§ (SECOND READING.)
§ Order of the Day for Second Reading read.
§ * THE UNDER SECRETARY FOR THE COLONIES (The Earl of SELBORNE)
My Lords, the Bill which I am about to ask your Lordships to read a second time is a very short one. It relieves the owner of tithe rent-charge attached to a benefice of half the payment of any rate to which this Act applies, and which is assessed to him as the owner of that tithe rent-charge. It is enacted that the half of which he is so relieved is to be paid out of that portion of the Local Taxation Account which is derived from the Estate Duty Grant. That, my Lords, is the Bill. Now, what is the hardship which these provisions are intended to meet? I will commence by giving a very simple and very common illustration. Take the case of a vicar who, after all legal deductions had been made, is assessed on a tithe rent-charge of £300 a year,—which constitutes his whole income, and also on his house, say, at £30. He will pay in rates more than a man who lives in a house in the parish assessed at £300 a year, and whose income in all probability is not less than £3,000 a year. Then take the case of two vicars of adjoining parishes, each with an income of £200 a year, and each inhabiting a house assessed at £30. "A's" income is derived from tithe rent-charge; B's" from a fixed money payment. "B" will pay in rates, at the rate of 2s. 6d. in the pound, £3 15s., whilst "A" will pay £25. This illustration is a very common and a very simple one, but I hope to be able to show your Lordships presently that there are harder cases still before which these more ordinary instances fall into comparative insignificance. What is the history of this grievance? Is it an old story? If not, how and why did it arise? If it is an old story, 6 why is the subject now brought forward for legislation for the first time? I am afraid, my Lords, I must ask you to throw your minds back for a long period of time, because the history of this case originates from the famous Statute of 1601, 43 Elizabeth, cap. 2, which was the origin of our present Poor Law. I shall not, my Lords, have to trouble you with any detailed allusion to the vexed question as to what was the intention of that famous Statute in connection with tithe not severed from the benefice. It will suffice if I remind your Lordships that opinions differ on that subject. Many persons hold—and, so far as I can judge, the Royal Commissioners are inclined that way themselves—that it was not intended by that Statute to make tithe not severed from the benefice liable to rates; but, be that as it may, it is an absolutely indisputable fact that in practice, confirmed by the constant decisions of Courts of Law, tithe not severed from a benefice was rateable hereditament before the Tithe Commutation Act of 1836. I lay great stress on that Act, because from the date of this Act springs the grievance to which I am going to ask your Lordships to assist in applying a remedy. What was the state of affairs as regards tithe in this country before the Tithe Commutation Act? It was only legally payable in kind, and a certain portion of the clergy actually received their tithe in kind. A great majority of them, however, had made arrangements with the tithe-payer, by which a composition was made, and the tithe-payer paid so much money to the tithe-owner instead of paying him the tithe in kind. As a general rule, these bargains were proved before the Tithe Commissioners to have been good ones for the tithe-payers, but even when a composition was paid that composition took two forms. Sometimes the tithe-owner received the whole amount of the money which had been agreed upon in the composition, but more usually—in the far greater number of cases—the tithe-payer paid the rates on the tithe, and only handed to the tithe-owner the difference between the rates paid and the composition arrived at. Therefore, before the Tithe Commutation Act of 1836 the total amount of the tithe payable by a tithe-owner was very imperfectly known, and the methods of assessment were lax. I will read to your Lordships a paragraph 7 from the Interim Report of the Royal Commission on this subject. They say, in paragraph 35:Again, the Rev. C. A. Stevens, a well-known authority on the subject of tithes, stated in 1879:—'Previously to the commutation the total amount of the tithes in a parish was in most cases as much unknown, to anyone except the tithe-owner himself, and as much a subject of estimate as the gross produce of the land. In nearly two-thirds of the cases the farmers agreed with the tithe-owner to pay him a money composition on the plan of their paying all rates. Thus no question of total amount of tithes and modes of assessment could arise. The farmers levied the whole rate among themselves. In the remaining cases where tithe was taken in kind very different practices seem to have prevailed. In some districts they were not rated at all. In others he was charged with a fifth, a sixth, or an eighth of the whole rate of the parish. In some places in later years a valuer was called in, and the tithe-owner was rated with reference to his supposed gross income. When rates were levied, as they generally were, at half rents, or two-thirds rents in some cases at least, the tithe-owner was rated at an aliquot reduction.'The effect, therefore, of the Tithe Commutation Act was to make the exact value of the tithe rent-charge to a penny known in every parish; but questions of rents, land values, and gross profits from the land remained doubtful and vague. That Act was not the only great Act of Legislation in that year. In the same year (1836) was passed the Parochial Assessments Act, and, in respect of that Act, I would again trouble your Lordships with an extract from the Report of the Royal Commission, and I lay great stress and emphasis on the effect of this Act, because it is really on the interpretation of this Act by the Courts that the whole question hangs. The Royal Commission say:—In the same year as the Tithe Act the Parochial Assessments Act was passed for the purpose of establishing 'one uniform mode of rating for the relief of the poor throughout England and Wales,' and it enacted that 'no rate for the relief of the poor in England and Wales shall be allowed by any justices, or be of any force, which shall not be made upon an estimate of the net annual value of the several hereditaments rated thereunto; that is to say, of the rent at which the same might reasonably be expected to let from year to year, free of all usual tenants' rates and taxes, and tithe commutation rent-charge, if any, and deducting there from the probable average annual cost of the repairs, insurance, and other expenses, if any, necessary to maintain them in a state to command such rent.'8 But, my Lords, that was not all. A proviso was expressly inserted in the Act, which was intended to secure the tithe-owners the benefits of the decision in the case of "Rex v. Joddrell" in 1830. That decision had specially limited the proportion of the value of his tithe for which he was rateable. But, my Lords, another case came before the Courts four years after the passing of that Act, and that case was known as "Regina v. Capel. "The decision in this case had an enormous effect on the position of the tithe-owner, for it ignored, the proviso expressly inserted in the Parochial Assessments Act in favour of the tithe-owner, and the decision in his favour in the case of "Rex v. Joddrell" was held to have been superseded by Section 1 of the Parochial Assessments Act. The result of that was, in the words of the Report of the Royal Commission, that:The Court held that under Section 1 of the Parochial Assessments Act, the vicar of a parish, receiving composition for small tithes, was to be rated on such receipt in the same way as the occupier of land, that is, on the sum for which the same would let free from tenants' rates and taxes and ecclesiastical dues.But, my Lords, what is the comment, later on in their Report, of the Royal Commissioners on the effect of this decision? They say:Such a rent-charge cannot be let, and never has been let, so far as we are aware, on an ordinary business footing, that is, to a tenant who seeks to secure a fair rate of interest on money invested, and, at the same time, has to provide for the necessary services and duties incidental to the holding of a benefice.That is the opinion, not only of the Royal Commissioners at the present moment, but it was the opinion of the Courts. themselves in the middle of this century. It is quite, obvious, if you consider it, that you cannot proceed by analogy in. assessing tithe rent-charge not severed. from the benefice upon the basis of the rental value to a hypothetical tenant. In 1858 a very famous case, "Regina v Goodchild," came before the Courts, and this is what Mr. Justice Coleridge said on the subject:If we were required to draw the terms of the proposition into strict accordance, it ought to have been held that the Statute did not apply to the case of tithe. rent-charge at all 9 because, if so interpreted, the tithe-owner would be placed in a different condition from every other ratepayer, and not be allowed deductions the same in principle as those allowed to every other occupier.The learned judge then went on to show that the deductions allowed in the case of the occupier of a farm were totally inapplicable to the hypothetical occupier of tithe rent-charge not severed from the benefice, and he said it would be necessary, in order to apply the Act with any justice, to make allowances for the benefit of the tithe-owner which, although not mentioned in the Parochial Assessments Act, might be considered analogous to those which were. If this opinion on the part of Mr. Justice Coleridge had always been followed in the decisions of the Courts since he expressed it, I do not think, my Lords, any grievance demanding Parliamentary remedy would now be presented for your attention. The decisions of the Courts were at first favourable to the tithe-owner, giving him various deductions and so reducing the gross amount of tithe rent-charge on which he was rated, and after a series of thesedecisions—especially those known as the Hackney cases—the Poor Law Board issued an Order, dated September 4, 1858, in which they laid it down that deductions might be made from the gross value of the tithe rent-charge for rateable purposes, those deductions including, among other things, a reasonable sum for a curate's salary, if a curate was employed to supply necessary aid to the minister, and not as his substitute; the proportionate charge for the ecclesiastical dues and fees; an average sum for the annual cost of repairing the chancel, and, if the parish had been legally divided, and tithes had been severed, or a fixed rent charged upon the living in behalf of the new district, the amount payable to the minister of that district. Your Lordships will observe that those were very important deductions. The clerical tithe-owner was to be allowed to deduct a reasonable sum for a curate's salary; he was to be allowed to deduct an average annua1 sum for the cost of repairing the chancel, for which he was legally liable; he was also to deduct any sum which by statute he was compelled to pay to the incumbent of a daughter parish, and there were other deductions as well. If matters had always so remained, I doubt, as I have already said, if this question 10 would now be before your Lordships for your consideration. But what has happened? Notwithstanding the opinion of Mr. Justice Coleridge, notwithstanding the decisions of the Courts in the earlier cases, the Courts have found themselves more and more unable to read this Statute in a manner favourable to the unfortunate owner of tithe rent-charge, and they have gradually withdrawn from him deduction after deduction, until the case at present stands as follows: he is not allowed to deduct landlord's property tax, or land tax, or any sums for the repair of the chancel of the parish church, although he maybe legally liable to do such repairs; he is not allowed to deduct anything for his personal services as parson or vicar, or for payments to curates, daughter churches, or to retired incumbents as pensions, or for sums paid to the Governors of Queen Anne's Bounty in liquidation of loans contracted by the existing or by the former incumbent. We are, therefore, brought to this position. The Tithe Commutation Act makes absolutely definite and known to every ratepayer the amount of the tithe rent-charge not severed from the benefice; the proviso inserted in the Parochial Assessments Act with the special object of protecting the tithe-owner from the full effects of that Act fails in its intention; and the result is, that an utterly inexplicable principle is applied to the assessments of the clerical tithe-owner's rent-charge. The Courts, at first, allowed him generous deductions by analogy, but gradually, one by one, all those deductions were withdrawn from him; and finally, although his property has been fixed so that it never can be improved by any increase of public expenditure, he has to bear his full share, and a great deal more than his full share, of all new rates which are levied, with one or two exceptions with which I need not trouble your Lordships. As the Commissioners say in their Report:Tithe rent-charge is not only valued upon a high percentage of the gross value, but it has been made subject to rates for a large number of new purposes, the expenditure of such rates having no effect in the direction of improving the property. This, it is argued, is contrary to the principle of the agreement made in 1836. The Report of the Poor Law Commissioners of 1843, referring to this subject, says:—'But his rent-charge being from that time (the passing of the Tithe Act, 1836) a fixed income, which cannot be improved by any further improvements in the land, it 11 becomes after this time inconsistent with that principle which regulates taxation by the benefit derivable from a tax, that he should be forced to contribute, as tithe-owner, to any new rate, or to any addition to those old rates, which may be imposed for the improvement of property.'I commenced by giving your Lordships illustrations of ordinary cases of hardship caused by the present position of the law. I will now quote one which cannot be called common, but which is absolutely possible under the law as it at present stands. I take the case of a clerical owner of tithe rent-charge—a vicar—the present value of whose tithe rent-charge, when the deductions which are allowed have been made, is £600. By Statute he is compelled to pay to a daughter Church £150 a year; by another Statute he is compelled to pay to a retired incumbent another, £150 a year; and he is also compelled to pay for the support of a curate, or for the maintenance of the chancel, or in liquidation of loans contracted by his predecessor, perhaps another £150 a year. Therefore, his real income is only £150, but he is rated on £600. At the rate of 2s. 6d. in the £, he has to pay, in rates, £75, or exactly one half his whole income. He pays on his tithe rent-charge alone the same as a man who lives in a house assessed at £600, and who presumably has an income of not less than £6,000 a year. This illustration shows how preposterous is the theory on which the present system is based—thata hypothetical tenant would pay an annual rent of £600 for a property of which £600 is the nominal gross annual value, but from which £450 is for various purposes compulsorily deducted by Statute. I think it is only necessary to state that theory to show that it is a preposterous one. I think I will have your Lordships with me when I say that I have succeeded in proving the existence of a grievance. Now, what is the remedy the Government proposes? The Bill which I ask your Lordships to read a second time does not pretend to be a permanent remedy for this evil. It is a temporary alleviation. It is approached by the Government as a rating question pure and simple, and from exactly the same point of view as we approached the Agricultural Rating Act of 1896. I will quote to your Lordships what Mr. Walter Long, the President of the Board of Agriculture, said on the 12 28th April, 1899, with regard to that Bill. He said:The principle on which this measure was based was the fact that the agricultural ratepayer, as such, was called upon to pay his rates on a standard which put him in a position he should not be put in, and which was unjust as compared with the position of other ratepayers.'Applying that same principle, Her Majesty's Government approach this subject as a temporary remedy for a glaring case of unjust rating. A permanent remedy must undoubtedly be applied—it will have to be applied to the assessment—but we must wait until the whole question of rating can be dealt with. The fact that this Bill does not apply to all owners of tithe rent-charge does not imply that we do not admit that all owners of tithe rent-charge have a real grievance. We say that the owner of tithe rent-charge not severed from the benefice has a grievance so much greater than that of other owners of tithe rent-charge, that we are justified in dealing with this case as an. exceptional one. Now, my Lords, the object being to provide temporary relief, I claim for our proposal that it is offered in the simplest, most direct, and most immediate form. We throw the cost upon the Local Taxation Account. What is that account? It has been the combined handiwork of both Parties in the State, but its principle and its raison d'être is to provide an assistance to the ratepayer from the personal property of the country. What has been the history of that fund? It has been one of continual and steady increase. In the year 1890–91 I find that the aggregate, roughly, of that fund was £5,800,000. In1898–99 the aggregate had risen to £6,600,000, or an increase of £800,000. The argument against the use of this fund—an argument of which I have no doubt we shall hear something from my noble friend opposite—is that it is unjust to dip into this fund for the benefit of owners of tithe rent-charge, considering that the proportion in which the relief will be given geographically does not tally with the proportion in which the fund will be drawn from the various localities. It is said, in the case of London particularly, that if the amount to be used for the purposes of this Bill is, assumed to be £87,000, London would have to pay £19,000 of that £87,000, and the London County Council urges. 13 that it is unjust to take that sum from London, because the London clergy will only benefit, to the extent of £900 under this Bill. I deny absolutely and altogether that any county has an inalienable lien on a certain proportion of this fund, and that Parliament may not, in its discretion, readjust the distribution if it thinks proper. What is the object of this fund? It is a fund which Parliament has created to enable Parliament, at its discretion, to alleviate local burdens, and, looking at those local burdens, Parliament is amply justified in saying that it will redistribute the amount which it gives to the different localities under this system. Not only have we to consider where the sum is most wanted, but also where the back is strongest and broadest. It is a very curious and interesting fact that this scheme of the Government works out so that the money goes to those localities which are less able to bear their burden of local rates, and the heavier share of the hypothetical loss falls on localities which have the broadest financial back. It has been said that it is a shame to take from London £19,000 of what they hoped to get out of this fund. But look at the case of London! The rateable value of London has risen in the last twenty-eight years from £17,000,000 to £36,000,000 sterling, while the counties which are going to receive the most benefit under this Bill—such as Norfolk and Suffolk—have actually suffered a decrease in rateable value during the same period. I am rather surprised that noble Lords opposite should dissent from the principle I am advocating, because it is one which they themselves applied under analogous circumstances. They required a much larger sum for dealing with swine fever in 1893, and they took it from the Local Taxation Fund; and, if it is a grievance to London to lose £19,000 under this Bill, how much greater was the grievance when London lost £34,000 by the action of the late Government in 1893? Therefore it does not lie with the Opposition to object on principle to this fund being applied to a redistribution of the method of assisting local burdens. That is the specific objection which is made to our method of providing relief. I will now, very briefly, touch on the general objections which are offered to the principle of this Bill. The first criticism, and the foremost, is that it is a fresh endowment of the Church of England. I am glad to 14 hear, from a cheer coming from the other side, that I have not inaccurately stated the forefront of the objection of noble Lords opposite. Is it an endowment of the Scottish Church that the Scottish teinds pay no rates? Was it a universal endowment of Dissenters when the Church rate was abolished? The Church rate was a hereditary burden in any sense in which a rate may be called hereditary, and the abolition of that rate was mainly to the advantage of Dissenters. Such an objection goes to the root of all changes in or redistribution of taxation or rates, and seems to me to be perfectly untenable. The clergy who own tithe rent-charge are as much entitled as any other class in this country to relief if it can be proved that they suffer a hardship. Another argument is that we are going to pay the clergy over again for what they have already been paid. It has been said that the whole question of this liability for rates was considered in fixing the amount under the Tithe Commutation Act of 1836. That argument has been paraded over and over again in the House of Commons and has loomed very much in one of the most influential and one of the most respected journals in this country. It is a pleasant reflection to us ordinary mortals that even a great journalist may hopelessly blunder, because there never was a more perfect mare's nest than that which it was supposed had been found in this question. It has been said that in fixing the amount of tithe rent-charge, as commuted, the Commissioners actually inserted a column to show the amount they had added in each case in order to make allowance for this liability for rates. What is the real history of the case? A great number of the clergy had compounded with the tithe-payer to receive cash payment instead of payment in kind; of that number by far the greater proportion arranged, for convenience, that the tithe-payer should pay the rates for them and hand over the difference, and, therefore, when the Tithe Commissioners had to find out what the real amount of the composition was, they had to add to the amount the tithe-owner received from the tithe-payer the amount of the rates in respect of the tithe which the tithe-payer had paid for the tithe-owner. It is just the same in the case of a farm. The true rent of that farm is not the money the owner receives from his tenant, but the money he receives 15 from his tenant plus the amount paid for him as income-tax. This is the mare's nest which has played such an important part in the Debate in the House of Commons. The thing cannot only be demonstrated, but, luckily, the opinion of the Tithe Commissioners themselves is on record. In a Sessional Paper, No. 304, presented in 1838 to your Lordships' House, they say:In commutations for tithes no allowance is made for the future liability of the tithe-owners to rates. Such rates as have directly or indirectly been heretofore paid by the tithe-payers for the tithe-owner are added to the compositions for the purpose of getting at the sum which the parties have treated the tithes as worth during the seven years preceding Christmas, 1835, and making that sum the basis of the future rent-charge.(Signed) W. BLAMIRE.R. JONESThat question is therefore definitely and finally set at rest. Another criticism upon the Bill is to the effect that it will relieve the rich and not the small tithe-owners, inasmuch as the larger tithe-owner will get most of the relief. That argument is disposed of by the fact that of the total number of cases 10,256 are under £500, and only 255 above it, and 7,263 cases do not exceed £160 a year. Parliament congratulates itself that by a course of wise legislation it has relieved all persons whose income is not more than £160 a year from income-tax, and yet those incomes would bear but a fourth of the burden to which tithe rent-charge is subjected. I doubt if a stronger case was ever presented to your Lordships' House. I cannot find any responsible authority who has ever denied the existence of the grievance. Look at the Report of the Royal Commissioners. Look at the names of the members of which that Commission was composed—men of great distinction drawn from all parties. The Report is signed by almost all. There are some additions made by Mr. C. A. Cripps, Sir John Hibbert, and Sir George Murray. But what is their addendum? Why, it strengthens the case instead of weakening it. I hear that that statement is doubted, but these gentlemen signed the Report, and they are responsible for all that is in it. They added that, in their opinion, the fact that no deductions had been allowed in a reasonable manner was a very prime cause for grievance. Mr. J. B. Balfour does not sign the Report, but does he object to the case?
16 Does he say a word to suggest that the grievance is not real? No, my Lords, not a single word. Then we come to Mr. Arthur O'Connor, who adds his own Report. What does he say about the grievance? He says:I am, therefore, of opinion that the case of hardship has admittedly been made out.The only Member of the Commission who does not admit it, either by actual words or by his silence, is Mr. James Stuart. But I would point out that in Mr. James Stuart's Memorandum there is a notable admission. He says:It is impossible to shut one's eyes to the fact that what the beneficed clergy really suffer from is the fall in the value of tithe, and not from the rates, except in so far as those, like any other outgoing, form a charge on their gross income.What an admission! Who else pays rates on his gross income? The mere fact of that admission shows how hard the case is. Mr. Stuart goes on to say that the case is really not so bad as is supposed. He says that before the Tithe Commutation Act, 1836, the tithe-owner generally paid rates at a much higher figure, and he quoted 10s. in the £ as a specimen figure of what the rates were in those days. That is really a complete misconception, and there is very little ground for the assumption. I admit that the case is not susceptible of proof, because the figures were not carefully kept before 1841. But it appears from Mr. Goschen's report on Local Taxation (page 17) that the average rate in the £ of all rates in England and Wales in the year 1841 was 2s. 7d. Therefore, my Lords, it is a complete misconception to suppose that the 10s. which Mr. Stuart puts forward can be taken as in any case a specimen rate in those days. It is not only the party at present in power which has taken a strong view with regard to the grievance of the clerical tithe-owner. It has played an important part in the election literature of the Party opposite. I hold in my hand a leaflet issued at the East Berks election, in which the Government is held up to the anger of the clergy for not having dealt with this subject. Strong views on the grievance have been expressed by Mr. Gladstone, and I will read to your Lordships the words used by that Statesman on three occasions. Speaking in the House of Commons, on December 16, 1852, Mr. Gladstone said:But, Sir, the clergy have a real grievance at this moment. It is admitted by all author 17 ties. Professor Jones, Mr. Cornewall Lewis, and every man who has examined the subject of local rating will tell you that the clergy suffer cruelly by being rated for local taxation upon their gross incomes.Speaking in the House of Commons on May 7, 1856, Mr. Gladstone said:He would respectfully press upon the House that after the universal admission which had been made as to the existence of the grievance, it would not be altogether creditable to allow small difficulties of detail to prevent the application of a remedy to that grievance. They ought not to fold their arms, and say, 'Although the grievance is plain, palpable, and even scandalous, we cannot, on account of difficulties of detail, attempt to provide a remedy. 'It would be far better to apply a remedy which was open to some abstract objection than any longer to neglect the subject.It may be said that these are ancient quotations, but one of the very last public utterances by Mr. Gladstone was on this subject. On May 4, 1897, addressing a meeting at Hawarden, at which the noble Duke, whom I see on the Cross Benches (the Duke of Westminster), presided, Mr. Gladstone said:In respect not only of the fluctuations of the tithe, but also from the mode in which the rates of the country are levied, the clergyman suffers more than is believed in various ways. He pays more in proportion than what he receives. In fact, it is even said that the Act of Parliament which was passed last year, for the purpose of relieving agricultural interests from the pressure of the rates, has actually gone to increase the pressure, so far as the clergyman is concerned. The case, then, so far as the clergy are concerned, hardly admits of being enhanced by anything in the nature of rhetorical statement.I do not think that it is possible to put the case in stronger words, or more conclusively, than it is put in those three quotations, extending over a period of nearly fifty years. Having laid before your Lordships the real and cruel nature of the grievance, and the explanation of the remedy proposed to be applied, I thank the House for the patience with which they have listened to me, and move that the Bill be read a second time.
§ Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2a."—(The Earl of Selborne.)
§ * LORD RIBBLESDALE
My Lords, in moving the rejection of this Bill, I think it will clear my decks, and perhaps save your Lordships' time, if I make, to begin with, three or four admissions. I grant you at once that tithes are closely rated, because the Assessing Committee can get at the exact rateable amount. I admit the justice of what has been 18 said by Sir G. Cornewall Lewis and Mr. Gladstone on the subject. The quotations from Mr. Gladstone extend over a period of more than forty years, and I merely say, in that connection, that Mr. Gladstone's appreciation of the grievance seems to have been of a philosophical kind, for, though he was frequently in office during the period, and was a great friend of the Church, he did nothing to remedy the grievance. I also grant that perhaps the operation of the Agricultural Rates Act, 1896, from which Sir Michael Hicks-Beach and Her Majesty's Government purposely excluded the rating of tithes, may, as the Commission say, in some cases have thrown additional burdens upon incumbents. Having made those admissions, I will turn to two or three of the points in the noble Earl's speech. The noble Earl seems to be very much enamoured of deductions. He read to the House a good deal about deductions, and what could be fairly said as to the injustice of the assessment, and he then went on to say that what strengthened his opinion very much on this point was the Report signed by Mr. Cripps, Sir John Hibbert, and Sir G. Murray, who said they thought something should be done by way of deductions. I venture to submit that that Report does not strengthen the noble Earl's case very much, seeing that the Government has ignored those recommendations. I think these three gentlemen intended to refer rather to a readjustment of assessment, but at all events the proposal does not touch the real mischief you want to remedy, which is the fall in the value of the tithe, the £100 stock in 1836 having fallen to £68 at the present time. I am not going to deal with the question of Scotch teinds, as this Bill is concerned only with England and Wales; and with so much legal talent in your Lordships' House I am not going into the question as to how Rex upset Joddrell, or how Capel afterwards upset Rex. The references to legal decisions I pass by with the observation that both parties at different times have had reason to share the opinion of Mr. Bumble with regard to the law. Naturally, the noble Earl has picked out those passages in the Report which suit his case, but I am not going to follow his example by picking out those passages which suit my case. The noble Earl's speech was a very adequate and able one. He explained clearly the provisions of the Bill and the operation of it, 19 and, so far as I can see by the look of the benches opposite, the noble lords behind him will also be quite adequate in their support of him when we go to a Division, as I hope we shall, as a matter of protest. The noble Earl has economised our time by not arguing one or two objections to the Bill, to which I shall presently refer. He said the grievance was very urgent now, and that that was the reason why this Bill had to be brought forward. I do not quite understand the urgency, because, almost immediately after what was held to be the secure bargain of 1836, the incumbents and owners of tithe rent-charge not severed from the benefice found that they did not like their bargain, and the Rev. Mr. Jones, in 1850, before a House of Lords Committee on parochial assessments, speaks of the eternal complaints and wailing of the tithe-owner. Therefore, there does not seem to be any very particular urgency. But the noble Lord takes the justum et tenacem propositi view of this bill, which was so resolutely taken in the House of Commons. I admire the tenacity with which the Bill was carried through the House of Commons by force of numbers. You have a very bad case, but you stick to it like men. As to the justice of the case, I join issue with the noble Earl. I think the justice in this Bill is of the abstract and indiscriminate sort, and, as detached from the special circumstances which it is called in to redress, as the stick of a rocket. I feel no surprise at all that this Bill has been brought in, because in 1898 the noble Marquess at the head of the Government received a deputation on the subject, and, from what the noble Marquess said to the deputation, it was perfectly clear that this question of tithes had entered into the "something must be done" phase, and my appreciation of that phase, from the reading of history, is that when that "something "is done it is nearly always something foolish, hurried, and very likely to embarrass the future. What I am surprised at, after what the noble Lord said to the deputation, is the very rough-and-ready character of this Bill. There does not seem to have been any attempt at the equipoise or delicacy of adjustment which I should have thought would have characterised a measure which most seriously affected the larger question of rating. The noble Marquess told the deputation that this question was clustered around with intricacies, en 20 tanglements, and anomalies, and he took the most cautious and accurate bearings on the whole subject. Whether it is due to his hand being forced by not having, admitted the tithe question in the Agricultural Rates Act or not, we are in this Bill again running on what I should call the Manacles of the noble Marquess's administration—a dole. How is this Bill recommended to us, especially in the other House? The noble Earl who has moved the Second Reading in your Lordships' House was more explicit in many ways, but in the other House the Minister for Agriculture, who managed the Bill admirably from his point of view, practically said: "The clergy are poor, and the tax-payers are rich; let us give them a bit on account, and it will never be missed. "When he was pressed for figures, and it was pointed out that, although the value of the tithe rent-charge had fallen, there had been a corresponding fall in the rates, he said that was not the point; the rates were still too high by half, and they were resolved to set the matter right by compelling the taxpayer to pay the half. Now I do not mind so much the question of money. I rather agree with one of the Government's, late supporters, Mr. Whiteley, who, in this particular connection, did not agree with the Government, and suggested that if it was only a question of £87,000, it would be better if private individuals put: their hands in their pockets and found the money. My objection to this Bill is that in regard to it the Government are bringing in the principle of re-endowment. I know that a great many people do not, admit that tithes are an endowment. I will assume for the moment that they are, and I will try to show your Lordships on what ground I think they are an endowment. The First Lord of the Treasury, in the other House, said he hoped he would hear no more trash about endowments. That was a very natural feeling, very naturally expressed, after hearing twice-told tales on this question—but is it altogether trash? I am not going into remote history of the Tithe question. You will be relieved by my not doing so, for a great authority on tithe, Mr. Prebendary Cove, in the beginning of 1816—I find the extract in the book written by the I noble Earl's father—said:This institution (the institution of tithes) was contained in some unrecorded revelation made to Adam, and by him handed down to posterity.21 I therefore take the Act of 1836 as the starting point of my survey. The Act of 1836 said that every tithe rent-charge payable in money instead of in kind, and permanent in quantity, shall be subject to all Parliamentary, parochial, county, and other rates, charges, and assessments, in like manner as the tithes had hitherto been subject. The noble Lord spoke about the hardship of an incumbent, who got part of his income from tithe rent-charge, being rated in a different way to the occupier of a house in the same village. Let me point out that there is nothing very extraordinary in that. Tithes are land, and tithes for the purpose of settlement have been affirmed to be land as near the present time as the Settled Estate Act of 1882. It is quite true that incomes derived from funds have not to pay such heavy rates as incomes derived from tithes, but no more have endowments, and unless you are going to alter the whole system, that cannot be held a hardship on the tithe-owner. He is in the same position as any other owner of land. Very well, by the Act of 1836, tithe rent-charge, though it was freehold, was made subject in the most express way to the obligation of rates, and rates were proclaimed a first charge on the ownership. I am sure the right Rev. Prelates will not dispute that point. Therefore, assuming tithe rent-charge to be an endowment, the net value of the endowment is the balance of the tithe rent-charge which gets into the incumbent's pocket after the payment of the rates. Under this Bill you are going to relieve the incumbent of half those rates upon his tithes out of the general Taxation Account of England and Wales. It seems to me that if that is so you cannot get away from the fact that by this amount of half the rates on the tithes you either re-endow or create a new endowment in favour of the clergy of the Established Church, at the expense of the ratepayer, and you do this without any warning of anything of the sort to the constituencies in 1895. Turning to the right rev. Prelates who represent the Established Church in this House, I would like to ask them a plain question. I believe it was Mr. Burke who said that the object of the union of Church and State was not to make the Church political, but to make the State religious. I acknowledge in the fullest way what the right rev. Bench have done in the latter direction, but what I should like to ask them is, how 22 far the object of making the State religious, and not the Church political, is being served and safeguarded by a measure of the kind proposed by Her Majesty's Government. Are you satisfied that this is a desirable way of dealing with the hard pressure upon your clergy? Do you feel comfortable about it under your lawn? The Report of the Commission speaks of "the acute sense of dissatisfaction" which animates the clergy of the Established Church owing to the present methods of assessing tithes for rating purposes. Will you get rid of that acute sense of dissatisfaction by creating it, and in a most disagreeable form, in the ranks of your opponents, to a man, and of many of your friends? My Lords, I am certain your poverty but not your will consents. I really am sorry to see the Church, at this particular moment in her domestic affairs, forced into what seems to me to be a very undesirable position in the eyes of their fellow countrymen, and what is it all for? What is the consideration for£87,000 divided up between 11,000 parsons. You are going to become the bondsmen of Parliament, and how is this £87,000 to be distributed? With any regard for the rate-able ability of tithe owner? Not a bit of it. The noble Earl took hypothetical cases. I will take cases from fiction. I dare say your Lordships have heard of Parson Dove, in "Market Harborough, "who rode the best horses, drank the best claret, and bred the choicest Shorthorns, and I daresay you have also heard of the Vicar of Hoggerstock, who, after providing for his house-keeping, had nothing to distribute to his children but his scholarship. Under this Bill Parson Dove and the Vicar of Hoggerstock fare the same. In Otway's line, "Justice is lame as well as blind amongst us." Sir Edward Clarke, in the House of Commons, argued that in a Bill of this sort rich and poor should fare exactly alike. I dispute that altogether. The manner in which the money is to be distributed is very objectionable, for the man with £150 a year will receive the same treatment as the man with £500. Income tax and death duties draw distinctions. Property only begins at a certain point. Why could not you have done the same, and said above this figure less, below this figure more? As to the financial part of the Bill, I should have been glad to hear what the Chancellor of the Exchequer had to say about it, especially 23 as he is an ex-Ecclesiastical Commissioner of long experience, and may be considered an expert. All we know is that in 1897 he said that the rating of tithe rent-charge "could not claim the kind or the amount of the relief given in 1896." Of course we are fairly accustomed to hear of a Bill being run through the House of Commons in defiance of the Minister from whose Department the Bill is supposed to emanate, and in this particular case there is nothing reassuring about the studied silence of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He may be heart and soul with you, but the suggestion, I think, is the other way. It seems to me that the Government have failed to find the right way of dealing with the subject, and that being so they have hit upon the wrong way. As regards the Fund from which this clergy relief is to be taken, the noble Earl said we had a very good precedent in the way swine fever was dealt with, but I do not see the connection between swine fever and the Established Church. There is no dissent about bacon; bacon is the autocrat of the breakfast table; there is as little dissent about bacon in England as there is conformity in Wales, and I do not see how the swine fever analogy works out in this particular case. In conclusion, I propose to summarise the grounds upon which I move the rejection of this Bill. I quite recognise that the only way to reform rating is to alter and readjust the incidence of rating, but what we want is the simplification of rating as well as its reform. I submit, then, that by the provisions of the Bill you are introducing a novel and far-reaching method of exemption, equivalent to re-endowment; that the Bill must further confuse the relations of local and imperial taxation, already complicated and perplexing enough; that this question of the incidence of rates on tithe should be dealt with side by side with the whole question of local taxation now sub judice, and which is already sufficiently complicated by previous exemptions; and that by dealing with the tithe question in this way you are, as it were, mortgaging by a first charge (resting on a new and outlandish principle) your powers of dealing equitably with the whole question of local taxation in the interests of the ratepayers at large. I beg to move that the Bill be read a second time this day three months.
§ Amendment moved to leave out "now," and add at the end of the motion "this day three months."—(The Lord Ribblesdale.)
§ * THE SECRETARY FOR SCOTLAND (Lord BALFOUR of BURLEIGH)
My Lords, I think it will probably be expected that I should say something in regard to this Bill, on account of the fact that the case for it was made out before the Commission over which I have the honour to preside. But, my Lords, after listening to the speech of the noble Lord I am very much at a loss to find out what precisely is the case against the Bill which I am expected to answer. I do not understand the fact to be contested that the present position of the clergy of the Church of England who will be dealt with by this Bill is exceptional, and one of quite unparalleled hardship. I do not think the noble Lord who has just sat down attempted to contest the overwhelming amount of evidence which could be brought forward to establish that position, and therefore I do not propose to go at length into it. I will content myself with referring your Lordships to the conclusions arrived at by the Commission, after a prolonged and careful inquiry. Those conclusions have already been set out, and they are as follows:
I do not understand that the justice of; these conclusions is challenged, except, perhaps, the last one. The noble Lord who moved the rejection of the Bill, in his reference to Mr. Gladstone, said that Mr. Gladstone's appreciation of the hardship was not very acute, or he would have done something for them. I venture to think that perhaps the explanation of the fact that Mr. Gladstone did not remedy this injustice may be found in the temper of the majority of his followers. The noble Lord said we ought to have proceeded on the question of making deductions, and he attaches great weight to the Note to the Report signed by three of my colleagues. The answer to that is plain and simple. We cannot touch the question of assessment without touching all the ratepayers. That is a question of great difficulty and great complication, and will have to be dealt with with great care. What we say in the Report is, that the present state of matters is one of such exceptional hardship that no time should be lost in applying a remedy. The noble Lord also said that this was a question of re-endowment. I suggest that it is no such thing. It is a question of the taxation of an endowment, and, if the injustice of the present position is admitted, and if any remedy of this kind is to be considered re-endowment, I do not sec how we shall ever be able to touch any rating anomaly or adjust any rating question at all. I myself came to this question without a great deal of personal knowledge of the precise position of matters, and I can assure your Lordships that, coming to it in that way, it was not long before I became as convinced as any of those whose opinions have been quoted of the extreme hardship to which the clergy are subjected in connection with this matter. I do not think much attention has been given to it, but there is a table in the Appendix to the Report which is very eloquent on the point. It gives eighteen cases from different counties. They have been in no way selected by us; they are those which were put before us. We took first the information which was given by the incumbents concerned. We carefully tested it by the production of the demand notes for their rates. We obtained returns from the overseers of 26 the parishes concerned, and in some cases we made an independent investigation of the rate books, and checked the returns of the tithe rent-charge from public documents. In one of these cases—I admit it was an exceptional case—the percentage of the rate which the owner of the tithe rent-charge had to pay amounted to 39 per cent, of the income from tithe rent-charge, and in ten of the eighteen cases it was upwards of 20 per cent. In other words, if the owner of a tithe rent-charge received £200 from that source, he would have to pay £40 in rates alone. The noble Lord who spoke last did not go further back into history than the Tithe Rent-Charge Commutation Act of 1836, and he quoted, as if it was conclusive of all the questions at issue, a paragraph from that Act. It said that every tithe rent-charge payable in money and permanent in quantity was declared to be subject to all Parliamentary, parochial, county, and other rates in like manner as the tithes had hitherto been subject. That is so; but everything turns on the expression "in like manner. "It is on that point that a great deal of injustice arises. I will not go into the history of all the Acts and decisions, but anyone who knows the terms of the Act of 1601, the famous Act of Queen Elizabeth, will find that the persons there to be rated are described as inhabitants and occupiers, and that the parsons and the vicars are not put among the occupiers, but among the inhabitants; and I think the great mass of authorities hold that that means that the parson shall be rated, not as an occupier, but according to his ability. Therefore, if the clause which the noble Lord quoted in the Tithe Rent-Charge Commutation Act is not detached from its context, and is taken to mean what Parliament must have intended it to mean, it is that the owner of tithe rent-charge was to be rated according to his ability as an inhabitant, and not as an occupier. As the noble Lord said, the Parochial Assessments Act of 1836 declared that a property was to be valued on the basis of the rent at which it might reasonably be let, with deductions for the cost of repairs, insurance, and other expenses. I agree entirely with what the noble Earl said who moved the Second Reading, and I will not add a word to it, as to the utter impossibility of fairly applying such a test as that to tithe rent-charge, which never has been let. Under a subsequent decision, that 27 of "Regina v. Capel," it was decided that the owner of tithe was to be rated like the occupier of land. In the same year an Act was passed to exempt personal property from liability to rates, and a proviso was inserted in that Act to the effect that nothing contained in it was to affect the liability of the parson or the vicar or any occupier of land, houses, or tithes. Just see what the effect of that decision was. Occupiers of the property mentioned in the Statute of Elizabeth were exempted from the terms of the Act of 1840, which exempted personal property from rating; but, by the decision of the court, the parsons, although classed in the Act of 1601 as inhabitants, are treated as occupiers. The exemption would add to the burden of other ratepayers to some extent, and would, to that extent, be an injustice to them. But I think I am entitled to say that, having regard to the history of the matter, I believe it was the intention of Parliament that when the owners of personal property were exempted that owners of tithe rent-charge should be exempted also. I may be pardoned, perhaps, if I give an illustration from what happened in Scotland. The noble Lord who moved the rejection of this Bill alluded to the question of teinds. The first Poor Law Act in Scotland was passed in 1845. In that, by name, the minister was held to be liable to be rated, but so was every other owner of personal property. An attempt was made to rate all "means and substance"—the Scottish equivalent to rating inhabitants according to their ability; but that system broke down in Scotland, as it has broken down everywhere, and it was finally repealed and got rid of in 1861 by the Act which was passed by the Liberal Government of that day. That Act, which did away with rating upon means and substance of the general inhabitants, by specific words did away with the liability of teinds to be rated for the poor. I am afraid I do not quite understand the contention of the noble Lord who moved the rejection of the Bill about the deductions which ought to be allowed. The case that I should be inclined to put forward is this, that the question of letting value is inapplicable to the rating of tithe rent-charge. I do not believe that the intention of Parliament was effectually carried out by the Act of 1836. Certainly, the attempt to get 28 an adequate amount of deductions from the tithe rent-charge on the ground of letting value has failed; but my point in regard to that is that it never was a thing which Parliament intended should be tried, and therefore it is not surprising to find that the enactments of Parliament failed to secure justice. The noble Lord said this scheme gives less relief where the burden is greatest. I do not think the noble Lord could have understood the contention of the noble Earl who moved the Second Reading of this Bill, because he explained, I thought with perfect clearness, that the scheme adopted by the Government would work out in this way that, generally speaking, where rateable value has gone down, and where, therefore, presumably, greater hardship and poverty in the matter of rating exists, the relief under this Bill will be the greatest. I understood the noble Lord who moved the rejection of the Bill to say that the poor rates had gone down, and that there was no case for the relief proposed. Assuming that the poor rate has gone down, there are two good answers to that, and the first is that the value of the tithe rent-charge has gone down owing to the action of Parliament. I shall not be accused of wishing to go back to the days of Protection if I say that it was probably owing to FreeTrade—owing to the beneficent action of Free Trade, if you like—that the tithe rent-charge has been reduced. Therefore, if you make a claim on the ground that the poor rate has been reduced by better administration or by a combination of other causes, I do not think you should leave those other circumstances out of account; and, if the poor rate has gone down, other rates have been commuted by the wisdom of Parliament from which no corresponding benefit is derived by the owner of tithe rent-charge. I think I have touched on all the points, except one, which were advanced by Lord Ribblesdale. There is one matter upon which I want to say a few words. The noble Lord referred to a certain deputation which waited upon the Prime Minister in the summer of last year. Other people have gone further in insinuations than the noble Lord. I do not know that it would be becoming—I certainly do not think it would be necessary—to make any reference here to all the allegations which 29 have been made in partisan journals or in the heat of party controversy. But assertions have been made by persons who are in a position which render it necessary to take notice of their assertions that the Report from my Commission was brought forward by the desire of the Cabinet, and that the Commission had been turned in that way to a partisan purpose. I suppose when I say that there is not the shadow of a shade of foundation for any such allegation my statement will be accepted. I can give dates which will prove that the assertion is absolutely without foundation. The Commission was appointed in August, 1896. Early in 1897 we received a good deal of evidence on the valuation system in England and Wales, and at the same time many witnesses came forward on behalf of the clerical tithe-owners to complain of the hardship of their position. We were much impressed by the strength of the case which they made out, and devoted some time to a special inquiry into that matter, Amongst others we had Mr. De Bock Porter, Secretary of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, before us, and after hearing him, in the course of the summer of 1897, we decided upon the preparation of an interim Report on the subject of valuation and of tithe rent-charge. In November, 1897, the first draft of that Report was circulated by my colleagues. It was discussed by us during the months between November and January, 1899, and if it had not been for the special circumstances to which I shall allude it would have been presented at an earlier date. But during the months of February and March of last year a considerable agitation arose in regard to this subject, and we received some hundreds of letters from people in various parts of the country, many of whom were desirous of giving evidence, and others of whom made claims, which we could not possibly report in favour of. Under those circumstances, as a Commission, we came to the conclusion that we could not shut out that evidence without laying ourselves open to the charge of not having reported at full length. We should have been accused of not having fully heard the case before we made up our minds; and, therefore, we were obliged, in order to hear this further evidence, to delay the Report, and to select such evidence as, after having it before us, we thought it was necessary for us to hear. In the course of last autumn the Report was again dis- 30 cussed by my colleagues, and was signed and completed in January of the present year. I wish to say in the most distinct way that there is no foundation whatever for the statement that this Report originated in a suggestion made to my Commission or to me from any of my colleagues in the Government. It arose entirely because we were impressed with the justice of the case put before us, and it was on that ground, and on that ground alone, that the Report was signed. Is it to be supposed that Sir John Hibbert, Mr. Murray, and the others who signed the Report would lend themselves to such an action as that I have indicated? I have thought it right, on account of the prominence of some of those who have given this assertion currency, to make this statement somewhat fully in my place in Parliament. I do not think what has been said by Lord Ribblesdale breaks down the contentions of the noble Earl who moved the Second Reading of this Bill. In the whole experience of my political life I have never been more impressed with the absolute justice of a case that has been put forward, and I, therefore, earnestly hope that your Lordships will give this Bill a Second Reading.
- I. That the representations made to the Commission on behalf of the owners of tithe rent-charge not severed from the benefice have shown that the burden of local taxation upon such owners is unduly onerous, and that sufficient allowance is not made for the fact that the persons entitled to the rent-charge are under a legal obligation to render services and to perform duties in return therefor.
- II. That the case of the owners of tithe rent-charge not severed from the benefice is based on the ground, which we consider to have been fully established, that the present law, as interpreted by the Courts, works unjustly, and places those owners in a much less favourable position than other owners who are also occupiers of rateable property.
- III. That there exists an exceptionally acute feeling of dissatisfaction with regard to the hardship of the law as it stands.
- IV. That, in view of all the circumstances, although incumbents are not entitled to be wholly relieved from liability to be assessed to local rates in respect of tithe rent-charge—indeed, such a claim has not generally been made by witnesses who have appeared before us—yet, pending the final recommendations of the Commission on this and
25 the other matters referred to us, the case of the parochial incumbent owning tithe rent-charge not severed from the benefice may properly be met by some special measure of relief.
§ LORD BURGHCLERE
My Lords, I am sure the noble Lord who has just sat down had no necessity to make the statement which he has made at some length with regard to the origin of the Report of this Commission. The subject of tithe rent-charge is one in which I was very actively interested when I was a Member of the House of Commons, and with which I was officially connected during the period of the late Government. Therefore I trust, my Lords, that I shall have your indulgence if I venture for a few moments to intervene in this Debate. I must confess that had I not reasons for speaking, I should have been somewhat tempted to do so after listening to the speeches of the introducer of this Bill and the noble Lord who has just sat down. The noble Lord the Secretary for Scotland, as we should have expected, spoke with ability and eloquence, and the noble Earl who moved the Second Reading of the Bill did so with great lucidity. But neither noble Lord has touched the question which seems to affect us more as politicians—namely, the principle on which this Bill is founded, and on which you found its methods and procedure. The noble Earl who introduced the Bill dealt. 31 at great length upon the various hardships that befall the clergy of this country, and I gathered that if we were to repeal a great many Statutes and upset a good many judicial judgments, we should be able largely to increase the incomes of the clergy, and if the noble Earl's arguments mean anything, they mean that the whole of the taxation should be taken off that suffering body. There is no remedy of this kind in the Bill. Therefore I listened to the noble Earl's arguments with surprise. The noble Earl said that the late Liberal Government had used the same means of obtaining money under the Swine Fever Act. That is what a friend of mine calls the "pig and parson argument. "The Swine Fever Act benefited the whole of the country—both the rural districts and the city—but this Bill is for the benefit of a special class, and a small class of the community. It is said that the Bill is founded on the interim Report of the Royal Commission appointed to inquire into the subject of local taxation. I have read the Report of that Commission with the greatest interest, and I am bound to say that I can find nothing in it which bears upon the provisions of this measure. It is perfectly true that the Report affords an excuse to the Government for a plea of urgency in regard to this matter, and it is also true that in the body of the Report very hard cases are brought forward where the burdens press heavily on the clergy. But these cases are not remedied by this Bill. You have not touched the fringe of the question. I will take paragraph 95, which deals with the case of an incumbent who has to pay for a curate. We can understand the case in which a living was formerly a small one, yet sufficient for the maintenance of an incumbent and his family; in time, however, by some industrial accident, a small village may expand into a town, and in order to look after the spiritual needs of his parishioners the incumbent has to obtain one, two, or three curates. That seems a hard case which calls for a special remedy, but where is the special remedy in this Bill? It does not exist. It is true that, in the conclusions, the Commission draw attention to the fact that the burden of local taxation presses inequitably on clerical tithe-owners, and that there exists among them great dissatisfaction. We did not want a Royal Commission to tell 32 us that. We have known the inequality of the incidence of local taxation and the inequality of the incidence under which tithe-owners are rated for the past sixty or seventy years, and surely, if the quession has been before the country for such a long period, and if the relief which your Bill gives is of so very small a nature, it would have been wiser and more statesmanlike if the Government had waited a little longer and had dealt with the question of local taxation as a whole. Had this Report of the Royal Commission contained some scheme to settle this vexed question of local taxation, it would have been welcomed, if it was a just and equitable settlement, by everyone, and it would have avoided this most invidious discussion, and this most invidious distinction between clergymen and laymen which naturally arises out of the very essence of your Bill. I have ventured to ask on what principle this Bill is founded. The Minister in charge of the Bill in another place (Mr. Long), whose great talent in dealing with a very thorny subject I am sure is generally recognised, told us that this Bill was founded upon principles of justice. Well, I am obliged to use an argument that has been used over and over again, but how can you say that your Bill is founded on principles of justice when it deals with only clerical tithe-owners and leaves the lay tithe-owners out in the cold? We know what the real and only grievance is which tithe-owners have in regard to rating. It is entirely a matter of assessment. As your Lordships know, with regard to property rateable for other than tithe rent-charge it is usually rated much below its value, but with regard to tithe rent-charge everyone can find out the exact value of the tithe rent-charge, and in some cases it is rated nearly to its full value. I venture to say that a clergyman is not rated on his professional income, and I would even go further and say that for practical purposes, in the legal sense, he is not really in receipt of a professional income at all. I have said that an incumbent is not rated on his professional income, and it is necessary, though I will be very brief, that I should make an incursion into history in order to try and prove that fact. Everyone knows that from time immemorial a certain portion of the tithe was set apart for the purposes of the poor. 33 The noble Marquess the Prime Minister shakes his read, but there are other authorities than the noble Marquess.
§ THE PRIME MINISTER AND SECRETARY OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (The Marquess of SALISBURY)
The noble Lord said "everyone knows." That I deny as a matter of fact.
§ LORD BURGHCLERE
If everyone does not know it, it is, at any rate, admitted in very learned works on the subject.
§ LORD BURGHCLERE
I refer to the authorities that agree with me, and, in the same way, the noble Marquess can, if he likes, quote the authorities that are against me. The authorities which agree with me tell me that from time immemorial a certain portion of the tithe was set apart for the use of the poor, and in time, naturally, in consequence of this, not directly, but, perhaps, indirectly, when the clergyman had to pay the poor rate on his tithe, he was merely fulfilling the original duty of the tithe, and putting aside that portion which had always been put aside for the poor. I contend that the true professional income of the clergyman is the net tithe, and as the net tithe suffers no diminution at all from local rating it cannot be said that the clergyman is rated on his professional income at all I said that the professional income of the clergyman did not in absolute legality exist at all, and I will tell you why I said that. The so-called professional income of the clergyman is tithe rent-charge, which is a freehold. I venture to ask whether any other professional income is a freehold. Moreover, as the income of the clergyman does not depend on his ability, his health, or the taste of his congregation, it cannot be compared with that of the ordinary professional man, who knows to his cost that it can often disappear at any moment. The professional income, as you call it, of the clergyman remains with him for his life. I have very strong legal authority to bear out what I have ventured to place before your Lordships. There is the case of "Regina v. the Inhabitants of Sherford," which is referred to in this Report, though what I am going to read to your Lordships does not appear 34 in the Report. In that case Mr. Justice Mellor said the hypothetical tenant would give the same price for the occupation of the tithe rent-charge whether the service was performed by the vicar, or was left wholly unperformed. The occupation in no case depends on whether the services are performed by the owners, or by curates, or not performed at all. This means that tithe rent-charge does not depend on the services of the clergyman, and therefore it follows that it is not a professional income in the true sense of the word. Therefore I think your Lordships will admit that the whole case falls to the ground. You cannot say that this Bill is founded on justice if you say to one man on one side of the hedge, "You shall receive relief because you are a clergymen, "and to the man on the other side of the hedge, "You shall not receive relief, although your grievance is the same. "I contend that this Bill is not founded on justice, but there is another principle on which the Bill might have been founded, which would have appealed more closely to our hearts, that of charity. No one who has lived in the country can be unconscious of the unmerited sufferings of many of the poorer clergy, in common, I am bound to say, with the poorer class of landlords, in consequence of the great fall in agricultural produce during the last twenty-five years. Had it been possible for noble Lords opposite to have brought in a Bill which would have relieved these gentleman out of some fund from which the money might be properly taken, I am sure it would have been welcomed in every part of the House with the greatest enthusiasm. But this Bill does nothing of the sort; the Bill is a rating Bill. It therefore follows that the more rates a person pays—i.e., the richer he is—the more he will receive under the Bill, and the less rates he pays—i.e., the poorer he is—the less he will receive. In fact, my Lords, from the standpoint of charity, this Bill is the exact converse of a graduated income tax. The richer you are the more you receive; the poorer you are the less you receive, and that is the absolute effect of this Bill. You cannot, therefore, say it is founded upon charity. The true principle of the Bill, as I understand it, consists in the distribution of a certain sum of money, a very small sum, annually amongst clergymen in the country. Every clergyman, after the 35 passing of this Act, will receive an increase to his income in consequence, and he will receive it out of the Local Taxation Fund. This fund is made up of certain Imperial taxes which have been allocated to certain localities for certain specific purposes. The money is the absolute property of the bodies to whom it has been allocated; it comes out of the pocket of the Imperial taxpayer in the first instance, and goes into the pocket of the local taxpayer in the second. If every taxpayer and ratepayer in this country was a member of the Church of England, I could quite understand that the Bill would be received nemine contradicente; but, as your Lordships know, many taxpayers are not members of the Church of England. They have churches of their own to pay for, and now, for the first time since the repeal of the church rates, the Government are going to enable those taxpayers to say that they are forced to contribute to a church which is not their own. Among 11,000 people £87,000 is something under £8 a head, and for this miserable sum, I would call it, we are going to place an effective weapon in the hands of the enemies of the Established and Endowed Church. If ever there was a case of being penny wise and pound foolish, this is one. I shall vote against the Bill, not because I wish to deprive the clergy of any ultimate relief to which they are justly entitled, but because I believe I have shown that this Bill is not founded on principles of justice or charity; and I shall vote against it, above all, because I am firmly convinced that it would have been wiser and more statesmanlike to have waited for the Report on the whole question of local taxation, instead of giving relief to a special class, at a most inopportune time for the Church, and at the risk of awaking ancient prejudices and ancient feuds.
* THE LORD ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY
My Lords, I do not intend to detain the House at any length; but as, of course, I cannot but be very much interested in the question now discussed, I think it my duty to say a few words on behalf of the Bill which has been so severely criticised. In spite of the arguments of the noble Lord who has just sat down, I still maintain that the relief of the clergy from the excessive burden of the rates is a matter of justice. It has been just urged that there is no justice in 36 it because it relieves the clerical owners of tithes and leaves out of consideration the lay owners of tithes. The difference; between the two is very great indeed. The clergyman has his tithe, but it is subject to a necessary obligation, and that obligation cannot be left out of consideration. Here is a man who receives, say, tithe to the amount of £200 a year, and for this he is bound to render service; and here is another case where a man receives the same sum from the same source, and he is under no legal obligation whatever. The noble Lord who spoke last said there is a difference between this and an ordinary professional income, because a professional income varies and depends upon a man's health. But it is not the case that a clergyman is free from obligation, and that he receives his tithe whether he discharges his duty or not; he is compellable in the discharge of his duty. If a clergyman falls ill, he must get assistance for the discharge of the duty, and his Bishop will certainly require him to do so; and there are cases very numerous indeed in which that requisition is made upon him, and he has to pay a very considerable sum comparatively from his reduced income to discharge his obligation. I say it would be very unjust to put upon the same footing the man with this obligation and the man receiving the same amount free from such a burden. It may even be that, in order to get a curate, a clergyman may have to pay £150 out of the £200, and are we yet to be told that the clergyman should be on the same level and receive no more consideration than the layman who receives £200 and has no obligation whatever? That position is not tenable for a moment. The two properties are not of equal value. Measured by any standard of value you please, a property with a burden of obligation upon it is not of equal value with property having no such burden. The rates press unjustly upon the clergyman, and this is not affected by the fact that the relief now proposed to be given does not help the layman; the layman's case is on a totally different footing. But it is urged there is no injustice, because a clergyman's income is not the whole tithe rent-charge, but the net tithe rent-charge after the deductions made—that is, after he has paid these heavy rates. Of course, it is possible to put it in that way and fancy that thus you get rid of the injustice, 37 but I doubt if any man in this House would admit it to be just that deductions should be made before his net income could be obtained, and that he should have nothing to do with these, and that he would have no right to complain though tremendous fines were imposed, for he could only claim his net income. You may say there are other circumstances in which the rates are unjustly heavy. I will not say this is the only injustice to be redressed. If we were really to go into the whole matter of the incidence of rates, I have no doubt at all that a good many other cases of injustice would be discovered; but I do not think you will find any other case in which an injustice is so great and in which it so seriously interferes with the comfort of the taxpayer. I do not think you will find any other case of which it is possible to speak in language such as that used by a great statesman like Mr. Gladstone through years and years, and in language such as that used by the Royal Commissioners. The Bill is no more than an interim Bill; it corresponds to the interim Report. It proposes to redress a grievance, not in the way, perhaps, it will have to be redressed by-and-bye, when the whole subject is brought under review. It is quite possible that some different mode may then be found of dealing with the matter, but the injustice is so clear, and those suffering under it are so hardly pinched, that a delay to remedy would be a disgrace to the Legislature of this country. The clergy have long suffered under this grievance, and this is a reason why we should act at once to set matters right until the time comes when we shall have legislative proposals to redress other rating grievances also. I do not want to go into Acts of Parliament and decisions of the Courts; others can handle those matters better than I; but I maintain that the country ought not to delay giving justice to men who suffer injustice, even though those men are clergymen of the Church of England.
§ * LORD DAVEY
My Lords, the noble Earl who moved the Second Reading of this Bill drew a pathetic picture of a clergyman with a rent-charge of £300 a year, who paid rates on his tithe rent-charge and also on his house, and he compared his position with the position of a gentleman who was living in a house 38 rated at £300 a year, and who paid nothing on his income, which he derived elsewhere. Of course, that is a very touching picture; but, when you come to examine it, you find that the noble Earl might have said just the same, not only of the clerical tithe-owner, but of any person living on an income derived from land. By the law of this country here-ditaments—that is, land or real estate—are the only subjects of rating; personal property is not rated. That may be right or wrong, but this Bill does nothing to correct it. It may be that when the Commission has reported, over which the noble Lord the Secretary for Scotland presides, something may be done in that direction, but in the meantime the picture drawn by the noble Earl depends for its truth, not upon anything connected with clerical tithe, but on the fact that on one side of the picture was a person who derived his income from land, and on the other side one who derived his income from personal property. We have heard a great deal about the present injustice. The right rev. Prelate has spoken in strong language of the "gross injustice, "but if I may venture to criticise the right rev. Prelate, I do not think he was quite so clear in his definition of the injustice, as he was emphatic in his denunciation of it. The Secretary for Scotland spoke of the "exceptional and unparalleled injustice" which clerical tithe-owners are subjected to. I have tried to find out what is exactly the character of the injustice which the clerical tithe-owner is said to suffer. What is meant by injustice in the matter of rating? It can only mean that there is inequality between the subjects rated. That is the only conception I can form of injustice in rating. All rateable subjects ought to be rated equally, and that is the principle which the English law has endeavoured to carry into effect. It may be that in particular cases the equality which is laid down by law is not observed, but that is due to no fault of the present law, but to the manner in which the assessments are made. I was rather surprised to hear the noble Earl, in moving the Second Reading of the Bill, speak of the construction of the Act of Elizabeth as an open question. Of course, there are people, even in this country, to whom nothing is settled, to whom a uniform course of decisions by the competent 39 Courts of this country for over 300 years is as nothing, and may be rejected as lightly as a decision in an Ecclesiastical case. The construction of the Courts for centuries has been uniform that tithe should be rated on the same principle as other property. That is the construction which has been put by the Courts of Law without any dissent on that Statute, and in your Lordships' House we are surely not going to treat a construction of a Statute having that authority as still a vexed and open question. A very great Judge (Mr. Justice Littledale) said:The Statute of Elizabeth makes a parson liable in respect of the profits which he receives as parson.Similar expressions have been used by other judges. If that be so, if, during the last two hundred or three hundred years the tithes have always been subjected to the payment of parochial rates, then it is obviously a fallacy to speak of a clergyman's income as the gross tithe. He has never had the gross tithe, and the remuneration of the clergyman has always consisted, since the Poor Law Act of Elizabeth, of the gross tithe, subject to the deduction of the rate, and the net tithe is alone the income to which by law the clergyman is entitled. Let me say one word about the Parochial Assessments Act, under which this gross injustice is supposed to arise. I quite agree that the test of the annual value in that Act is not a very happy one, and I agree that it is not directly applicable to many subjects of rateable value. But if your Lordships will be good enough to look to the wording of the Act, you will see that there is one over-riding principle laid down in that Act: that rates are to be made on an estimate of the net annual value of the several hereditaments rated thereto. That is the principle laid down in the Act, and the principle which is now law. It means, of course, the full net annual value, and tithes being admittedly a rateable hereditament, the rate has to be paid on the net annual value given to them just the same as it is on the net annual value of a farm. What, then, is the grievance which is complained of, and which is said to be an exceptional and unparalleled injustice? From the speeches of the right reverend Prelate and the noble Earl who moved the Second Reading of this Bill, and also from the Report of the Commissioners, I gather that it is said to consist of two things. It is argued that the burdens of local taxation unduly press on the 40 clerical tithe-owner, that deductions ought to be made for the services which the incumbent of the parish is bound to render, and that the assessment of tithe-owners is unjust as compared with that of other rateable hereditaments. I venture to think that a very slight consideration of the matter will show that the argument is based upon a complete misconception. You do not rate property according to the value which it bears to the individual, but you rate it according to its abstract value as compared with other rateable subjects. I remember a case in regard to valuable docks, from which no income could be derived because the whole of the money had to be spent on public purposes, where it was said that the owners should not be rated because the income of the docks was not of any remunerative value to them. It was decided differently, and why? For the purposes of rating you must not look at the remunerative value of property to the man who receives the income; you must look to the absolute abstract value. A rateable occupation may be of no value to a man, but he has to pay on it whether it is remunerative or not. Noble Lords who consider this matter must see that it would be impossible to have any general system of rating upon any other basis. "The whole fallacy of the argument, ''said a learned judge in a case about thirty years ago, "is that the appellant is endeavouring to confound the rateable value to the poor rate with the remunerative value to the incumbent." To exempt the clergy would be an injustice to other ratepayers, and as to deducting the value of their services, I would like to ask how that is to be arrived at. The services of the incumbent do not help to earn the tithe, valuable as those services are. The tithe would be just the same whether the clergyman was lax or indefatigable in the discharge of his duties. It is a mere matter of arrangement whether the incumbent of the mother church receives the tithe rent-charge and pays the rates and then pays a certain sum over to the incumbent of the daughter church, or whether each pays its own proportion of the rates. The manner in which it is divided does not affect the rateable character or value of the tithe. Therefore, I contend that it would be introducing a new and perfectly impracticable system into the rating of this country if you attempted to rate people on the 41 remunerative value of the tithe rent-charge to the incumbent. It is said that the assessment of tithe-owners is unjust as regards the law. Well, my Lords, I do not deny that there are unions and parishes where the tithe is rated at its full net annual value, but where a deduction is made from the net annual value of other hereditaments before they are rated. Therefore, to use the language of Mr. De Bock Porter, who is referred to in the Report of the noble Lord's Commission:Tithe is rated more closely than other rateable hereditaments.That is the grievance which was referred to in the evidence of Sir George Cornewall Lewis, which is quoted in the Report, and, so far as I can understand the quotations given by noble Lords opposite, it is also the grievance which was pointed out by Mr. Gladstone. But that grievance, I although I admit that it is a very considerable one, is not a grievance occasioned by the state of the law. It is not caused by any defect in the mode by which the law directs hereditaments to be rated, but by laxity of practice, and all that would be necessary to correct that would be for any tithe-owner who suffers injury and injustice from a bad assessment to apply the remedy which he has in his own hands. He can at any time object to the rate as unequal. The real truth, when you come to think of it, is not that the tithe-owner is over-assessed, but that others are in some instances under-assessed, and that is really, when you work it out carefully, the substance of the complaint. No alteration in the law is required, except, perhaps, that it might be expedient to pass an Act—which would be welcomed, I am sure, on this side of the House as well as on the other side—to compel Assessment Committees to follow the words of the Parochial Assessments Act, and rate the net annual value of all rateable hereditaments—land, as well as tithes—instead of, as they do now in some instances, rating only a certain percentage or proportion of the net annual value of the land. But that is a grievance local in its character, and far less extensive than is generally supposed. It is a grievance which the clergy have the means of correcting. Four years after the passing of the Parochial Assessments Act this very complaint was made in a case in the Queen's Bench Division, and Lord Denman said that if any case arose 42 in which the facts showed that the rule in the Parochial Assessments Act would work injustice to the tithe-owner, there would be no more difficulty in relieving him than in relieving one landowner as against another. If one landowner thinks he is over-assessed, while another is under-assessed, he has his remedy. But if it is thought that statutory power is required to redress the grievance, the form which the Statute should take should be to make it obligatory on Assessment Committees in every case to assess rateable hereditaments, as they are instructed to do in the Parochial Assessments Act—namely, on the net annual value. It is also said that since the Tithe Commutation Act new rates have come into existence, and that rates are now levied for different purposes in addition to those which were levied at the time the Act was passed. That is quite true, but will any noble Lord say that the amount of rates payable per £ in the rural parishes of this part of the kingdom is as large now as it was at the time when the Tithe Commutation Act was passed? It may be an exaggeration to say that in some instances they were 10s. in the £, though I believe it is not, but I am quite sure the average amount of the rates per £ in rural parishes at the present day in England is much less than it was at the time of the passing of the Tithe Commutation Act in 1836. Therefore, my Lords, I do not think there is anything in the suggestion that new purposes have been introduced. I have only one more word to say. The most rev. Prelate, said that you cannot contend that a man enjoys an income when that income is burdened. Well, of course, he has no remunerative enjoyment, or his remunerative enjoyment is lessened; but does the right rev. Prelate think that if a man has mortgaged his estate he should not pay the same rates as if he enjoyed the full remuneration? I am obliged to the right rev. Prelate for this suggestion on his part, for it illustrates the point which I have endeavoured to make, and shows the complete fallacy of looking at the remunerative value of the tithe to the incumbent, instead of to the rateable value of the hereditament.
THE EARL OF KIMBERLEY
My Lords, I should not like this Debate to close without a few observations; but after so much has been said by my noble 43 friends behind me, and so many points of detail have been touched upon, I shall endeavour to make my observations as brief and as much to the point as I am able. There are one or two matters I desire to touch upon, because they present themselves to me not exactly in the light in which they have been placed before the House. One is the point on which my noble and learned friend who has just sat down has remarked, and to which several speakers before him naturally referred—namely, the complaint—a very old one—of the clergy that they are exposed to injustice on account of their interests being perfectly well known. The noble Lord who moved the Second Reading of the Bill quoted one piece of evidence given by Sir George Cornewall Lewis before the Committee of this House in 1850. This is the only quotation I will make, but I think it is only right, as one quotation has been made, to quote the other evidence which Sir George Cornewall Lewis also gave before the Committee. It was to this effect. He said:I am not aware myself of any disadvantage to which the owner of tithe rent-charge is subject other than this; that his cards are shown, whereas the cards of other ratepayers are not shown; and in my opinion the most proper and equitable mode of redressing that disadvantage is to compel the other party to show all his cards, rather than to withdraw the whole of them.That shows that Sir George Cornewall Lewis, at all events, cannot be quoted in favour of such a remedy as this Bill intends to apply. But I have a further observation to make, and that is this: that in point of fact the cards are now shown. I speak from personal experience when I make the statement, because, as I know, the practice now is for the Government to supply, upon application from the Assessment Committees—and I believe they would always meet the application—a copy of the Income Tax Return. That Return does display the cards of every single rate-payer in the district, and it is a basis upon which well-informed Assessment Committees proceed. Therefore, as it seems to me, the notion—a very sound one before—that only the clergyman's income was known to those who had to assess the district, now has no foundation whatever. That is all I have to say on that particular point. I just now remarked that Sir George Cornewall Lewis would not have been in favour of the 44 mode in which this Bill purposes to apply a remedy; but another and a greater authority has been quoted, and quoted with great insistence from the other side, and that is the authority of Mr. Gladstone. Now, this I am perfectly certain of, as far as I can be certain, hypothetically, of what Mr. Gladstone, if he had dealt with this matter at all, would have done. Of this I am sure, that he never would have dealt with this matter piecemeal by way of what we call dole. On the contrary. he would have dealt with the question in conjunction with a reform of local taxation generally, which we all admit is an urgent and desirable measure. There are only one or two other remarks on particular points which I wish to make. One refers, not to a speech, but to a remark made by the noble Marquess as to a statement made by my noble friend behind me, that clerical tithe was formerly subject to contribution for the relief of the poor.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
Will the noble Earl allow me to correct him? The statement I objected to was that "everybody knew." I entirely deny that everybody knew it, because I did not know it, and therefore everybody did not know it.
THE EARL OF KIMBERLEY
I have, of course, the greatest respect for the opinion of the noble Marquess, but, when authorities are referred to, I think it only right to point to this passage in a document, which I must presume the noble Marquess has read, namely, the Report of the Poor Law Commission of 1843. In this Second Report of the Royal Commission on Local Taxation, in page 9, they say this:—It is stated in the Report of the Poor Law Commissioners in 1843, that before 1536 'the relief of the poor had been a legal charge, but undefined in amount, on the revenues of the secular clergy, aided by the many exclusively charitable foundations, and by the regular alms of the monasteries and religious houses, collegiate churches, hospitals, and cathedrals.'At all events, the Poor Law Commissioners of that day—and they were a body for whose opinion I think we should always entertain a high respect—were of opinion that there was foundation for the statement that the payment of clerical tithe was originally subject to a 45 contribution towards the relief of the poor. I do not labour the point much; I merely mentioned it in defence of my noble friend behind me with reference to the observations of the noble Marquess. Now, my Lords, it seems to me that as regards the income of the clergy my noble and learned friend who has just spoken has put the point very clearly. I cannot myself see at all how the possession of property which is subject to some particular duties on the part of the incumbent entitles him to bear a less share of the local burdens incident to the property in the locality in which he lives than if he had not been subject to such duties. The very tenure upon which he holds it is the performance of these duties; that is the title-deed of what we may call his estate; and I do not see that any portion of that money which can be properly raised from that part of the fund arising from the cultivation of the land ought to be subject to less charge because of the circumstance that the possessor of that particular property is liable to perform particular duties. As a matter of justice, I cannot see that there is any reason whatever for it. It is a property which from extremely old times, in the shape of tenths of produce, has been assigned to the Church and held by them. That property has been subject, at all events from the time of Queen Elizabeth, for the payment of this rate, and although undoubtedly if you go into a general revision of the system of rating, and you come to the conclusion that as between different classes of property in this country some change should be made, it would be right to hear any point which the clergy have to put forward, yet I do not see, on the ground of justice simply, any sound ground for suddenly—for I think it is very suddenly, considering that it was not dealt with under the Agricultural Rating Act—finding it necessary to give what I must call a dole to all the clergy, to relieve them especially from a portion of the rates to which their property has always been subject. Many of us are extremely surprised that this matter was not put by the Government opposite on the same footing as the Agricultural Rating Bill; and we all remember—what is still more singular—a speech by a most important authority, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in which he took a view which seems to me to be exactly antagonistic to the course pursued by the 46 Government in this case. My Lords, the general question of rating is one which some Government must deal with. The general question of rating, I am afraid, will not be solved by the expedient suggested by my noble and learned friend behind me. I fully admit that to secure a perfectly fair and equitable assessment of all property will tax the energies and the wisdom of the most experienced statesmen of this country. It has puzzled Commission after Commission. It has puzzled some of the moat acute men I know. Curiously enough, I was a member, so long ago as 1850, of the Committee of this House which then considered this subject, and I know well, though I was a very humble member of it, that the Committee separated without having been able to come to any satisfactory conclusion. I only hope that in our time we may be able to deal with the matter in a more complete and comprehensive manner. But, my Lords, we are told that this is not a question of the poverty of the clergy, but that it is a question of justice. If it were a question of the poverty of the clergy I should still feel a very serious and grave objection to any such grant from the public Exchequer as practically this Bill makes to the clergy. It is impossible to deny that this is placing upon the ratepayers of this country generally a charge in order to relieve the clergy from what is said to be an injustice—that is to say, that whereas a large fund has been apropriated to the use of the different local authorities, and paid to them yearly according to the produce of certain taxes, now a certain part of this is to be diverted from that fund—that is to say, taken out of the pockets of the ratepayers who have hitherto enjoyed it—taken from the City of London and taken from all parts of the country—and put into the pockets of one particular class. I say that that is unjust and unfair to the other portion of the community. It is unjust to those ratepayers who derive no benefit whatever in the matter, having very few tithe-owners probably in their district. It is unjust to the people of the towns, whose rating system is interfered with in this unfair manner. And here I must express my—I will say astonishment at the statement of the noble Earl who moved the Second Reading of this Bill. I most willingly and gladly recognise the ability and the clearness and the moderation with which 47 the noble Earl stated the case for the Bill, but one particular point which I must refer to has created a great deal of astonishment in my mind, and that is when the noble Earl argued that it was perfectly defensible to take any portion of that fund for the purpose of alleviating any distress or grievance there might be. My Lords, the allocation of that fund is fixed in the most natural and just manner, namely, that the amount to be paid in every county or district or city is calculated on the amount of assessed rateable property in that county or city, and to take from that fund specially any particular portion of the fund is, I think, a violation of the fair pledge and promise which was given by the Act to all the local authorities throughout the country. I cannot conceive—quite apart altogether from the merits of the particular case we have before us—that anyone would really insist on that argument, because if it were widely applicable it would lead to consequences most embarrassing, and it seems to me most unjust. My Lords, I have no wish to trouble the House upon minute points which have been argued so often, but I must confess that my objection to the Bill is a much broader one. I object absolutely to money being taken in any form from the pockets of the taxpayers of this country to add an additional endowment to the clergy of the Established Church, for that in effect is the result of the proposal to pay half the rates of the tithe rent-charge owner. To relieve the clergy of half the rates they have hitherto paid will increase their incomes by exactly that amount; that is a new endowment, and I believe that to create any new endowment of the Established Church is contrary to the principles upon which we have now acted for generations; and I believe, further, that if there is any one thing more likely to increase the most grave dissatisfaction, which it is impossible not to see now exists with the Church of England among very large classes in this country—a dissatisfaction which I fear is increasing, and which may possibly lead to very grave consequences—if anything is likely to increase that feeling, and to make it more difficult to settle questions which all well wishers of the Church will wish to see settled, it is that the Government in any form whatever should make it clear to large bodies of the taxpayers of this country, a very 48 large portion of whom are not Churchmen, that money is taken out of their pockets for the purpose of endowing the clergy of the Church of England. Believing that this is a most dangerous, disastrous, and unjust policy, I shall vote with the greatest satisfaction against the Second Reading of this Bill.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My Lords, at this hour of the evening I shall be very brief. I wish first to make an observation with respect to an interruption I made during the speech of the noble Earl opposite. I was surprised to hear that old story revived about the division of the tithe among the poor and the clergy, after the complete destruction of it in the book of the late Lord Selborne. I have not got the book here, because I did not expect the question to arise, but it is a very well-known passage. If I recollect it aright the purport of it is that no one has produced or ever will produce a record of any such division as that mentioned by the noble Lord as having actually taken place. Therefore, I felt justified in denying at once the authenticity of a story which has already been too much published abroad. I ought also to say a word with respect to the definition of what constitutes value given by the noble and learned Lord opposite. He said that value was wholly independent of its remunerative character to the person who received it, and it was on that account that he and others insisted very much on the similarity between lay and clerical tithe-owners, and that in the distinction that was made between them in the Bill there was an element of evident injustice. Now, I find that the definition in the Parochial Assessment Act is different from that of the noble and learned Lord. There is not that subtle distinction between remunerative value and value that is not remunerative.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
What the Act says is:No rate for the relief of the poor in England and Wales shall be allowed by any justices or be of any force which shall 49 not be made upon an estimate of the net annual value of the several hereditaments rated thereunto, that is to say, of the rent at which the same might reasonably be expected to let from year to year.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I myself have the pleasure of being to a very small extent a lay impropriator. I conceive that it would make the very greatest difference in the estimate of anybody who wished to hire my privileges, whether I had to conduct two services on the Sunday or not, and it is absurd to say that a tithe rent-charge is of the same value whether or not it is burdened by a difficult and laborious charge. But, my Lords, we are not dealing with that here—we have not introduced a Bill to deal with subtle metaphysical distinctions. We have introduced it to remedy an obvious and patent injustice. It is a grave injustice that whereas the parson ought to be rated on the same principles as the other occupiers, you find, in fact, that the deductions which settle the amount and proportion of rating are very much more favourable to the agricultural occupier than they are to the parson who holds the tithe. That, however you like to explain it, is the actual fact, and that is the injustice we wish in some sort to remedy. I do not wish to dwell upon points which have been already adequately dealt with, but I wish to call attention to just one circumstance on which I think sufficient stress has not been laid in this Debate. We are very much attacked for the source from which we have drawn this relief, and it has been stated that we ought, before relieving a patent and pressing injustice, to have entered into the consideration of a scheme for recasting the whole of the complex fabric of English rating. My Lords, this is a transitory Bill; it is only to run for two years. I do not know whether it has ever occurred to noble Lords opposite that one of the most important provisions in the law of rating, one of the most far-reaching and widespreading—namely, that which exempts personal property from being rated—is not part of the stable, fixed statute law of the country. It is re-enacted every year, and that formal 50 process has gone on ever since 1840. This year you will be again asked to assent to a law by which personal property shall be exempted from rating. By doing so you will not only be consenting that that shall be the case, but you will at the same time lay down that the exemption of personal property is not fixed and accepted for all time, but from year to year, and which any year you may abandon. How has the law of rating got into this extraordinary condition? If you will refer to this interim Report, you will see it is intimately connected with the subject we are now discussing. In 1840, in a certain case, the judges decided that personal property was still subject to rating. The announcement created the greatest panic, and the Government of the day were very much pressed by Sir Robert Peel to put an end to the difficulty and introduce the requisite amendment in the law of rating. But it was not done. Simply this temporary Act was passed, which has gone on being renewed every year from that year to this. Mr. Coode, a great authority, was asked in 1846 why the Bill was made a temporary one, and he replied:—Because there were then various matters in question, especially the rates of the clergy, with tithe-owners in respect of their tithe, and in order not to prejudice these pending questions the Bill was made annual, the Government at the time contemplating, I think, a general dealing with the subject.Now, my Lords, that shows that this question of tithe rating has been now for half a century looked upon as in an unstable and transient and ephemeral condition, and Parliament has always, apparently, judging by this yearly ceremony, looked forward to a period when it should deal with the great problem and riddle of rating, and when it should try to abolish the extreme injustice which throws this vast expenditure on a kind of property that is only one-fifth of the whole property of the country. I join my hopes to those of the noble Earl that Parliament may undertake that task, but I do not envy any Government that has to do it. Clearly the tithe question is, like the personal property question, in a transitory condition. In that condition we find it now, after half a century. We cannot in reason ask those who have suffered under this wretched state of things, especially at this period of their extreme distress, to go on trusting in the prospect of our 51 being able to amend the whole law of rating within any early time. If we can do it, so much the better; but, between that time and this something must be done to relieve the distress under which the clergy are suffering. At all events, if Parliament is indolent, or Parliament is unable to undertake this task, do not let the clergy go on suffering year after year for a fault which is not their own. Let this money, which is contributed from the general taxation, be paid in order to offer, I will not say compensation, but an adequate substitute for a more just law of rating. Pass it only in a temporary form; hope that you may be able to deal
§ with the whole subject and to avoid all modes of remedy which shall be exposed to any kind of cavil or censure; but, until that end is attained, and while the grievous period in between has to be passed by the clergy, let us give to them this, which is only a sad and sorry compensation for all the wrong that they have suffered at the hands of the Rating Law since the year 1836.
§ On Question, whether "now" shall stand part of the motion, their Lordships divided. Contents, 113; Not Contents, 23.51
|Canterbury, L. Abp.||Mount Edgcumbe, E.||Harlech, L.|
|Halsbury, E. (L. Chancellor.)||Onslow, E.||Harris, L.|
|Devonshire, D. (L. President.)||Selborne, E.||Hastings, L.|
|Cross, V. (L. Privy Seal.)||Stamford, E.||Hood of Avalon, L.|
|Verulam, E.||James, L.|
|Norfolk, D. (E. Marshal.)||Waldegrave, E. [Teller.]||Kenry, L. (E. Dunraven and Mount Earl.)|
|Marlborough, D.||Falkland V.||Kintore, L. (E. Kintore.)|
|Northumberland, D.||Hood, V.||Lawrence, L.|
|Portland, D.||Llandaff, V.||Lurgan, L.|
|Westminster, D.||Peel, V.||Macnaghten, L.|
|Sidmouth, V.||Meldrum, L. (M. Huntly.)|
|Abercorn, M. (D. Abercorn.)||Middleton, L.|
|Abergavenny, M.||Chichester, L. Bp.||Montagu of Beaulieu, L.|
|Ailesbury, M.||Gloucester, L Bp.||Morris, L.|
|Lansdowne, M.||London, L. Bp.||Norton, L.|
|Salisbury, M.||Manchester, L. Bp.||Ormathwaite, L.|
|Zetland, M.||Norwich, L. Bp.||Penrhyn, L.|
|St. Albans, L. Bp.||Plunket, L.|
|Pembroke and Montgomery, E. (L. Steward.)||Winchester, L. Bp.||Raglan, L.|
|Ancaster, E.||Revelstoke, L.|
|Camperdown, E.||Addington, L.||Rookwood, L.|
|Clarendon, E.||Amherst of Hackney, L.||Rossmore, L.|
|Coventry, E.||Ampthill, L.||Saye and Sele, L.|
|Dartrey, E.||Ashcombe, L.||Shand, L.|
|De Montals, E.||Bagot, L||Sherborne, L.|
|Denbigh, E.||Balfour, L.||Sinclair, L.|
|Doncaster, E. (D. Buccleuch and Queensberry.)||Belper, L.||Stalbridge, L.|
|Brampton, L.||Stanley of Alderley, L.|
|Dudley, E.||Brougham and Vaux, L.||Stanmore, L|
|Egerton, E.||Cheylesmore, L.||Sudley, L. (E. Arran.)|
|Eldon, E.||Churchill, L. [Teller.]||Suffield, L.|
|Feversham, E.||Cloncurry, L.||Templemore, L.|
|Haddington, E.||Colchester, L.||Teynham, L.|
|Hardwicke, E.||Cottesloe, L.||Ventry, L.|
|Lindsey, E.||Cranworth, L.||Wantage, L.|
|Malmesbury, E.||Dinevor, L.||Wemyss, L. (E. Wemyss.)|
|Mansfield, E.||Farquhar, L.||Windsor, L.|
|Mar and Kellie, E.||Gage, L. (V. Gage.)||Wolverton, L.|
|Morley, E.||Glanusk, L.||Zouche of Haryngworth, L.|
|Ripon, M.||Aberdare, L.||Hawkesbury, L.|
|Ardilaun, L.||Hobhouse, L.|
|Buckinghamshire, E.||Battersea, L.||Monkswell, L.|
|Carlisle, E.||Boyle, L. (E. Cork and Orrery.)||Reay, L.|
|Carrington, E.||Ribblesdale, L. [Teller.]|
|Chesterfield, E. [Teller.]||Braye, L.||Tweedmouth, L.|
|Crewe, E.||Burghclere, L.||Wandsworth, L.|
|Kimberley, E.||Coleridge, L.|
|Spencer, E.||Davey, L.|
§ Bill read 2a accordingly, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House on Thursday next.