HL Deb 05 June 1902 vol 108 cc1507-10

My Lords, I beg to ask His Majesty's Government whether it is intended to give legislative effect to the recommendations of the Joint Committee on Queen Anne's Bounty Board, and meanwhile whether any provisional appointment has been made to the joint office of Treasurer and Secretary of that Board. The Joint Committee practically came to a unanimous conclusion as to what ought to be done with regard to Queen Anne's Bounty, but up to the present no steps have been taken to carry out their recommendations. Since the death of the late Treasurer and Secretary there is no one who has statutory powers to enforce the payment of first fruits and tenths. It is quite true that they have been gathered in some way or another by the most efficient Chief Clerk, but, still, he has no power to enforce payment. The only person who can enforce payment is the Treasurer and Secretary, and no appointment has been made to this joint office. This is no doubt due to the fact that it is not considered desirable to create a vested interest in anybody else, as it is very likely that some radical changes may be made in the Queen Anne's Bounty arrangements. But, surely, it would be wise and proper meanwhile, that someone should be vested with the necessary powers to collect the first fruits and pence; it could be made a condition that the appointment should carry with it no vested interest. I think it was on the Motion of the Eight Reverend Prelate the Bishop of Winchester, whom I see present, that we made this recommendation in the Report of the Joint Committee; and I should be glad to hear what His Majesty's Government have to say on both matters.


My Lords, I am at a loss for several reasons, to understand why the noble Viscount has put his question. He is generally understood to be a friend of Queen Anne's Bounty, and it would be harder to believe that he has any sympathy for the methods of the Office of the Ecclesiastical Commission. The question between the Bounty Board, and the Secretary of the Ecclesiastical Commission originated entirely out of the question of dilapidations, and the Secretary of the Ecclesiastical Commission dangled before the clergy a scheme for assisting them in those difficulties by a gift or loan of £100,000; but the noble Viscount must be aware that that scheme has been found to be unworkable, and has been condemned by many Diocesan Conferences and by the clerical newspapers. It must also be within his knowledge that the Convocations of both provinces have called upon the clergy to examine into the question of dilapidations and to express their views and wishes upon a matter which concerns them solely and exclusively. There has not yet been time for the clergy to express their views, so what is the use of asking the Government for an opinion or for a decision which must be premature? Moreover, why ask the Government if they intend to legislate when their hands are more than full, and when it is doubtful if the subjects already before Parliament can be carried through.

The noble Viscount must also be aware that many accusations have been made against the office of the Ecclesiastical Commission for misconduct, or, at the least, mismanagement of the business committed to it; that a special Committee of Queen Anne's Bounty in November, 1900, reported that in their opinion a thorough examination of the Ecclesiastical Com mission was necessary before any question of amalgamation of the Bounty office with that Commission could be entertained; that this had been agreed to unanimously by the subsequent General Court of the Governors, and that at that Court the Archbishops of Canterbury and York were present. It could not be otherwise. The administration of the Bounty office has come off with flying colours from the inquiry by the Joint Committee, whilst the accusations publicly made against the office of the Commission have not been inquired into, and no contradiction or explanation of them has been offered by the Secretary of the Commission. I have to ask His Majesty's Government, in accordance with the notice standing in my name, whether they have received a copy of the Report of the special committee of Queen Anne's Bounty of November, 1900, to which I have referred; whether before bringing in any Bill for amalgamation, the Government will appoint a Commission to take evidence as to the working of the Ecclesiastical Commission, and make the thorough inquiry suggested by the Report as necessary; and whether up to the present any inquiry of the nature suggested has been made or any evidence taken except that of the Secretary of the Ecclesiastical Commission.

I have heard a rumour that the most reverend Primate who presides over the Southern Province considered that the evidence tendered to the Joint Committee by the Secretary of the Ecclesiastical Commission answered the purpose of an inquiry, but that cannot be, since his evidence was limited to statements volunteered by himself and chiefly on the subject of his scheme. If it were true that the most reverend Primate entertained such an idea, he would forfeit the character which he obtained before he ascended the right reverend Bench, and the title which he shares with Aristides. The Report of the Joint Committee was most inconclusive and of the nature of a compromise. It did not recommend amalgamation, since it recommended that the two officers and their methods of dealing with the clergy should be kept distinct. In that case, why meddle with them? It is said that a Bill has been drawn up somewhere and that this Bill infringes the Royal prerogative. The Bounty Fund was the gift of Queen Anne and is a Royal fund, and since its foundation the sovereigns of this country have attended carefully to its administration, and by the use of the Sign Manual have from time to time improved and reformed its administration. This benefit, and all the advantages of being able to alter, when necessary, the rules of the Bounty Office without a resort to cumbersome legislation would be lost if the seheme of the Commission Office were not discarded and laid to rest. There is one part of the noble Viscount's question with which I agree—namely, the part in which he asks whether the Government will make any provisional appointment to the joint office of Treasurer and Secretary. I think it would be far better that the present Chief Clerk should be permanently appointed than that the present arrangements should be continued.

No one rising on the Government Bench to reply to the question,


said I hope some member of His Majesty's Government will give me an answer to the short questions I have put, and not be led away by the other matters raised by Lord Stanley of Alderley.

Still no answer being forthcoming,


said: This question was put on the Paper before the Whitsuntide holidays, and I should have thought that the Government had had ample time to consider it. As I cannot get an answer today, I will renew the question this day week.