HL Deb 29 June 1891 vol 354 cc1677-85

rose to move, according to order— For a Return of all charges, fees, first fruits and tenths, and other payments of all kind, whatever, which have been paid by every person who has succeeded to an Archbishopric or a Bishopric since the 1st January, 1885; indicating in each case to whom the payment is made.


Before the noble Lord makes his Motion I should like to call his attention to the language of it. I think it must have been written in some mistake. Of course what he means is to ask for a Return of payments by way of charges, fees, and so on, which have been made by any person upon his succession to an Archbishopric or Bishopric in that capacity; but from the language used here the Return might comprise his butcher's and baker's bills, or anything else that can be conceived. I do not think that could have been what is meant, and if the noble Lord will accept my suggestion, he will alter the language of his Motion.


My Lords, I beg you will understand in the first place that I am by no means leading a crusade for the abolition of fees. My only intention in putting this question in your Lordships' House was to ask what the fees were, in consequence of the grossly exaggerated statements which have recently been made in regard to them. Had I known at the beginning of the month as much as I do now, I think that in all probability I should not have put the question on the Notice Paper; and, further than that, having put it down, I should have withdrawn it had it not been for the words which fell on the first occasion, I think, on the 8th of this month, from the noble Marquess at the head of the Government, who stated, I believe, that he thought the charges were far too severe. I think those were his words. Besides that, we have had statements since from the right rev. Prelate the Bishop of Carlisle and also from the noble and learned Lord (Lord Grimthorpe). The cause of my putting this question on the Notice Paper was from speaking casually about what the expenses of Archbishops and Bishops might be on appointment and translation. I was told, on authority which I thought was at least approximately right, that in the case of the late Archbishop of York, whose loss to this House and the country, both as a Churchman and as an orator, I am sure we all most deeply regret, the expenses on his appointment amounted to something like £7,000. Well, that, from subsequent statements, I should think was probably nearly correct, but what was very incorrect was the statement that "more than half" of those expenses consisted of fees. When a man talks about more than half of £7,000, I should presume he means not less than £4,000. Now, that was a most gross exaggeration, and nothing of the sort, I understand, exists. We must recollect that Bishops were once curates, and we do not consider curates generally as being possessed of very large worldly means; and even though a man, through his own talents, may rise to the rank of Bishop or Archbishhop, it does not follow at all that he may have had any great opportunity of laying money by, and the expenses he will then have to meet will probably have to be secured by life assurance, and that, if a man is of an advanced age, must prove extremely expensive. I think the right rev. Prelate the Bishop of Carlisle told us that his expenses amounted to about £400. I do not quite understand that. I think your Lordships must have seen a statement made in one of the weekly papers, I think it was in last week's Truth, professing to give the whole of the fees and charges which a Bishop is put to on appointment, and they amount to the sum of £424, I think, in round numbers. But they go through, I think, something like 34 or 35 different hands—the money being divided into that number of fees. Since the right rev. Prelate the Bishop of Carlisle was appointed, certain fees which he alluded to in regard to the Petty Bag Office were abolished, I think in 1874; and, therefore, one would have thought his fees would have been somewhat larger at that time than those which are mentioned as coming to £424. Then we had from the Vicar General the Chancellor of York (Lord Grimthorpe) a statement of certain offices and ceremonies he had to perform, which, he said, were totally useless, and which cost the Bishop something like £80, Well, £80 is a consideration, and if these fees could be reduced by even £80 I do not see why it should not be done. But I think, for convenience, one might divide the ex- penses of a Bishop on appointment or translation into three heads: the first head will be the expenses of moving, and would probably consist of painting, papering, furnishing, and various things of that kind. Those would, no doubt, be expenses which would be very considerable, but with which this House would not probably trouble itself at all, being after all a private matter to suit the tastes of the particular Bishop. Then the second head would be the dilapidations on leaving his last residence. One certainly could not drop the charges for dilapidations. I have known an instance where an incumbent has gone on for 20 or 30 years perhaps, laying out next to nothing on his house, and at the end of his occupation, when he died or resigned, his family have had to pay a very large sum for dilapidations. But there is no necessity for those dilapidations to occur, and if a man properly keeps up the building in which he resides I believe he may get an indemnity for five years from the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, and during those five years, should he end his occupation or die, there would be no dilapidations occurring. It does appear to me, from a suggestion that has been made to me, that there is very much force and virtue in the idea of transferring these dilapidations from the incumbent or from the Bishop to the Ecclessiastical Commisssioners; that they should make some yearly charge—I do do not know what it might be—some 6 or 7 per cent., and that that should be the charge for keeping the building in order. If this came out of the revenues of the incumbency I think it would be probably less distressing to clergymen than having at a later date to draw a cheque for a very considerable sum. Then comes the question of the fees. The noble Marquess at the head of the Government thinks that the fees are too large, and that they can be reduced. I think it would be a very good thing if they could, but no harm can come from the question I have put, and from light being thrown and information given upon a question which certainly hitherto has been involved in very considerable obscurity. I think that the publication of these Papers would enable the public to realise what the incidence and distribu- tion of these fees and charges may be, and enable them to arrive at their own conclusion on the subject.

Moved," That there be laid before the House Return of all charges, fees, first fruits, and tenths, and other payments of all kinds whatever, which every person who has succeeded to an Archbishopric or a Bishopric since the 1st July, 1885, has paid thereupon; indicating in each case to whom the payment is made."—(The Lord Shute [V. Barrington])."


The noble Lord has rather appealed to me——


My Lords, I think every one of your Lordships must be desirous that the late Archbishop of York should not suffer by having accepted so late as he did the Archbishopric——


I beg to move that the Marquess of Salisbury be heard.

On Question, agreed to.


The noble Lord having rather appealed to me, I venture to follow him immediately. I think it is very desirable we should have all the information on this subject we can get. I do not for a moment say that the reports which have been current are not exaggerated. I believe the contrary; but still, I believe the fees are heavier than they should be; and what is more, I think they represent a false policy altogether in the mode of paying a public servant. It may be that Bishops on their apointment do not contribute more than is necessary for the payment of the various persons to whom their fees may go, but even if that be true, which I will not admit without further examination, it is a most unwise and thriftless mode of obtaining salary. Our ancestors had a passion for uncertain payments. The Kings were paid whenever somebody came of age; copyholders, who were the great proprietors in those days, were in the same position; they were paid on death or on transmission; and our Colleges, instead of taking rents every year, took fines when people came into possession as their tenants. I do not know what the cause of that extraordinary love of uncertain incomes which appears to have animated our ancestors was; but it certainly is contrary to the whole ideas of the present day. It is certainly better that what a man has to receive and pay should be ascertained with tolerable accuracy, so that he can frame his mode of life accordingly. I am glad the noble Lord has moved for this Return, for it seems to me very desirable to know exactly what is paid, and to see whether it is possible to modify the existing system in a manner which will prevent the continuance of the abuses I have indicated. I think the severe literary criticism of the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack must be attended to, and I would suggest that, instead of the Motion being for a Return of all charges, fees, and other payments of all' kinds whatever, it should be all charges, fees," and so on, "which every person who has succeeded to an Archbishopric or a Bishopric since January the 1st, 1885, has paid thereupon. The word "thereupon" will exclude the butchers and bakers.


Perhaps your Lordships will allow me to supplement the figures which have been given by the noble Lord on the Cross Benches (Viscount Barrington) by one or two of my own, because what I can give you will illustrate distinctly the difference between the two classes of proceedings which Bishops have to go through. The first figures given to me substantially agree with those of the right rev. Prelate the Bishop of Carlisle, and it may be taken that, disregarding fractions, the expense of getting into a Bishopric, which involves election and confirmation, is probably about £400. He gave, I think, £420. Then I have two others of £403 and £386. Perhaps with those figures your Lordships would like to contrast the expense of getting into a Bishopric where there is no election and confirmation, and the absence is startling. The fees paid upon the last admission at Truro, before it had acquired a Dean and Chapter, were £212; so that the possession of the Dean and Chapter, which does no particular good to the Bishopric, means the infliction upon the Bishop of nearly double the expense he would be at if there was no Dean and Chapter, the difference being due to election and confirmation. I wish to correct the noble Lord upon one point. I said the other day I believed the expenses on confirmation alone were £80. I know they were £80 one occasion: whether they have been reduced or not since I do not know; but, whatever they are, I take leave to say they are totally unnecessary. I will not repeat what possibly some of your Lordships may have read elsewhere, but I may say I have the means of knowing that the Vicar General of the Southern Province, who does more of this kind of business than I do, is of the same opinion. I am told he agrees with every word I have said upon that subject. I have only one other matter to give your Lordships, which is really of interest at this moment, because it is the total of the fees which were paid by the last Archbishop of York on his induction. I use the word "induction" to comprise all the ceremonies. Those fees were £553, contrasted with £400, the expenses thrown upon an ordinary Bishop. Upon that I will make no remark. Upon the subject of dilapidations, and Bishops being exempted from them, I would make this observation. In the abstract I should entirely agree with the noble Lord on the Cross Benches, but I think there would be great complaint among clergymen, and with better reason than they sometimes display in their complaints, if Bishops were relieved from dilapidations while the clergy remain liable to them.


That is certainly not what I wished to say. What I desired to say was that they should all be on the same footing.


It is much the same thing in the end; for whatever the Ecclesiastical Commissioners pay is taken away from the small livings throughout England, as I had to remark when the Bishopric of Truro tried to get £3,000 a year from those funds for what they called the Cathedral Fund, If they are applied in that way either one of two things must happen' Either the funds of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners will be seriously diminished at the expense of the small livings by all dilapidations being paid, or else there will be tremendous dissatisfaction at the Bishops being allowed to have their dilapidations paid out of the Ecclesi- astical funds, while ordinary clergymen are not. Bat really that is an independent question which ought not to be mixed up with this question of fees at all. It should not be forgotten that the Dilapidations Act of 1870–71 was once referred to a Committee of the House of Commons, and they came to the conclusion that the Act was a great mistake. It had been passed, as I pointed out long ago, in entire ignorance or forgetfulness of an Act of Elizabeth, which provides means for Bishops of having dilapidation expenses properly laid out upon the buildings. The complaints made were on two grounds by the persons who introduced that Bill. I pointed out to the Archbishop of York, with regard to one of them, that there was that Act of Elizabeth in existence. Another complaint was that people sometimes died insolvent, and I took the liberty of asking by what means he was going to prevent clergymen dying insolvent. Even that great and able man could not give me an answer. The noble Lord says he believes that by means of some process clergymen can be freed from dilapidations for five years. Well, they can be freed from the cost of dilapidations by doing the work, but not otherwise. If they choose to call in the Diocesan Surveyor, and to pay his fees, which are very heavy, and will let him order what he likes to be done, no doubt they can be free for five years, but I do not think that is a very judicious mode of proceeding. A house may be burnt down, or a great many things may happen to it, and then the innocent incoming tenant suffers. I really think the old way was very much better before the Act was brought in for dealing with it; but that is a distinct question entirely from this question of fees. One cannot always be answering newspapers; but of my speech the other day, or rather of the misreported version of it, confounding confirmation with consecration, the newspapers of a particular class made merry. They said it was a shame I should be the man to say what I did seeing that I got the lion's share of the fees for consecration. I really forget what I did receive on consecrations; but I find from my papers (unless the Registrar's list of them is wrong) I got absolutely nothing for it. The small fee that I do get when I myself confirm a Bishop is the very thing I want to abolish.

On Question, agreed to.