HL Deb 15 June 1891 vol 354 cc386-8

My Lords, with regard to the notice on the Paper in my name, to ask Her Majesty's Government what fees and charges are payable by Archbishops and Bishops on appointment; who receives them; and what services are rendered for them? I have to state that on Saturday I received a further intimation from the noble Marquess at the head of the Government that a postponement of my question would be desirable. That intimation has been affirmed since I came into this House, and I can only say again that I shall be pleased to submit entirely to the noble and learned Lord's ruling and to defer the question until Monday next. As to the wording of my notice I can only say that those are the words expressed in the letter from Mr. Macdonald; but his Lordship is also of opinion that it would be desirable to change the wording of the notice so as to give it more scope, in fact, to ask for more information than the wording of my notice requires. The words in substitution have not been entirely settled yet, but they would come pretty well to this: I shall request a Return which will explain more fully how the fees paid by Archbishops and Bishops are apportioned among the persons who receive them.


I merely ventured respectfully to submit to the noble Lord alterations in the form of the question by which I thought it would more clearly and more fully meet the object he has in view. The difficulty is to be quite certain that the words will include all the various kinds of payments which the unfortunate receiver of an ecclesiastical benefice was liable to. All I want is to have the facts fully and satisfactorily set before your Lordships. Some high authorities have said that the complaints made are exaggerations. On the other hand, these complaints are so very frequent that I think it is right that as full and complete information should be laid before the House as possible.


Perhaps, if I may be allowed to add a suggestion, the noble Lord will ask for some statement of the duties which have to be performed on occasions when these fees are demanded. As there is likely to be a confirmation of an Archbishop in London very soon, I think it would be worth while for some of your Lordships who take an interest in these things to go and see what kind of ceremony it is. I think you will be astonished. I will not attempt to describe the absurdities of the performance now, and I am afraid if I attempted it I could not do so in quite respectful language. When I was present on one of those occasions, I said to the Archbishop who was there—" I always feel great difficulty in keeping my countenance when I am performing this ceremony," as I have to do over all the suffragans in the Province of York, and I think any of your Lordships would say the same. If you will come and witness it you will see what it is the unhappy Bishop has to pay £80 for.


Do I understand the noble Lord to say that because the ceremony is absurd the Bishop ought to pay more?


I mean just the contrary, that it ought to be abolished. I think I am justified in saying that when no less a personage than Queen Elizabeth passed an Act asserting that the ceremony was entirely useless and a sham, and was not necessary for the consecration of the Irish Bishops, why it should be for the English ones, I am unable to understand.


I can give your Lordships some information in this matter by stating what I had myself to pay. The expenses which I had to pay on my confirmation and consecration at York Cathedral amounted to £106 18s. 10d., but as the noble Lord who has just sat down was not then Chancellor of the Diocese, none of the money went into his pocket. I may also say that I hold in my hand a paper containing all the fees and charges that I had to pay when I became Bishop of Carlisle, and it appears to me to show that the statements that have been made in the newspapers on the subject are greatly exaggerated. Some of the charges are of a very remarkable character. The most remarkable, perhaps, among the charges are the fees paid to the Petty Bag Office, which ap- pears to have used the Great Seal of England three times in my favour, once for the congé d'élire, once for the Royal Assent, and once in respect of the Restitution of Temporalities. The charge for affixing the seal in the first case was £46 19s. 6d., in the second case the charge for some reason or other was still greater, namely, £48 2s. 10d., in the third case it was £68 12s. 6d. These certainly appear to be rather large charges for affixing a seal, even though it be the Great Seal of England, to any document. But really, when the whole of the charges and fees are added together, it may be worth while to state what they all come to. In my own case, including those which are paid to the State, to the Patent Office, to the Petty Bag Office, and to the Lord Chamberlain, the whole amounted to £247 3s. 6d., and adding the Cathedral charges which I had to pay at York and Carlisle, which were £154 4s. 10d., they altogether only amounted to £401 8s. 4d., a sum which may appear to be considerable, but which is not such as to cripple a man for life, as has been represented in some of the newspapers. I should be glad, of course, if those who succeed to the Episcopal Bench in the future have to pay smaller charges, but I do not think that the present charges are a very serious matter, even though they include the large charges payable to the Petty Bag Office.