithe was the gross produce of the laud, irrespective of cost. That doctrine was all very well in the earlier history of the world, when a virgin soil required little or no cost to cultivate; but now, when £5 or £6 per acre had to be expended in order to obtain the crop estimated at £7, the doctrine could not and would not be accepted by the people of this country. A Bill passed in the belief that such was the true doctrine with regard to tithe would not remove friction between the clergy and their parishioners, and would not add to the popularity of the clergy. Nor would this be the result of that part of the Bill which provided that if the orders of the County Court were not satisfied, the clergy might be put in possession of the farms of these small owners. This would never be endured. The question of tithe was of great importance to the small owners of land throughout the country, and ought to be dealt with in a large and comprehensive spirit. If this was not done, and, with regard to kindred questions also, the Government would find that they would have other Spalding elections, and they would not retain the confidence of the agricultural community now suffering under such grievous depression. In order to give their Lordships an opportunity of expressing their views upon the subject, he begged to move the Amendment of which he had given Notice.

Amendment moved. To leave out all the words after ("that") and insert ("no measure with regard to tithe rentcharge will be satisfactory to the country which does not provide for the re-valuation and re-adjustment of the said charge").—(The Lord Brabourne.)


said, that there was nothing which had been said by his noble Friend which differed from what their Lordships had heard upon several previous occasions. Therefore, he was not going to take up the time of the House by going over the arguments again. The Bill undoubtedly did not effect to deal with the larger parts of the question, those of re-valuation and of re-adjustment, but it was a simple effort to alter the machinery by which the tithes were now collected, and it had been introduced because it was believed that hardships to the occupier had occurred in practice; that the machinery occasionally operated with harshness, and tended to mislead the occupier as to the real incidence and burden of the tax, which was indeed imposed upon the land—though as between the owner and occupier it had by private agreement been paid by the latter. The Government, indeed, believed that the tithe was essentially in the nature of a tax upon land, and as such ought to fall upon the landowner, and not upon the occupier. They also believed that if the effect of the Act of 1836, in throwing the payment of the tax upon the occupier, were removed much misapprehension of the nature and incidence of the tax, which was the source of some popular agitation, would disappear. There was, therefore, ground for asking their Lordships to deal with this small part of the subject, rather than to enter upon the extensive field on which his noble Friend had invited them to enter. He would earnestly impress upon the House the consideration that whatever loss this Bill inflicted on the landowners, or on the owners of tithes, it could not inflict any hardship upon the occupiers. It certainly changed the situation for the owner; but as far as it changed it in respect of the occupier, it changed it for his advantage, for, as had been said by his noble Friend (Lord Brabourne), it would be better for the occupier to pay £150 a-year to one man, the landowner, than to pay £100 to the landowner and £50 to the tithe-owner. In dealing with one man instead of two, he would be in a far better position. In his opinion, it was as dangerous to make the allegation that the owners objected to the obligation of tithes, and that therefore they ought to be free from that obligation, as to make the suggestion that mortgages ought to be put an end to, because the mortgagees did not wish to discharge their legal obligations in respect to them, and were sufficient in number to make the matter a political question. His noble Friend had protested against the doctrine that tithe had to be paid without references to the cost incurred in producing it. Well, in answer to that, all he (the Marquess of Salisbury) could say was, that he was sorry for it, but the practice now followed was that which had prevailed for 1,000 years, and that the Act of 1836 did not in any way interfere with it The Act of 1836 was simply a contrivance for the payment of a charge which, before that time, had always been of a varying and indefinite character, and putting it in a definite form; but it made no change in the right of titheowners to the payment of one-tenth of the gross profits, and they might just as well take the nine-tenths from the landlord and give it to the titheowner as to take the one-tenth from the titheowner and give it to the landlord. The rights of the landowner and of the titheowner might come under consideration at some future period, but their Lordships might de- pend upon it that any scheme of reform which involved the plundering of the titheowner would not, in the long run, be of any advantage to the landowner. Such considerations as his noble Friend had urged were not usually very powerful in that House, and he was sure that their Lordships would not be induced by such considerations as to the wider question to reject the modest reform which Her Majesty's Government now submitted to the House.


said, though not opposed to the principle of the Bill, he most decidedly demurred to the rather stringent doctrines which the noble Marquess had just laid down on the subject. On his side of the House they were far from objecting to the Bill, so far as it went; but he objected to the doctrine as to the basis upon which the tithe rent-charge rested. No doubt, there was no more reason why they should take away the property of the titheowner than of the landowner; but, at the same time, it must be borne in mind that the conditions upon which the tithe rested were of comparatively recent date, and they must well consider what was going on around them. There could be a re-examination without plundering anyone. But he thought it was essential for the interests of all, and especially of the Church, that their rights of property should be enforced in such a manner as to secure general acquiescence. He was quite sure that they would not get out of these difficulties without a full examination of the tithe rent-charge in all its bearings, and making some re-adjustment of it. He did not, however, see why this Bill should not be passed, because there were other matters which must be considered thereafter; and as he agreed with the noble Marquess that it was not necessary to wait for any general re-adjustment of the law before they passed it, he should give it his general support.

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

Resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read 3a accordingly.

On Question, "That the Bill do pass?"

On the Motion of The Earl of POWIS, the following Amendments made:—In Clause 8, page 7, line 27, at end of clause insert— Provided that any redemption money paid in respect of tithe rentcharge—

  1. "(a.) If payable to any professor in the University of Oxford or Cambridge, may, at the option of the professor, be paid and applied in manner provided with respect to the purchase money of land sold under the Universities and College Estates Act, 1858; and
  2. "(b.) If payable to a charity, may, at the option of the trustees or other persons administering the charity, be paid to the Charity Commissioners for England and Wales;"

in Clause 16, page 13, line 28, at end of clause insert— This Act shall apply, in the case of tithe rentcharge payable to any churchwardens, parish clerk, or other parish officer, in like manner as if such churchwardens, parish clerk, or other parish officer were an ecclesiastical corporation.

On the Motion of The Lord Bishop of LONDON, the following Amendments made:—In Clause 9, page 8, line 7, after ("sums") insert ("charged on the fund and all expenses"); line 8, leave out ("section") and insert ("Act"); line 30, after ("thereupon") insert— ("And also upon the Land Commissioners in case of disagreement determining the amount of the annuity");

and in page 9, line 15, leave out from ("Act") to end of section.

On the Motion of The Marquess of SALISBURY, the following Amendments made:—In Clause 3, page 2, line 40, leave out ("or") and insert ("and"); Clause 8, page 6, line 41, leave out from ("section") to the end of line 42; page 7, line 2, leave out ("so paid") and insert ("paid as hereinafter mentioned"); after Amendment proposed by the Earl of Powis at Clause 8, page 8, line 6, insert— ("And (c.) if payable to any trustees of a settlement or tenant for life within the meaning of the Settled Land Act, 1882, may be paid to the trustees of the settlement and invested in like manner as if it were capital money arising under that Act");

Clause 11, page 10, line 22, after ("pay") insert ("to the person redeeming the tithe rentcharge"); line 24, after ("rentcharge") insert— ("Payable to any ecclesiastical corporation aggregate or sole, or to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners");

Clause 12, page 11, at end of clause insert as a New Sub-section— Where tithe rentcharge redeemed under this Act is subject to a mortgage, or to any charge annual or capital, the amount paid, whether as capital or by way of annuity for the redemption of such tithe rentcharge, shall he subject to the same mortgage or charge;

Clause 15, page 13, line 13, at end, insert as a New Sub-section— Where on any redemption of tithe rent-charge under this Act any person is treated by the Land Commissioners or the Ecclesiastical Commissioners as owner of any lands, and liable to pay any sum for the redemption, whether such sum is a capital sum or an annuity, and is the whole or part of the amount payable for such redemption, and such person is owner of any portion of the lands charged with the tithe rentcharge redeemed, such person shall be liable to pay the sum notwithstanding that he is not the owner of the whole of the lands in respect of which the same is payable, but he shall be entitled to recover from the owner of the rest of such lands a proper proportion of the sum paid by him;

Second Schedule, page 18, line 18, at end of line insert—

"9 & 10 Vict. c. 73.

"An Act further to amend the Acts for the commutation of tithes in England and Wales.

"Section one and section five, so far as they relate to tithe rentcharge, to which this Act applies payable to an ecclesiastical corporation, sole or aggregate, or to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners;"

line 31, after ("thirty") insert— And sections thirty-one and thirty-two, so far as they relate to any tithe rentcharge to which this Act applies payable to an ecclesiastical corporation, sole or aggregate, or to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners");

line 31, at end insert—

"41 & 42 Vict. c. 42.

"An Act to amend and further extend the Acts for the commutation of tithes in England and Wales.

"The following portions, so far as they relate to tithe rentcharge to which this Act applies, that is to say—

"In section one the words 'for a sum equal to twenty-five times the amount thereof,' and section four, and so much of sections three and five as relates to tithe rentcharge payable to an ecclesiastical corporation, sole or aggregate, or to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners;"

after Clause 7 insert—

(Provision in case of two rentcharges on the same land.)

"Where by reason of a tithe rentcharge in respect of the great tithes being separate from a tithe rentcharge in respect of the small tithes, or from any other cause, two tithe rent-charges are charged on the same lands, and the amount of any such tithe rentcharges for any twelve months exceeds the profit of the lands for those twelve months within the meaning of this Act, the said profit shall he divided between the persons entitled to such tithe rent-charges in proportion to the amount thereof fixed by the apportionment or any altered apportionment, and in any proceedings for the recovery of either of such tithe rentcharges, the court shall make such orders as may appear to the court necessary for giving effect to this enactment."

Then the Queen's consent and the Duke of Cornwall's consent signified by The Marquess of SALISBURY; and Bill passed, and sent to the Commons.