§ Order for Committee read.
LORD JOHN MANNERS
said, he had understood that the Committee was not to be taken until after Whitsuntide.
§ Motion made and Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."
LORD JOHN MANNERS
objected to the Bill being discussed in Committee at 1085 that hour of the night (half-past Twelve o'clock). It was a most important measure, and one which involved a great principle. The Government were of opinion that there was in the hands of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners in Ireland a considerable surplus which might be devoted to the support of those clergymen who were about to be deprived, under the operation of the Bill, of the stipends which they now enjoyed. It was, however, alleged, upon the other hand, that the Ecclesiastical Commissioners possessed no such surplus, and his hon. and learned Friend the Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. G. A. Hamilton) had moved for certain returns, by means of which he hoped that the matter would be put in a fairer light than had hitherto been the case. Under these circumstances, he trusted the noble Lord at the head of the Government would not press his Motion for going into Committee, but would adhere to what appeared to have been his original Resolution of postponing the Committee until the Monday after the Whitsuntide recess.
§ SIR GEORGE GREY
said, that the hon. and learned Gentleman who had moved for the Returns, had not expressed it to be his wish that the further progress of the Bill should he postponed until they had been laid before the House.
§ MR. HORSMAN
said, he had been prepared to give an explanation, with respect to the funds in the hands of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, in Committee, as he understood there would be no opposition to the Motion before the House, and he believed he, as much as anybody else, was responsible for any change of intention with respect to the progress of the Bill upon the part of his noble Friend at the head of the Government. He might, however, take that opportunity of making the explanation to which he referred. From certain returns which had been laid before Parliament, it would appear that the income of the Commissioners for the present year was £140,000, while it would seem that it had amounted to £98,000 in the year 1848. He had, however, been informed, that if those figures were taken to be correct, a false impression would he produced, inasmuch as they embraced several items which constituted rather the capital than the income of the Commissioners. From revised returns which he had given him, he perceived that the real amount of their income for the present 1086 year was only £99,000, while their expenditure, including the sum of £12,000 which they paid in the shape of ministers' money, was no less than £97,000, so that there remained a balance of only £2,000 a year in their hands. Supposing, therefore, that the obligation of making good the deficiency caused by the passing of the present Bill to be thrown on the Commissioners, no surplus would remain in their hands for the enlargement or building of churches. He should have made that statement before, had he been in a position to do so; but, as he had stated upon a former occasion, he had written to the Archbishop of Dublin, expressing his readiness to make any explanation with which the Commissioners might furnish him, and to that communication he had received no reply. He had, however, since learnt that a letter had been addressed to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland giving certain explanations which it was requested should be made by him (Mr. Horsman) to the House of Commons. He had communicated with the Lord Lieutenant upon the subject, but had not been enabled to ascertain that any letter, such as he had mentioned, had reached him. Under these circumstances, he had not previously been in a position to afford the House the information which he should otherwise have been found perfectly ready to lay before it.
§ MR. G. A. HAMILTON
said, he entertained the strongest possible objection to the Bill under the notice of the House. It appeared to him to be a measure giving to the owners of houses in certain towns in Ireland, advantages to the enjoyment of which they possessed no just claim. He regarded the Bill as an infringement upon Church property as established by the Church Temporalities Act, and as laying down a precedent which might be made of most injurious application. He felt bound, however, to say, that it did not seem to him to be respectful to the House to persevere in a fruitless opposition to the Bill, after the decision which had been arrived at in its regard, while he was most anxious that the state of the property in the hands of the Commissioners should be placed in its true light before Parliament and the country. The fact was, as had been stated by the right hon. Gentleman opposite, that their legitimate income was about £99,000, while their expenditure was £97,000 per annum, and the obvious operation of the Bill would be to deprive them of the power of applying any portion 1087 of their funds, with the exception of the balance of £2,000, between their income and expenditure, to the several important trusts which yet remained unfulfilled. He could not, therefore, help characterizing this measure as one of spoliation, and one calculated to establish a most objectionable and dangerous principle.
§ MR. BUTT
, as a friend of the Established Church in Ireland, protested against the doctrine that ministers' money was to be treated as the property of the Church. He should be sorry that the passing of this Bill should be regarded as a triumph over the Protestant people of Ireland; for there was an earnest desire on the part of the mass of the people of all religious opinions to get rid of a tax which it was not worth while for the interest of the Irish Church to maintain. During the last Parliament there was not one single petition against this Bill, and he believed he should best consult the interests of the Church of Ireland by voting for the measure.
§ SIR HENRY WILLOUGHBY
opposed the Bill on grounds entirely irrespective of the merits of the impost. The law had imposed an obligation upon certain corporations in Ireland, but they had set their faces against the law. They had not waited for the action of Parliament, but had struck at the very principle of law upon which their own authority exclusively rested.
§ SIR ARTHUR ELTON
wished to declare his opposition to the measure now before the House, and his regret, that he felt himself obliged to separate from the Liberal party on this occasion; but be did so, because he considered but crude statesmanship on the part of the noble Viscount at the head of the Government, that with his large majority he had not brought in some wise and comprehensive plan for settling all these religious grants in Ireland. It was time that such grants as the Regium Donum, Maynooth, and ministers' money were disposed of, but it would be an essential ingredient of any general measure of this kind that fair compensation should be given to those religious societies from whom grants sanctioned by Parliament during a long period of years should be withdrawn. It was not the part of true statesmanship to allow individuals to get up night after night to advance the interests of their own religious community and to damage the interests of those opposed to them. It was wrong in the Government to allow an hon. Member on one 1088 night to move to withdraw the grant to Maynooth, and on another to attack ministers' money. By the bulk of the people such discussions were regarded as a victory of Protestants over Catholics, or of Catholics over Protestants. The Orangemen had an innings one night and the Catholics another. These questions would be best settled by abrogating all these grants, giving a fair measure of compensation, and not dealing with the grants piecemeal and hit by bit, but by a general and comprehensive measure.
§ MR. HASSARD
believed, that it was contrary to the wish of the Protestant population that ministers' money should be continued, and that the repeal of the tax would be most grateful to all classes of the people of Ireland. It was stated that the Commissioners of Woods and Works received £3,000 a year from quit rents and other charges upon ecclesiastical benefices in Ireland. This would be a very proper fund as a substitute for ministers' money.
§ House in Committee.
§ Bill considered in Committee.
§ House resumed; Bill reported, without Amendment; to be read 3°, on Thursday next.