§ Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee, read.
§ Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Lee of Fareham.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House in Committee accordingly.14
§ [The EARL of DONOUGHMORE in the Chair.]
§ Clause 1:
§ Partial relief of ecclesiastical tithe rentcharge from rates.
§ 1.—(1) The owner of tithe rentcharge attached to an ecclesiastical corporation or benefice shall not be liable to pay, in respect of any rate made on or after the first day of April nineteen hundred and twenty, and before the first day of January nineteen hundred and twenty-six, which is assessed on him as owner or that tithe rentcharge, an amount in excess of such an amount as would have been payable by him if the rate had been made at such amount in the pound as is equal to the amount in the pound (to be ascertained in accordance with the rules set out in the Schedule to this Act) at which the corresponding rate was made in the year nineteen hundred and eighteen, and the excess shall be deemed to be irrecoverable. Where the owner of tithe rentcharge attached to a benefice, before payment of the amount payable by him in respect of any such rate as aforesaid, produces to the collector of the rate a statutory declaration made by him in a form prescribed by the Minister of Health showing that his total income from all sources for the year ending on the fifth day of April preceding the date at which the rate was made, estimated in accordance with the provisions of the Income Tax Acts, did not exceed three hundred pounds, or, if it exceeded that sum, did not exceed five hundred pounds, the owner shall be entitled to such relief or abatement in respect of such rate as follows, that is to say, if the total income from all sources did not exceed three hundred pounds the owner shall not be liable to any payment in respect of the rate, and if it exceeded that sum, but did not exceed five hundred pounds the owner shall be allowed an abatement of one-half of the amount which would otherwise be payable be him in respect of the rate having regard to the preceding provisions; and the amount of any relief or abatement in respect of a rate given by this section shall be deemed to be irrecoverable.
§ A statutory declaration made for the purpose of this section shall be exempt from stamp duty.
§ Nothing in this Act shall affect the allowance to be made in respect of rates in the assessment of tithe rentcharge for any rate or tax.
§ (2) Any amount paid by the owner of tithe rentcharge in respect of any rate to which this Act applies in excess of the amount which he is by virtue of this Act liable to pay shall be recoverable on demand made within six months after the passing of this Act as a debt due to him by the, collector of the rate, and such amount shall be so recoverable notwithstanding that the statutory declaration required by this Act to entitle the owner to exemption or relief was not produced to the collector of the rate before payment of the rate if such declaration is so produced on or before the demand for repayment.
§ (3) In this Act the expression "ecclesiastica corporation" has the same meaning as in the Episcopal and Capitular Estates Act, 1851; the expressions "benefice" and "owner of tithe rentcharge" and "tithe rentcharge" have the same meanings as in the Tithe Rentcharge (Rates) Act, 1899; and the expression "rate" means a rate the proceeds of which are applicable to public 15 local purposes and which is leviable on the basis of an assessment in respect of the yearly value of property.
§ LORD PARMOOR moved, in subsection (1), to leave out the first "April" and insert "October." The noble and learned Lord said: My object is to obtain an explanation from the noble Lord in charge of the Bill. As the Bill stands there will have to be supplemental rates, because all the rates cannot be levied under the April charge. It is a great inconvenience—all the Poor Law unions feel it—that there should be this system of supplemental rates, but I dare say it cannot be avoided. The noble Lord can perhaps tell us how the matter could be dealt with. There is another point. At present clergymen are being summoned for payment of rates for which they will not be liable if this Bill is passed. They are only nominally liable at present, because, if this Bill stands in its present form, the remission will date from April, and every one knows that, when rates are once paid, it is extremely difficult to get the money repaid, although technically no doubt the clergyman would be entitled to get repayment. If the noble Lord gives me a satisfactory answer to these two questions I dare say it will not be necessary to press the Amendment.
Page 1, line 7, leave out ("April") and insert ("October").—(Lord Parmoor.)
§ THE MINISTER OF AGRICULTURE AND FISHERIES (LORD LEE OF FAREHAM)
I quite recognise that there will be certain inconveniences in the course which is provided in the Bill, but I am afraid they are unavoidable. Certainly to postpone the operation of the Bill, and apply it only to rates made after October, would materially diminish the relief which is contemplated by the Bill in this most critical year and would be very strongly resisted by clergymen and those who have the right to speak for them in your Lordships' House. The position is somewhat illogical, but I believe that in practice no great difficulty need arise. It may be necessary in some cases to make a supplementary rate, or possibly there may be some adjustment when the next half-yearly rate is fixed. But, as for the clergy being summoned for non-payment of rates, I cannot believe that when this Bill has become law and the intention of Parliament has been made plain, any such action would, as a matter of fact, be taken, and I feel 16 sure that rate collectors would be reasonable, and recognise that in the circumstances it would be most inconvenient, if not absurd, to exact this rate from the clergy, and then to throw upon them simultaneously the duty of recovering. I agree that there is a difficulty, and that there will be some trouble and inconvenience, but I hope it can be met, and I think it is the lesser of the two evils.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ THE LORD BISHOP OF NORWICH moved, in subsection (1), to substitute "nineteen hundred and seventeen" for "nineteen hundred and eighteen." The right rev. Prelate said: I believe the intention of this Bill, in selecting the particular period named in it, is to fix the standard year so as to bring the adjustment of rates into correspondence with the date on which the limitation of tithe rentcharge came into force. But tithe rentcharge is not collected in all parts of the country on the same date, and it comes about, therefore, that a certain retrospective air belongs to the standard rate as set down in the Bill, because it will be operative in regard to tithe rentcharge which becomes collectable after January 1, though it really becomes due in many parts of the country on the half year that begins in October. If, therefore, the intention of the Bill is to make the standard rate correspond with the losses which the clergy have suffered through the fact that the tithe rentcharge no longer arises in the way laid down in 1836, the result will be that they will not be compensated as the Bill stands unless the rates and the tithe are brought into uniformity by this Bill applying to the latter part of the year 1917. Without going into a precise date, I thought it was wiser to ask whether the Government would accept the year 1917 instead of the year 1918, with the idea that what is given back by this Bill towards the losses that the clergy have actually sustained by the fact that their tithe rentcharge was reduced in January, 1918, may retrospectively apply to the three months at the end of the year 1917.
Page 1, line 15, leave out ("eighteen") and insert ("seventeen").—(The Lord Bishop of Norwich.)
§ LORD LEE OF FAREHAM
This Amendment did not appear on the Paper, and I am therefore somewhat in a difficulty about replying to it in detail as I have not had an opportunity for consultation with my advisers on the subject. Whilst I agree that all through this Bill there are many illogical situations, the tithe rentcharge was stereotyped at the rate prevailing in 1918, and the corresponding rate is consequently quite properly the rate of 1918. We have taken that year as the basis of this wholly temporary arrangement, and I hope that the right rev. Prelate will not find it necessary to press his Amendment. I am informed that there has been a considerable amount of discussion on the subject and that this matter was resisted in another place, and I do not think it would be desirable that your Lordships should insist on making this Amendment to the present Bill. After all, this is frankly a temporary measure, and the whole question will have to be reconsidered and dealt with on broader lines. In the meantime, I can only say that, as at present advised, I am not in a position to accept the Amendment.
§ LORD STUART OF WORTLEY
While the noble Lord has said that this is a temporary measure there is nevertheless absolute justice in the Amendment proposed by the right rev. Prelate; because, although the Bill stereotypes the poundage rating fixed in 1918, that had the effect of operating on tithe which incumbents did not receive in fact until probably six months or more afterwards. It is obvious that the Amendment has in it a great deal of substantial justice not apparent in its form.
THE LORD BISHOP OF NORWICH
After the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Lee, and after his pointing out that this is but a temporary measure, I do not wish to press my Amendment. But I think it is proper for it to be understood in the House that the Amendment does involve a certain larger or smaller injustice.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ LORD PARMOOR
had an Amendment on the Paper, after "rentcharge," ["tithe rentcharge attached to a benefice"], to insert "or any payment in lieu of tithe." The noble and learned Lord said: I have had an opportunity of speaking to the 18 noble Lord, Lord Lee, and I understand that the corn rents to which any payments in lieu of tithe would be reparable are not included in the 1918 Act. If that is so, I do not press my Amendment.
§ LORD CHARNWOOD moved, in subsection (1), to leave out "his total income from all sources "and insert" the total income arising from the benefice." The noble Lord said: I need not trouble your Lordships with the reasons why the word "earned" has found its way into the Amendment as it stands on the Paper, but I have come to the conclusion that it is quite superfluous. The object of the Bill being to mitigate or to remove an admitted hardship, I could wish that the relief which it gives had been co-extensive with the hardship, and that this relief from rates had applied to all persons whomsoever affected by the Act of 1918 fixing tithe rentcharge. I understand that the Government do not see their way to, that. What I suggest to them by my Amendment is that, in deciding who shall or shall not have the benefit of this relief, they should adopt as their test not the poverty of the individual incumbent—which may be a difficult matter to inquire into—but the poverty or otherwise of the benefice, which is a patent fact known to all the other ratepayers concerned.
§ Other Amendments appear on the Paper dealing with the same point. The right rev. Prelate, the Bishop of Norwich, and my noble friend Lord Stuart of Wortley, have down an Amendment limiting the income of the incumbent which is to be taken into account to his earned income. They will see at once, I think, that my Amendment goes a little further than theirs, and if the Government are prepared to accept it probably they will be content. On the other hand, my noble and learned friend Lord Parmoor proposes that the test taken shall be the income derived from tithe rentcharge. That goes a little further than my proposal; but it might be suggested that account should be taken of the whole income which the parson derives as parson, which may in part come from glebe and other sources and not solely from tithe rentcharge. Therefore, I take it that my Amendment is, perhaps, more logically defensible than his, and may possibly prove itself more acceptable to the 19 Government—not, of course, that I have the slightest hostility to the noble and learned Lord's Amendment.
If the Bill remains as it stands without this Amendment I think you arrive at several objectionable results. In the first place, if the Bill passes unaltered the incumbent who is ruled out of this relief by reason of his total income exceeding a certain limit, will have this peculiar theoretical grievance, at any rate, that he, and he alone of all mankind is, in effect, paying a rate upon his income; at all events, he is paying a rate which is determined by his total income, which comes to the same thing. That is a new principle in local taxation, and I think the Government may see some objections to it.
§ There are also, however, certain technical inconveniences and hardships in the precise proposal of the Bill as it stands. It is somewhat objectionable that the parson's total income, or that its passing or not passing a certain figure, shall be made public to the overseers of his parish and to all the ratepayers of his parish. We go on the principle that a man is entitled to keep the amount of his income dark, except from a few privileged and confidential people concerned in assessing and collecting the Income Tax. Why people should be so concerned about it I have never been able quite to understand, but, at any rate, there is a very wide-spread and deeply-rooted feeling, regarding it as almost indecent that the extent of one's income should be known to his neighbours. The provisions of the Bill require that all the parish shall know how much the parson sets from private sources. Besides that there is a certain objection, in my mind, to inviting statutory declarations as to the amount of one's income, which, from carelessness or other motives from which even some of the clergy may not be exempt, may be somewhat inaccurate and for which, as I understand the Bill, no test is provided.
§ Then, again, there is a case of real hardship which would arise under this Bill, and would equally arise, may I observe, under the Amendment of the Lord Bishop of Norwich. Take the very common case of a parson in a small parish, with a considerable command of leisure and with a very small stipend, who tries to keep the wolf from the door by various odd sources of emolument, such as taking a backward youth to bearlead or, if he be a man of attainments, coaching for various univer- 20 sity examinations, taking in pupils, or by writing more or less assiduously for the Press. It is wholly desirable that the parson should have these bye sources of income; it is good for him, and good for his parishioners. Heaven knows how hardly lots of the clergy do eke out a poor subsistence by efforts of that sort. It really would be a hard case that a man, by diligent efforts of this sort, should just succeed in working himself out of the scope of the relief which is given by this Bill. On all grounds I rather hope that the Government may see their way to accepting the somewhat more benevolent provisions which I suggest by the Amendment I am moving, in place of the provision that actually stands in the Bill.
Page 1, line 21, leave out ("his total income from all sources") and insert ("the total income arising from the benefice").—(Lord Charnwood.)
§ LORD LEE OF FAREHAM
The noble Lord who has moved this Amendment has somewhat anticipated the course which I proposed to suggest; that is, that these Amendments which stand in his name and in the names of the right rev. Prelate the Lord Bishop of Norwich and Lord Stuart of Wortley, and Lord Parmoor should be considered more or less together. They are really all on the one point, only they suggest different alternative methods of dealing with the position. Your Lordships are aware, of course, that the Bill as originally introduced merely preserved the status quo as it was in 1918, so far as the payment of rates was concerned. Subsequently, at the instance of a private Member in another place, an Amendment was accepted giving additional relief or total exemption from rates in the case of very poor incumbents, and it was based upon their particularly hard case. It was illogical, no doubt, but at the same time the case was felt to be strong enough to call for this exceptional treatment.
The question is whether in any sense it can be properly extended. Lord Parmoor's suggestion, which goes farthest in this respect, is that the additional relief should be based upon the income derived from tithe rentcharges only instead of total income. But I must point out to your Lordships that there are many livings with very considerable incomes where the tithe rentcharge represents but a very small proportion of the income, and it would be 21 hardly appropriate that the special exemption proposed by the Bill should be extended to such cases.
Then there is the intermediate course proposed by the right rev. Prelate the Bishop of Norwich and by Lord Stuart of Wortley, in which they seek to extend it to earned income from all sources. That, as I think has been pointed out, might include income derived from literary or other work quite outside this question of tithe rentcharge altogether, and that should not properly be made subject to this special concession. But personally, on behalf of the Government, I do not feel the same difficulty about an exemption or relief which is really based upon the poverty of the living instead of the poverty of the incumbent. I quite agree with the noble Lord, Lord Charnwood, that it really would not be convenient that incumbents should be called upon to state the whole of their private position to the local rate collector. It would place them in a very invidious position as compared with anybody else.
Therefore, in view of the fact that I do not think the Amendment moved by Lord Charnwood would involve any serious extension of the relief or exemption, and that it would undoubtedly meet some really hard cases, if your Lordships and the movers of the other Amendments would be willing to accept that as sufficiently satisfying the case which they put forward, I shall certainly not resist it on behalf of the Government.
§ LORD PARMOOR
had an Amendment on the Paper, in subsection (1), to leave out "total" ["his total income from all sources"]. The noble Lord said: I might say, on behalf of the Amendment which I have on the Paper, that I certainly accept what has been said by the noble Lord, Lord Lee. I do not think I need state again what I stated on the Second Reading of the Bill, that I do not like a Rating Bill of this kind put on anything but what I call a sound basis, and I think that would have been done by the Amendment I proposed; but I do not press it.
§ VISCOUNT HALDANE
There is one question I would like to ask, not in a hostile spirit at all, but merely for information. Clause 1 applies tithe rentcharge to an ecclesiastical corporation or benefice; the Amendment, in the part of the Clause with which we are dealing, refers to tithe 22 rentcharge attached to a benefice. In the case of some of the cathedral endowments the incomes are very small and the tithe rentcharge is in just as bad a position as the tithe rentcharge attached to benefices. I want to know whether this is a deliberate distinction drawn between the two cases, or is it merely a matter of drafting which could be put right?
§ LORD LEE OF FAREHAM
I am afraid it is deliberate. This relief is intended to be given only to the very poor incumbents, and it is not felt that an ecclesiastical corporation is in quite the same position, even though its income may be small.
§ LORD STUART OF WORTLEY
I hope that is not the last word which will be said on the position of an ecclesiastical corporation. Their case, I understand, will be raised by a later Amendment. My object in rising now is to thank the noble Lord for the decision at which he has arrived. It is a more favourable decision than that which is achieved by the Amendment standing in the name of the right rev. Prelate and myself. We proceed in this matter from a basis of illogicalities to illogicalities, and the Amendment which the noble Lord has accepted practically says that if a man is well enough off he shall suffer an injustice. But when you are moving in an atmosphere of illogicalities you must drawn an illogical line somewhere, and I think the line that the noble Lord has drawn will achieve the greatest amount of justice.
I hope the noble Lord will tell us what will be the operation of the Amendment in increasing the burdens of other ratepayers. If you exempt absolutely from rating incomes derived from tithe rentcharge up to £300 a year, and exempt also from rating half the whole income of the benefices derived from tithe rentcharge up to £500, it seems to me that you will exempt from rating probably more than half the tithe rentcharge incomes in the country. Perhaps the noble Lord can give us some approximate idea (when we are giving away what belongs to a certain section of ratepayers) what is the amount of money we are giving away.
§ LORD LEE OF FAREHAM
I am not in a position to give the exact amount but I am advised that it will be extremely 23 small. With the solitary exception of the noble Lord there has not been a single protest made by the general body of ratepayers against this concession. I gather that your Lordships' House is in favour of the concession being made.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ LORD CHARNWOOD moved, in subsection (1), to leave out "income from all sources ["if the total income from all sources"] and insert "income arising from the benefice." The noble Lord said: This is a consequential Amendment.
Page 2, line 1, leave out ("income from all sources") and insert ("income arising from the benefice").—(Lord Charnwood.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ LORD PARMOOR moved, at the end of subsection (1), to add: "and in the estimation of the net annual value of the tithe rentcharge or any payment in lieu of tithe for such assessment the deduction in respect of rates to be allowed from the value of the rentcharge shall still be the full amount of the rates assessable upon the owner of the tithe rentcharge or payment in lieu of tithe."
§ The noble Lord said: This is a matter on which I want to ask the opinion of the noble Lord. It has been pointed out to me that it is uncertain, on the face of the Bill, whether the same deductions under the Act of 1899 will be allowed to be made after this Bill is passed. There is the further complication that they all depend on the continuance of the 1899 Act, which is only renewed from year to year. Perhaps the noble Lord will explain whether there is a doubt, and, if there is, whether he will allow the insertion of words to make it quite clear.
Page 2, line 14, after ("tax") insert the said words.—(Lord Parmoor.)
§ THE EARL OF SELBORNE
My noble friend, Lord Lee, is no doubt familiar with the fact that the practice of all assessing authorities is not the same. Some of them carry out what is the plain intention of Parliament by giving the incumbent the full benefits of the Act; others have really deprived them of a large portion of the benefits Parliament intended to give them, and the matter has never gone to the 24 Court of Appeal or to the House of Lords to be settled. If the noble Lord can make it clear it would be a great advantage.
§ LORD LEE OF FAREHAM
I think the Earl of Selborne has correctly stated the anomalous position, namely, that the practice of local authorities is different with regard to this matter. The Amendment on the Paper proposes to establish by Statute the principle that in estimating the net annual value of tithe rent the full amount of rates shall be allowed. It is generally believed, if not contended, that there is legal authority for this practice. If that is so the highest legal authority could undoubtedly be obtained, if the persons concerned thought fit to bring the matter before the Courts.
§ LORD LEE OF FAREHAM
I rather agree, and I dislike the idea of forcing people to ascertain what is the true position at great expense to themselves. The real objection to the Amendment, I am advised, is that it is quite inappropriate to what is a purely temporary measure. If the legal position is to be established it should be done when the whole position comes to be dealt with on a permanent basis. It would be extremely inconvenient if we proposed to remedy this and possibly other doubtful points in connection with what is an extremely complicated subject, and I hope, therefore, the Amendment will not be pressed, although I have some sympathy with the point.
§ LORD CHARNWOOD
It seems to me that the noble Lord's objection is a slightly, pedantic one. I cannot see what objection there can be to removing a case of admitted injustice by this Amendment. After all, the testing of the meaning of an Act of Parliament may be an enormously expensive concern to the people who are most practically affected by the alleged injustice. It is not as if we were pressing a large number of other points of this nature. As a matter of fact this is the only point which we are trying to get into the Bill, and I hope the noble Lord who has met us so liberally may see his way to accept the Amendment.
§ LORD LEE OF FAREHAM
I hate being accused of being pedantic. It is not a defect of which I have been charged hitherto, 25 although I have other defects. But this is an extremely technical subject and I hesitate to express any further opinion upon it. I will say this, that in the interval between now and the Report stage I will take an opportunity to consider this matter further, without giving any sort of pledge that I shall be able to accept the Amendment, but merely to give me the opportunity of removing from my nature that streak of pedantry to which he objects.
§ THE EARL OF SELBORNE
I am very much obliged to my noble friend, and I am sure that my noble friend who moved the Amendment will be satisfied with the assurance, but, as I understand it, there are two points. One is the existing grievance in the practice of the assessing authorities, which will be put right by this Bill, and the other is the fear that these same assessing authorities may repeat, when the Bill passes, and in connection with the relief given under the Bill, the same practice, and thereby largely destroy the relief which the Government and Parliament intend to give under this Bill.
§ LORD PARMOOR
I am very grateful to the noble Lord for what he has said although he has not held out any great expectation, and I hope that he will realise that litigation in matters of this kind is extremely costly, and that if the matter can be put right, if he is so advised, he will at a further stage accept an Amendment substantially in this form.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 1, as amended, agreed to.
§ LORD STUART OF WORTLEY moved, after Clause 1, to insert the following new clause—
§ "Amendment of 62 and 63 Vict., c. 17, in favour of ecclesiastical corporations.
§ "2. In respect of any rate to which this Act applies the provisions of the Tithe Rentcharge (Rates) Act, 1899, shall apply to the owner of tithe rentcharge attached to an ecclesiastical corporation in like manner as to the owner of tithe rentcharge attached to a benefice."
§ The noble Lord said: The broad effect of this new clause is to admit Deans and Chapters, in respect of applications towards the cathedral fabrics and the conduct of their services, to the same relief, besides the relief which this Bill gives them, as was given to incumbents of benefices by the Act of 1899. I am anxious to save 26 your Lordships' time, as you are all waiting for a very important debate, and I will therefore limit myself to saying that I foreshadowed this Amendment on the Second Reading. I then observed that there is a close analogy between the case of tithe rentcharge payable to incumbents of benefices—on the one hand—and ecclesiastical corporations on the other, and that that close analogy is admitted upon the face of this Bill. Secondly, I argued that it was not beyond the proprieties of legislation to re-open the settlement of 1899, because that settlement is re-opened by the further and more extensive relief given to the incumbents of benefices by this Bill.
§ It remains to me, having established those two points, which were not at that time contested, to point out further that you need not be deterred by apprehensions about the far-reaching and wide financial effects which might follow upon the adoption of this new clause. Of the tithe rentcharge which is payable to ecclesiastical corporations—and in that phrase is comprised Deans and Chapters, who get about £90,000—about £2,000 a year goes, the greater part of it, to what are called Vicars Choral, very deserving officers of cathedrals—about £1,700 a year—and the rest, a negligible quantity, goes to the episcopal estates. The estimated tithe rentcharge received by incumbents of benefices is about £2,400,000 a year. To translate those figures into the sums which have to be provided out of the Local Taxation Account, in order to give effect to the remedies provided in the Act of 1899, I think it will be found that incumbents get the benefit of about £340,000, and that if this Amendment was passed the corresponding sum payable for relief to capitular bodies would be no more than from £10,000 to £13,000. Lord Sheffield, as he always does, has thrown out a little shaft intended to pierce something. He said that this money, if granted at all, has got to be found by other ratepayers to whom it belongs. We say it never did belong to them, and that they have been benefited through an injustice inflicted upon the clergy and other ecclesiastical corporations.
§ There is only one other point. I dare say some of your Lordships may have been brought up to form some of your ideas from the works of the late Anthony Trollope, and have derived the idea that capitular bodies are little coteries of persons with high pay and small duties to discharge. 27 If ever that was the case, it is not so now, because it is only too easy to point out that the increased cost of material for fabrics, the increased cost of labour, the increase of taxation, and all the other influences at work, have reduced the resources of the capitular bodies to such a point that it is almost impossible for them to contemplate the effectual discharge of their duties; and the difficulty is the greater for them because, when it becomes a question of economising resources, there is only one way in which it can be effected, and that is by asking the Deans and Canons to submit to a reduction of their by no means too ample stipends, for, of course, they must keep the cathedral standing and the services going with some kind of approach to the beautiful standard reached in the past. The only way of doing that, if they are not to suffer a most cruel reduction, is to cut down the by no means magnificent pay of such officers as the minor canons, the organist, the choristers, and other humbler officials. Therefore, I hope that this Amendment will not be received unsympathetically, but that some of your Lordships at all events will give me such support as may persuade the Government that this scheme is one not undeserving of their sympathy.
After Clause 1, insert the said new clause.—(Lord Stuart of Wortley.)
The noble Lord has charged me with sending out a little shaft which is intended to pierce somebody, but I would point out that he has thrown out a saying which seems to me to hit at the basis of security of most property, because he seems to have said that other ratepayers have no right to this money. I think they have a statutory right, because whether we go back to the Act of Elizabeth or to the tithe commutation, there is not the least doubt that there is a statutory charge upon these ecclesiastical endowments towards the rates, and if he thinks that a claim based upon a statutory right is a claim which has no validity at all, I rather tremble at the security of property should this revolutionary doctrine be accepted by your Lordships. I would also point out that my noble friend, as I understood him, in moving the Amendment said that it was intended to relieve funds which were applicable to the maintenance of fabrics and the maintenance of the services.
I did not hear him, and he said that if they retrenched at all the Chapters must cut down salaries, which reminded me of Sidney Smith's description of the Synod of Dort, when the richer and more important clergy pacified the mob by throwing out the dinners of the inferior clergy. The way by which the Deans and Chapters are to get over the difficulty apparently is by cutting down the salaries that they are bound to pay. Most of these charges for choristers and vicars choral are made statutory charges on the revenues. My noble friend contemplates in his proposal making good the loss that the Deans and Chapters themselves have experienced from having to pay these sums. As a matter of fact the Deans and Chapters are getting a perquisite out of the Bill, because they are getting the rate that they have to pay fixed at what it has been in a particular year, and it is not to go up. My noble friend is now asking to put in a benefit which they have not had by the Act of 1894. He is seeking to put them on the same footing as the parochial clergy, and to exempt them from the rates. That is relieving property of a statutory burden, merely because you feel sympathy with the receivers.
THE LORD BISHOP OF NORWICH
I ought to mention that the most rev. Primate would have been in his place to-day were it not that he is presiding over a great gathering elsewhere. That does not mean that I pretend to voice his views, but I thought it proper that I should make some such statement. With regard to what the noble Lord has just said, I ventured last week to offer some rejoinder to it. This is a subject of an extremely historical and technical character, and I do not think I should be popular with your Lordships if I attempted to repeat what I then said. It is not supposed that this is a complete and comprehensive Bill dealing carefully and, as my noble friend Lord Stuart of Wortley suggested, logically with all aspects of the question. It is a 29 temporary Bill and is introduced to meet a difficult situation, which we trust will be temporary.
I think that a strong case has been made out for the Deans and Chapters to come in and gain fuller benefits under this Bill. How far the interests of the Deans and Chapters extend may be misapprehended. I believe that there are only seventeen Cathedral Corporations which own tithe rentcharge, and of these six may be left out as having only a very small holding. Cathedrals are often thought to be wealthy corporations. As a matter of fact, they are not. I am afraid, also, that they are sometimes considered to be rather useless bodies—places where men seek for quiet retirement, and hope to end their days enjoying the emoluments without performing any duties. That again is a caricature of the work that is done by our cathedrals at the present time. I would say, on the contrary, that they are very much alive, and that their work is felt throughout the whole diocese in which the cathedral stands. They maintain the dignified services for which in most cases, if not all, they were originally established.
It is not commonly remembered how many are the minor officials connected with the cathedrals whose salaries and wages are dependent on the income of the Deans and Chapters. It is only now and again that it is recalled to us how very great are the expenses of maintaining our cathedral fabrics. In the last few days we have seen a stirring and spirited appeal in The Times from the Dean of Westminster, for a large sum of money for the repair of the Abbey fabric. The same amount of money, and the same sort of work has to be sought on the one hand and carried out on the other hand in connection with all the cathedrals that have come down to us from antiquity, and which need constant supervision and repair. The money, therefore, that is paid to the cathedral Chapters and cathedral officers must be regarded as money paid for services rendered as truly as it is the case with the incumbents in our parishes, and when this Bill sets out to help the latter I shall be glad indeed if the noble Lord in charge of the Bill can see his way to include in it this further benefit to the Deans and Chapters.
§ LORD LEE OF FAREHAM
I have listened with great attention to the speeches which have been made in support of this new clause, and I should be sorry to be 30 drawn on this occasion into the somewhat wider and more explosive controversy which appeared to be developing between my noble friend Lord Stuart of Wortley and my noble friend Lord Sheffield. That, I think, should be postponed to a more suitable opportunity. Nor do I think it is necessary that I should express my agreement, which is quite sincere, with the general panegyric of the great and beneficient services of the Church and of the Deans and Chapters in their respective dioceses. This Bill deals with a very narrow point, and the objection that the Government have to this particular clause is that it is really outside—if not the strictly legal scope, at any rate the scope and intention and purpose of the present Bill. My noble friend seeks to amend the Act of 1899, whereas the intention of the Bill is really to deal with the position created by the Act of 1918.
The noble Lord's Amendment seeks to extend to ecclesiastical corporations the benefit of the contribution of half of the rates of the tithe rentcharge, and that really will introduce complications with the local taxation account which I do not think we should be justified in facing in connection with a very limited and temporary measure of this kind. The monies which are paid into that account pass to local authorities for various purposes, and I have good reason to believe, and indeed to know, that, those authorities would strongly object to any farther reductions being made from the amount. It is undoubted that ecclesiastical corporations are suffering like all others from the great increase in the rates, but there are other corporations, such as colleges, whose funds are equally applicable to the payment of salaries—very often, too, of quite small amounts—and who are in precisely the same position, and are not given even the measure of relief that is accorded to ecclesiastical corporations under this Bill. It is, indeed, very doubtful, I am advised, whether the provision asking for payments out of local taxation account, could properly be regarded as in any way within the scope of this Bill. In the circumstances, while I feel a general sympathy with the object that noble Lords who support this proposal have in view, I am afraid I could not accept this new clause on behalf of the Government.
§ On Question, Amendment negatived.
§ Clause 2 agreed to.
§ Schedule agreed to.