§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ MR. AYRTON
, in moving the second the reading of this Bill, said, he wished to explain to the House the position which this question had assumed. At the commencement of this Session he had introduced Bill for the specific appropriation of certain funds in the hands of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners for the relief of the excessive spiritual destitution existing in the metropolis. He was met on that occasion with the objection that he was proposing to break into the common fund of the Commissioners, that he was legislating for a comparatively small part of the community. He had now thrown the interests his constituents into those of the country at large, and in accordance with the suggestion of the former opponents of his Bill, the present Bill proposed that the common fund in the hands of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners should be applied, so far as it was available, in the first place to relieve the greatest cases of spiritual destitution in England and Wales, and that this should be accomplished before minor cases were relieved. This common fund was constituted out of the surplus of the episcopal and capitular endowments of the Church in England and Wales, after providing for the necessities of the Bishops, clerical dignitaries, and cathedrals; and its increase arose from a variety of causes—from the increased value of land of an agricultural character, from the opening of mines, under properties, belonging to the Church; and the third great source was the erection of houses and buildings on land originally belonging to ecclesiastical bodies. The circumstances attending the increase of value under each of these heads were entirely different, and demanded separate and distinct consideration. The increase of value of land might be considered as what he might term natural increase, arising from the improvements in agriculture, or similar causes. Again, in some cases the increased value arose from the gathering of a considerable population in a particular spot, which, of course, had to be provided with houses, and this, therefore, led to an increase in the value of land. This enhancement in value arose from the fact that a capital of perhaps £20,000 or £40,000 had been brought 1070 upon the land and spent in houses, and the increased revenue was occasioned by the rent derived from these. It was clear that these causes of increase were separate and distinct. This was peculiarly the case with reference to ecclesiastical property in the metropolis, and so great was the increase of revenue, that after meeting the claims of the Bishop and the dignified clergy, there was a surplus in the hands of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners arising from property in the metropolis of £55,000 a year, now placed in the hands of the common fund. These revenues were about to receive a very large increase. The amount had been calculated at £48,000 a year; that sum was now being received by the corporation of London, and would be up to the end of the year. The Ecclesiastical Commissioners already received one-fifth of the whole, and the total revenue of the Finsbury prebendal estate at the present time might be reckoned as £50,000 a year, or a little more. He believed there had been some error in stating the value of the property. He believed that a considerable part of it had been underlet, and that the revenue of which the Ecclesiastical Commissioners would ultimately become possessed in respect of this property was £70,000; so that Commissioners would have in their hands £l25,000 surplus derived entirely from the increase of population and the erection of buildings within the limits of the metropolis. At present the actual sum which the Ecclesiastical Commission were spending in the augmentation of livings throughout the country amounted to £201,000 a year, of which only £25,000 a year was spent upon the metropolis. The commissioners, in administering the common fund, had imposed on them by Parliament special duties, and had been required to make special appropriations. The first of these related to property derived from tithes, because it was thought the where property was derived from this source, the Commissioners were bound to make a return to the Parish from which they were derived, and that there were special claims on the part of the districts in which the property was situate; therefore, Parliament had directed a special appropriation in such places before the money was paid over. Then they were called upon to consider the state of populations gathered in mining districts, and it was required that special appropriations should be made to populations employed in such avocations. But 1071 the Commissioners had never been called upon to deal with the special case which be had introduced to the consideration of the House. The Commissioners had of their own accord, under their general powers, made a scheme for the appropriation of their common fund, and the effect of that scheme would be that in every parish where there might be a population of 5,000 persons and upwards there was to be the appropriation of such an amount as would secure to the incumbent £300 a year. That would be a very just scheme if the population in each or the large parishes were only 5,000 persons; but, unfortunately, it was impossible to divide the most populous parishes into districts of 5,000 persons, and the consequence would be that parishes of 25,000 inhabitants would receive no more consideration at the hands of the Commissioners than they gave to parishes of only 5,000. Parishes of 20,000 inhabitants would only receive £300, and, having thus disposed of these large parishes, the Commissioners would proceed to make endowments in parishes where there was a population of 4,500 or 4,000 and under. He could not help thinking such a scheme rigidly unjust, because cases of greatest destitution—such as those of a large parish with a single clergyman—would not be met. These cases the Ecclesiastical Commissioners had passed by, and in referring to these cases be would remind the House that there was a great difference between providing for the spiritual destitution of large parishes and the question of providing an increased income for the clergyman; the latter was a case of parson's destitution. The one was a religious question, affecting a population it might be of 15,000, the other was a matter affecting the comforts of the parson of the parish. To meet this state of things he called upon the Legislature to intervene and declare that it should be the duty of the Commissioners to provide adequately for the spiritual destitution of the population in large parishes before they applied these public funds to the personal destitution of the clergymen in small parishes, if that could be called personal destitution which had to subsist on an income of less than £300 a year. The only answer he had heard to his complaint was that if a change in the application of the funds were determined upon the Commissioners would have to disappoint certain hopes which some people had been led to build up for themselves. He would answer 1072 this allegation by quoting the fact that a Committee of the House of Lords had inquired into this matter, upon which nearly all the Archbishops and Bishops sat, and they came to the conclusion that the time for dealing with this question would be when the Finsbury Estate fell into the hands of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. He therefore altogether denied the right of the Commissioners to set up any expectations of that kind against so solemn an act as that which had been practically accepted as a proposal by that and the other House of Parliament. He denied the right of the Commissioners to anticipate their revenues; they had a right to make appropriations from year to year, but they were not entitled to say that Parliament was bound because the Commissioners had come to an arrangement by which their income was anticipated. One or two cases would illustrate these remarks. According to their own return, the parish of Bermondsey, with a population of 23,000, had got from the Commissioners £74 a year; Southwark, with 17,000, had received £183 a year; Walworth, with 32,000, had got £105 a year. If the income of the chief clergyman of a parish of 5,000 inhabitants ought to be £300 a year, surely some larger provision ought to be made in the case of a parish of 20,000 or 30,000 inhabitants. What he desired was that a general principle should be laid down for the guidance of the Commissioners. He did not ask the House to legislate in detail, for it was the duty of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners to examine into all the circumstances relative to these matters. He asked the House to require that the Commissioners should make adequate provision for the destitution in large parishes, and that they should not proceed to distribute all their funds among parishes which were small in proportion to some of those which were overlooked, and he desired that the case of these large parishes should be considered before the claims of parishes in the hands of private patrons were decided upon. It would be a great misfortune if the present opportunity for meeting so crying an evil were suffered to pass. He hoped that, after these explanations, the House would consent to the second reading of the Bill, and if any suggestions could be offered, he should be ready to give them consideration.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. Ayrton.)1073
§ MR. HOWES
said, he had given notice of his Amendment with great reluctance, for no one could for a moment deny the spiritual destitution which existed in large populous towns, and everybody would desire to see the evil diminished as far as possible. He regretted that the hon. and learned gentleman, after directing his attention to this subject, did not confer at once with some member of the Ecclesiastical Commission, and put himself in the way of learning the facts of the case, of discovering the purposes and course of action of the Commission, and then of seeing whether any remedial measure might be introduced. But, instead of this, the hon. Gentleman brought in a Bill which in its effect was hostile to the action of the Commissioners. If this Bill were to pass in anything like its present shape, the discretion of the Commission, in the application of their funds, would be very much interfered with for many years to come. What was the object of this Bill? Its object was to compel the Commissioners to appropriate a portion of their revenue to other purposes than those to which they had designed to apply them. The compulsory nature of the Bill was evident, and formed a very remarkable feature. The Commissioners had adopted certain modes of providing for cases of spiritual destitution, and had in the first place directed their attention to raising the incomes of the clergy in districts containing a population of 5,000, or thereabouts; but if this measure were to pass, the consequence would be that the claims of certain large populations, where much spiritual destitution existed, would have to be deferred. He wished to refer for a moment to the position of the Ecclesiastical Commission. The evil was the inadequacy of the funds, but as the funds increased these cases of destitution would be met as far as possible. The principle which the Commissioners had adopted was to re-distribute the surplus revenue of the Church in the way of permanent endowment with a view to reducing the great amount of spiritual destitution that existed. The Commissioners had prosecuted their work so successfully that they had now got down to populations of 5,000 and 4,500. But he begged it might not be understood that the Commissioners had confined themselves to the permanent endowment of benefices with that population. They had subdivided parishes to a very large extent, and though there might exist parishes containing popu- 1074 lations of 17,000 or even 30,000 which had not yet been dealt with, yet a great number of populous parishes had been subdivided, and they had gone on in this direction as far as their resources would allow. A clause had been inserted having reference to the mode in which the Commissioners should deal with the mining population, the object of introducing that clause being to simplify the action of the Commission. If necessary, the spirit of that clause might be extended, and it might be placed within the discretion of the Commission to afford assistance out of their funds in particular cases of spiritual destitution. There was a great misconception throughout the country with regard to the amount of funds at the disposal of the Commissioners. It was said there was a surplus income of several hundred thousand pounds at the command of the Commissioners. But the surplus funds, including the income from the Finsbury Prebend, were pledged by the system adopted since 1864 up to 1868. On that calculation the present scheme had been framed. The action of the Commissioners had been very cautious, but to a considerable extent they had anticipated the reversionary income of the Church. They had to a certain extent anticipated their returns, but not to any material degree, and he believed the result would be that not more than £12,000 a year clear surplus would be left at the end of 1868. But this surplus, if certain propositions were carried out, would be further reduced to £3,500. It must also be recollected that the Commissioners had already been compelled to reject offers of private benevolences to the amount of £100,000, for want of funds, and that they were unable to carry out many most desirable objects for the same reason. Parliament had expressed a desire that local claims should be first met in the cases of parishes with a population of 5,000 and upwards, and the Commissioners had therefore proceeded to meet public benefactions by a corresponding grant, and to this purpose a sum of £300,000 had been apportioned. He was sure it was the wish of every Member of the House that such benefactions should be met; but they had become so numerous that many of the offers could not be complied with, owing to the competition among the applicants. He believed that the progress which had been made in the endowment of livings had given general satisfaction. He thought that he had shown that it was absolutely 1075 essential that the Commissioners should have a discretion, and that to a great extent they had met the want which had been pointed out. The measure now before them was in terms a compulsory measure, and deprived the Commissioners of all discretionary power; and, moreover, if passed, it would absorb the whole of their surplus income for many years to come. If it was believed that the Commission had committed any errors in the discharge of their important functions which would render it necessary to take from them their discretionary power in administering the funds, he thought that the Government should take the matter up, and that it should not be left to a private Member to introduce such a measure as that now before the House, which, if carried, would prevent the endowment of all populous parishes, the division of parishes, and grants being applied to meet private benevolences. Under these circumstances, he did not believe that the House would consent to such a measure as this being carried, and therefore he begged to move that the Bill should be read a second time that day six months.
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months."—(Mr. Howes.)
§ MR. BERESFORD HOPE
said, he could not admit the correctness of the reading of the Bill on which his hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk founded his opposition. He was sure that the Member for the Tower Hamlets had no desire to force the Bill at the point of the bayonet through Committee precisely in its present terms. The Bill enforced a great principle, and any reasonable objection to its provisions could easily be removed in Committee; otherwise he should not have put his name upon the back of it. The Member for Norfolk said that for some years to come the only surplus the Commissioners would have would be £12,000 a year. If, then, this be so, what better epoch can there be than this for the Commission and the House to take a little breathing time to consider what plans should be carried out in the future when the revenue again rises? The Bill is not a compulsory, but merely an enabling measure, and if it fails to express fully its own meaning, let it be so moulded that it may meet the justifiable requirements of the Commissioners in that respect. He 1076 appealed to the House not to deal with this proposal as a matter of the internal management of the Commission, but for a short time to rise above the petty and miserable questions of Commissions and Administrations, and look at the question as one involving the spiritual well-being of the people of England, and the capability of the Established Church to meet the horrible famine of spiritual privileges prevailing in every corner of the land. Rightly or wrongly, the Ecclesiastical Commission had, for many objects, grown into the character of being the Church of England by representation, and must be treated accordingly. The Member for Norfolk said that the only objection to the Bill was that it was compulsory—that it forced the Commissioners to adopt a certain line, and prevented them from carrying out their other schemes for the spiritual benefit of the population. But though one of the clauses of the Bill said that where there was a population exceeding 5,000, composed principally of poor persons, the Commissioners "shall" pay the salary of a curate, the marginal title attached to that clause said the Commissioners "may" do that; which showed the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets was willing to treat the clause as merely an enabling one, although the draughtsman had framed it otherwise. In saying this he was well aware that these titles formed no portion of the Bill, and had no legal value. But they had a moral value as evidence of intention, and it is quite fair to quote them at that stage of any measure. In fact, the clause itself gave a discretion to the Commissioners, because while it said that they "shall" pay the salaries of curates, to an extent not exceeding £200 a year to each curate, and only where they might deem a curate's assistance necessary; all this was to be, under the proviso that they had met the existing demands upon them. He dwelt on that proviso, which had been overlooked by the previous speaker, as a reply to his objection. Anyhow, let the Bill be read a second time, and let the "shall" be turned into "may" in Committee. The Bill called upon the House formally to affirm the principle that the method by which the Church of England should meet the spiritual necessities of her teeming population in crowded places should not be exclusively that somewhat expensive and cumbersome machinery by which old parishes were parcelled out into dis- 1077 tricts, and the whole spiritual responsibility of each district thrown upon a single incumbent. The old and simple parochial system of self-acting parishes and districts, for each of which one clergyman was alone responsible, was cumbersome, antiquated, and inadequate to meet the wants of the age, at this epoch, of large towns, and well would it be for the Church of England to face the fact. Why should the great doctrine of co-operation, which is considered one of the greatest triumphs of civilization, which has been so successfully carried out in all secular matters, which has developed the coach into the train, and turned the inn into the hotel, alone break down at spiritual organization? The curate system had been worked very usefully; but there was no public recognition or aid held out to the curate, and something should be done now for the endowment of curates upon a systematic plan, and in view of the law of co-operation. No fear of doctrinal differences or ceremonial change need enter into this question. The Church, with its endowed staff of curates, might represent any phase of the Church of England; its worship might be of the simplest character. It behoved the Ecclesiastical Commission especially to turn its attention to these considerations, because the general sympathy of Churchmen had lately been awakened in behalf of curates. Within a year or so a fresh society, the Curates' Augmentation Fund, arising out of a conviction of the inadequate stipends too often paid to that class, has sprung into vigorous life. He did not think that that society had taken the best plan to meet it—namely, that of doles to special curates—still it was evidence of the need. He wished for something more—namely, the endowment of special curacies. This was no innovation. In certain old churches—he would quote as an instance St. James', Piccadilly—was to be found an endowed clerk in orders—that is, a curate with a fixed stipend. The system had fallen into abeyance, and now he would revive it. That it had formed no part of the original system of the Ecclesiastical Commission was no objection, but rather the contrary. When the Commission was first constituted, thirty-two years ago, it was much wanted may be. But the reason why it was so wanted was the spiritual deadness which had crept over the Church of England, and which, within the intervening years, had been changed to such vigorous life. No one would for one instant contend that, 1078 supposing the Ecclesiastical Commission were to have been constituted now, it would have had the form in which it was cast in 1835. It would have had a more representative character—including, he meant, representatives alike of clergy and of devout laity; it would have been less official and bureaucratic. No doubt it has marched with the times; no doubt it has notably improved its system in many respects; things he cheerfully acknowledged, and therefore he called for still further amendment. In fact, his position was that, as the Ecclesiastical Commission depended so much on official nomination, there was the more reason, now that there was so great an increase of spiritual life among the people, for compelling the Commissioners, at least theoretically, to accept the new means of improvement, although through a want of funds they might not at present be able to carry it out. At the same time, he wished in all reason and moderation to consider the condition of their actual exchequer and the liabilities they had incurred. If, however, the Bill were thrown out on the second reading, the impression conveyed to the public would be, that the Commission, which practically represents the Church of England, was either unwilling to adopt a new state of things, or incapable of understanding that the population had outgrown the old and simple parochial system, and that it was unwilling to apply the great principle of co-operation to spiritual needs. He would endeavour briefly to show by an example the difference between the old system and the one which he would desire to see introduced. He took a parish or district in some large town of 8,000 inhabitants. In it the incumbent might have with great self-denial and difficulty, helped by the Commission and the Church societies, have scraped together money to build his church, parsonage, and schools, and set up parish charities, and might be working the district, of which no part was very rich and one end was miserably poor; doing what he could, but being single-handed, only able to give from physical weakness the smallest modicum of Church services—two, perhaps, every Sunday at the regular hours. The case of this parish would come before the Commission, and by their regulation system, they would have nothing better to do than cut it in two, and separate the very poor end of it from the hardly well-off one. Then some other clergyman would be sent into the very poor district to repeat the 1079 same experiment as his elder brother, under much greater disadvantages, from the more abject destitution of his flock, of scraping together money for church, and school, and parsonage. When this was done the result of the handiwork would be, two isolated over-tasked clergymen, two sets of schools without staff or revenue to make either of them effective, and two churches which really did only the work of one, because each of them—dependent on a single minister—could only offer the same minimum of regulation services at the same regulation hours. What would he, on the contrary, suggest? He would advise the Commission to help and cheer the original clergyman and the original parish, not by reducing its area, not by the creation of a new incumbency involving useless building as well as monetary burdens, but by the endowment of one or two curates whose presence and co-operation would double or treble the use of church, and school, and charities. Then the richer end of the parish would not be released from its responsibility towards the poorer quarter, and that poorer quarter would not have to look for its means of spiritual existence to the repulsive system of spiritual mendicancy on the part of its incumbent, which is a disgrace of our age. The suggestion of his hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk which had struck him the most was the appeal not to change the system of the Commissioners, because their grants being contingent on contributions from elsewhere, stimulated vast efforts of private munificence which might by this proposal be checked. He was perfectly ready to meet and provide against that danger by enacting that the grants towards curates, whether as endowment or stipend, should be contingent on and in correspondence with private efforts. With these explanations, and on the understanding that the Bill might be moulded in Committee, he hoped the House would give it a second reading.
§ MR. WALPOLE
said, the hon. Member for East Norfolk had expressed a wish to know what course the Government proposed to take in reference to this Bill. For himself, he might say that he was very Strongly in favour of the principle that had been so well advocated, of providing for spiritual destitution in populous places, by giving curates to those places in addition to the endowments that now existed. If therefore this Bill had been simply a measure to enable the Commissioners to exa- 1080 mine properly into all the wants of different places, and of then providing curates where they were required, he should have given it his cordial support. He must, however, say that by adopting the Bill as it stood at present, he was convinced that the House would be taking a backward and detrimental step. It was impossible that they could adopt the principles laid down in the Bill, unless the Commissioners were secured in the possession of adequate funds to meet the requirements which the Bill would create. The Bill assumed there was a large surplus in the hands of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, but the statement made on the authority of the Commissioners in that House was, that by the end of 1868 they would not have £12,000 a year absolute suplus. The present Bill would therefore, if adopted, exhaust the whole of that surplus, by substituting a new mode altogether of providing for the spiritual destitution of places requiring assistance. Surely no one could doubt—considering the small amount in the hands of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners and the numerous claims, present and prospective—that this surplus of £12,000 a year would be very inadequate to answer the many claims which the Ecclesiastical Commissioners were bound to satisfy. Under the Act of Parliament the Commissioners were bound to satisfy certain claims—first of all, the claims arising in places where the tithes belonged to the Church, and in which the property of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners was situate; and secondly, the claims of populous parishes in mining districts. Now, the claims made upon the Ecclesiastical Commissioners for those two purposes would absorb a large portion of their funds, and those claims would have to be provided for for many years to come, until every part of the kingdom where they arose was satisfied. In addition to all this they had still in existence the arrangement come to some four years ago—an arrangement which was to last for a period of five years from that time. By that arrangement an obligation rested upon the shoulders of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, from which they could not relieve themselves until the expiration of the five years. The Commissioners were morally and equitably bound to meet the claims comprehended under it. There was nothing unreasonable in that arrangement, as was evident from the fact that it had met with universal acceptance, and that it was well calculated to answer all the 1081 purposes for which it was proposed. At that time there existed populations of 10,000 and upwards, in which the clergyman was paid a miserable pittance to attend to the spiritual wants of a vast district. The three modes by which it was proposed under the arrangement entered into four years ago to meet the spiritual wants of certain parishes or districts were—first, to provide that in cases of very populous parishes or districts the income of the clergyman should be raised to £300; secondly, to supply the wants of all local claims; thirdly, to contribute an equal amount to that of benefactions subscribed for by parishioners in order to satisfy the spiritual wants of the particular parish or district. Now the effect of the plan proposed would be to upset this whole arrangement, and to set at nought the advantage arising from the benefactions subscribed for year by year to justify the grant of an equal amount, so as to form a fund to meet the spiritual wants of particular places. The great arguments used in favour of this Bill, especially those relied on by the hon. Member for Stroke, went, not only for the sub-division of parishes, but the endowment of rectories and the providing of additional pastors and clergymen. He (Mr. Walpole) would go along with his hon. Friend in advocating the attainment of those admirable and desirable objects. He had intimated, he thought, to the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets that that object could not be obtained by a compulsory Bill of this kind; but it might be effected by an enabling Bill, which would give the Ecclesiastical Commissioners a discretion in the matter, and an opportunity of judging whether the arrangement in question could be carried out, and also leaving it to them to decide upon the time and mode by which the desired object could be best carried out. Had the present proposal been one of such a character as that to which he referred he would have had no difficulty in giving it his support. A few years ago the subject of the Ecclesiastical Commission came before the House of Lords. Some of the arrangements proposed were approved of, so far as he knew, without a dissentient voice. A claim, however, was made on behalf of those mining districts in which there were large populations but without any minister to look after them. Accordingly a clause was inserted in the Bill at that time—it was, he thought, the 16th clause—which enabled the Ecclesiastical Commissioners 1082 to provide curates for places where there were large masses of people collected together who were without spiritual assistance, and empowered the Commissioners from time to time to make grants of money to meet and equal amount of benefactions, with the view of affording temporary provision for the cure of souls. Every one would admit the good which that clause had done in the mining districts of Wales and the other districts in which it was allowed to operate. That was the principle for which he was contending as being applicable to all populous places suffering from spiritual destitution. If in any of those places where the population was 5,000 and upwards, the inhabitants were willing to subscribe amongst themselves a sufficient sum to give them a claim upon the Ecclesiastical Commissioners for a grant to an equal amount for the purpose of providing curates for such places as were in want of the same, he should be willing to give his best support to any measure that would give effect to such an arrangement. But to affirm the principle of this Bill would be to act directly contrary to the moral engagements into which they had entered under the arrangement of four years ago. According to this Bill it was compulsory on the Commissioner, in cases of spiritual destitution, where the population of any parish in England or Wales exceeded 5,000, to provide out of the common fund a salary for the curate appointed to any such place or parish, not exceeding £200 a year. [Mr. AYRTON here expressed dissent.] Well, it appeared to him (Mr. Walpole) that so far as the clause could be framed in a compulsory form, the one to which he referred was a compulsory clause. If the hon. Gentleman shrunk from his own proposition, it was not doubt because he saw the injurious consequences of his measure. He submitted that the Bill should be put in a proper shape, so as to obtain the general approval of the House before it was suffered to go into Committee. He fully agreed with the hon. Members for the Tower Hamlets and Stoke that it was advisable to supplement the arrangements made by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners for meeting the Spiritual destitution of populous place by providing curacies as well as by subdividing parishes. But while concurring in such an arrangement he would leave a discretion to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners to carry out such an arrangement according to the funds under their control. 1083 Any measure introduced with that object would, be thought, receive the sanction of the House. But as the measure which was brought into the House by the hon. Gentleman opposite would, according to the authentic statement of his hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, exhaust all the funds of the Commissioners and deprive them of those valuable means of doing good which the Commissioners at present posessed—as, instead of being an advantage, it was a measure that was likely to do harm to the working of the Commission, and to exhaust the funds in their possession—he should feel it his duty to offer it every opposition. He would, however, suggest to the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets that instead of the present Bill he should introduce one of a permissive character. Under all the circumstances of the case, and for the reasons he had stated, he could not with his eyes open assent to the second reading of the Bill in it present form.
§ MR. POWELL
said, he would not venture to oppose this Bill from any narrow view, or from a mere Commissioners' aspect of the question, but he should oppose it on other considerations altogether. There was some degree of inconsistency in the opening remarks of the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets. The hon. Gentleman said his only object was to cast in the lot of his object was to cast in the lot of his constituents with that of the rest of the people; but throughout his speech it was evidently the desire of the hon. Gentleman to place his constituents in a position superior to that of any other class of the people. Now he (Mr. Powell) believed that the hon. Gentleman's constituents had received fair and even justice from the hands of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. It was asserted that the Ecclesiastical Commissioners declined to give any more income to ministers of large parishes—parishes with populations numbering 20,000 or 30,000—than what they gave to ministers placed over parishes of only 5,000 and upwards. He denied that was the policy or the practice of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. They had given in some cases £200 a year to district churches for parishes largely populated, and in which there was a want of church accommodation. And the effect of such a course was to afford a most valuable stimulant to the erection of new churches or the enlargement of old ones. It was not the case that the Ecclesiastical Commissioners evinced any desire that the clergyman at- 1084 tached to one of those churches should receive no assistance, or co-operation, however extensive his duties. On the contrary, they showed and extreme desire and willingness that the ministers of those churches should not be single-handed, nor forced to pursue their labours without co-operation. One of his arguments against this Bill arose from the fact of the enormous subscriptions given year by year towards the relief of spiritual destitution. It was almost impossible to establish endownments in connection with new churches that were being built. There was, on the other hand, little difficulty, comparatively speaking, of maintaining curates by annual gifts. He therefore strongly objected to diverting funds, from the creation of endowments to which voluntary action was unequal, to the payment of curates, which subscriptions successfully accomplished. Neither was he desirous of a minute subdivision of parishes, thus creating, as the Dean of Ely remarked, a series of little independent ministers, each at the head of a little independent congregation. Such, however, was not now the practice, the new districts and new parishes containing as they did very considerable populations. He did not at all sympathize with the hon. and learned Gentleman in the 2nd clause of the Bill, wherein he seemed to exhibit a feeling, if not of antagonism and hostility, at least of extreme jealously, with reference to lay patrons. Those persons did not exercise their patronage with less benefit tot the Church than public patrons. There might be some solitary instances of nepotism, and where relations were presented to the family living, but in large towns the lay patronage was exercised in a beneficial manner for the Church, the best clergyman being selected. He had carefully watched the proceedings of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, and though not predisposed to view them with favour, he was convinced that their conduct had conferred great benefit upon the Church, and that the continual interference of Parliament would only serve to cripple their freedom of action and greatly impede their usefulness. Instead of their waiting for the judgment and legislation of Parliament he considered it was their duty to exercise providence and forethought, and take a comprehensive view of their duties, and consider what in the long run would best promote the interests of the Church. The action of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, 1085 it should be borne in mind, greatly influenced those who were engaged in church extension, and the friends of the Church framed and propagated their schemes, and appealed to the public and received donations, upon the faith of what the Ecclesiastical Commissioners would do. If Parliament interfered in this fragmentary and casual way with the working of the Commission he was certain it would thwart its own original intention with reference to the extension of the Church in poor districts, and the appointment of qualified and cultivated clergymen.
said, that he must concur in the Amendment which had been proposed by the hon. Gentleman the Member for West Norfolk—namely, that the Bill should be read a second time that day six months. If Bill passed in its present form it would entirely destroy the discretion which at present existed in the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, and reduce them to nothing more than an Additional Curates' Aid Society. It would entirely prevent the Commissioners from continuing the system which had hitherto proved so beneficial to the Church, of making small annual grants for church extension, whereby large benefactions were obtained from the public bounty for the same purpose. The grant of £3,500 a year by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners was the means of drawing £100,00 per annum from the bounty of the public; and there was ample ground for believing that if they could increase the grant to £8,000 per annum the donations of the public would increase in proportion, and would reach a sum of not less than £250,000. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the Tower Hamlets had said that the scheme of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, which had been before the House for the last three years, was not a scheme for supplying spiritual destitution, but for supplying parsons' destitution. Nothing could be more miserable than the position of a poor clergyman appointed to preside over the spiritual interests of a large population. It was necessary that he should be a man of great ability, but it was impossible to get such a man in the Church any more than it was in other professions, unless he was adequately remunerated. That fact, alone, he thought, formed a sufficient justification for the course which the Ecclesiastical Commissioners had pursued for so many years, and which, until the introduction of the hon. and learned Member's 1086 Bill with reference to the Finsbury Estate Bill, had never been impugned, but had been unanimously approved of by the Church and the public. They were in this position with regard to the present Bill. The hon. Member for Stoke, whose name was on the back of the Bill, had disclaimed in the fullest manner its compulsory character, though the hon. Gentleman the Member for the Tower Hamlets had not done so, and had the Bill been framed on the suggestions which he (Mr. Bruce) made when the Finsbury Estate Bill was before the House, he and his right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, and his right hon. Friend the Judge Advocate have opposed it. [Mr. WALPOLE: Hear, hear!] He believed that the local claims were great, and that it was for the general interest of the Church that they should be encouraged; but whether the claim for curates in the mining districts was a local claim or not, there had been a partial treatment of the mining districts was of a migratory character, and that it was necessary some provision of a temporary character should be made to meet that difficulty, because it was urged there was no reason why provision should not be made in the manufacturing districts, or wherever great populations arose. He was prepared to remedy that and to put the country generally in the same position. If therefore the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the Tower Hamlets would withdraw the Bill and introduce another based upon that principle, he should be ready to support it, and the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary had intimated his readiness to do the same. Or he would suggest to his hon. and learned Friend that the might commit this Bill pro formâ, and then introduce the clauses to which he and his right hon. Friend and others could assent. He should expect that everything like compulsion or an interference with the discretion of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners should be withdrawn, and it should also be clearly understood that they should have the power of making such grants as they considered best for the interests of the Church, and of the balance which remained at their disposal at the end of 1866. They were informed that the surplus for the three years following 1868 was not likely to exceed £12,000 per annum. On it there was a lien on 1087 behalf of local claims likely to amount to £5,000 per annum. The House and the country would not wish that the £3,500 per annum, which had been hitherto given to meet the local benefactions, should be decreased, and there would then be £3,500 per annum left at the disposal of the Commissioners. At the end of the three years there might be a larger sum to dispose of, and then it would be the duty of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners to consider whether or not it would not be for the interests of the Church that additional curates should be occasionally employed in populous districts. He did not consider it was expedient that there should always be a sub-division of large parishes, but rather that recourse should be had to lay assistance. At the same time, it was only just to state that the Ecclesiastical Commissioners had the power to do much of what was required without special legislation; and the House might rest assured that the Ecclesiastical Commissioners would pay attention to any suggestions that were made in that House, and, if it were possible, carry them out.
§ MR. SELWYN
said, he should vote against the second reading of this Bill for the same reason which compelled him with reluctance to vote against the former Bill for the relief of the spiritual destitution of the metropolis, and also because he was not without hope that the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the Tower Hamlets would be able to devise a more effectual plan for the relief of that spiritual destitution which they all so much deplored. The question was, what was the most effectual means of reducing that destitution, which all admitted was so universal and so appalling? Two opposite views had been presented of this Bill. One, the view taken by the hon. Gentleman the Mover of the Amendment, that this was a compulsory measure, which appeared to him (Mr. Selwyn) was the correct one, and the other that taken by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Stoke, who said that that was not the real intention of the farmer of the Bill. Assuming that the Bill did not intend to interfere with the discretion of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, could the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the Tower Hamlets, consistently with his speech on that and on a former occasion, advocate the present Bill? On a former occasion the hon. and learned Gentleman commented on the proceedings of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners with great 1088 force, and also with great harshness, but not more so, he thought, than was justified by the evidence which had been laid before the House. He truly and plainly pointed out many errors into which the Ecclesiastical Commissioners had fallen, and that day he had told them that the Ecclesiastical Commissioners had laid down a certain rigid scheme which he said was rigidly unjust; that the Ecclesiastical Commission had failed in its duty, and he pointed out particular instances on the other side of the water of spiritual destitution which the Ecclesiastical Commission. There never had been a body who had more happy in the selection of the persons they had put at the head of their affairs; but the faults did not arise from that Commission, but from the centralizing system which they had adopted. It was that that had made them so, rigidly unjust. Some thirty years ago, finding the Church in a position of considerable difficulty, Parliament endeavoured to remedy some of the temporary evils, and they erected a high scaffold around the Church but it was never intended to be permanent and to swallow up all the property of the Church as it had done; and it was from the establishment of the central office in Whitehall that all the evils had arisen. In the year 1855, the Ecclesiastical Commissioners recommended in a Report what should be done with reference to the property and powers of our cathedral institutions. They pointed out how inadequate they had become to meet spiritual destitution, and they suggested that the Crown and Parliament should step in and make the necessary changes to remedy spiritual destitution; but from that time to the present nothing had been done beyond attempts to transfer the property to the centralized office. In 1862 and 1863, a Committee of that House inquired into the constitution and proceeding of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. The Ecclesiastical Commissioners were largely and ably represented on that Select Committee by four Members of the body; but notwithstanding that circumstance, the Committee, in their Report, condemned the constitution of the Ecclesiastical Commis- 1089 sion, and pointed out the great expense which the centralized action of that body entailed on the funds. His object was to assist his hon. and learned Friend in bringing in a Bill to carry out the recommendations of that Committee—to restore to the different local bodies their former powers by making them act in a manner harmoniously with the feelings and necessities of the present time, because it was considered that many of the duties of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners could be more satisfactorily discharged by diocesan or county associations, comprising the Bishop of the diocese, the dean and chapter, the archdeacon, representatives of the parochial clergy, and the laity—the presence of the lay element being, in his opinion, an essential point. Such a body would undoubtedly possess a knowledge of the spiritual wants of the locality, and it would afford ample scope for the united action of the clergy and laity. They might, if necessary, be subject to the control of a central authority, which should lay down principles, but should not interfere with details. The local knowledge of these bodies would enable them to distribute the funds of which they had the management in the best manner, avoiding the expenses of survey and valuation attendant upon the present system, and he believed the result would be to show how inadequate the Church property of the country was to meet the spiritual destitution which existed. The Committee recommended that those changes should be accomplished by the power of the Crown in certain cases, and in others by the intervention of Parliaments, but although the cathedral bodies had repeatedly petitioned in favour of the scheme being carried out, nothing had yet been done. It would lead to a great saving of expense, for there existed three societies for providing additional curates, and the machinery of these, added to the enormous expenses of the Commissioners, swallowed up funds which would have relieved the spiritual destitution of thousands, while the errors into which the Commissioners had fallen from their want of local knowledge had absorbed sums which would have ministered to the wants of tens of thousands. The plan proposed was in successful operation in many colonial dioceses, and he hoped the hon. and learned Gentleman, instead of proceeding with this Bill, would bring that plan forward or would assist in urging its adoption upon the Government.
§ SIR WILLIAM HEATHCOTE
said, the hon. Member had raised a very important question, in favour of which there was, no doubt, much to be said, but he thought the House had better confine its attention to the present Bill, which affected the administration of the funds now administered by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. The measure had been described by the hon. Member for Stoke as permissive, but it certainly appeared to him to be compulsory in its present form, and if it was to remain so he should feel it his duty to vote against it, as it would do away with the whole efficiency of the Ecclesiastical Commission. He might say that he did not think it desirable to make the House a place where the details of administration should be settled; this should be left to administrative bodies under its control. If the Bill were permissive he should go great lengths in saying it might be useful. He quite agreed in the suggestion that the Commissioners should not be kept in the groove of subdividing parishes to which grants were made, for in some cases it would be much better to appoint curates, under the direction of one energetic incumbent, and he also concurred in the suggestion that private benefactions should be stipulated for. If these points were embodied in the Bill, and if it was made clearly permissive, it would be a useful measure, and he was willing to assent to the second reading on the understanding that is should be committed pro formâ and should be re-constructed, but unless such an assurance were given he should feel bound to vote against it.
§ SIR GEORGE GREY
said, he hoped that the Bill would not be rejected upon the second reading, because there could be no doubt that a most valuable mode of providing for spiritual destitution was to appoint additional curates in populous places, instead of always insisting upon further endowments. It had this power already; but he could not help thinking that, except in the case of mines, the Commissioners had never felt that to be the case. At all events, it was desirable that any doubt upon the subject should be removed, and that the hands of the Commissioners should be completely liberated. He thought it desirable that Parliament should express an opinion that this was a proper mode of expending any funds that might be at the disposal of the Commissioners, and that the Commissioners 1091 should have full powers to act, not with the view of diverting their funds altogether from other purposes to which they were now usefully applied, but of considering, concurrently with the existing modes of providing for spiritual destitution, the expediency of appointing curates in aid of the incumbents in populous places. He urged that the Bill should be read a second time upon the condition that it should be committed pro formâ, and so amended as to operate permissively only. If they rejected the Bill at the present stage it might be implied that they differed from the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets as to the expediency of applying the funds of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners to the provision of additional curates.
said, he thought that the general feeling of the House was clearly in favour of an enabling Bill to empower the Commissioners to appoint additional curates where it was necessary. The difficulty they were in was that one hon. Member said the Bill was permissive and another said it was compulsory, and that view was expressed by the hon. Member in moving the Bill. He admitted it was very inconvenient to vote for the second reading of a Bill in which, in its present shape, they did not concur, with a view of amending it in Committee, but he did not wish to negative the principle of appointing additional curates. They had heard lately of the awkward state of ignorance of the agricultural labourers, who, it had been said, could not understand what they read; and that seemed just the position of hon. Members with regard to this Bill. They had the Bill, they read it, and they could not understand what they read. He concurred in the proposal that the Commissioners should be empowered to make grants for additional curates in cases where it was unadvisable to divide parishes, but not in the suggestion that local commissions should be established, for he feared the effect would be that instead of one nuisance they would have fifty. He hoped the hon. and learned Gentleman would undertake to make the Bill permissive.
§ MR. AYRTON
said, that the hon. Member for the University of Cambridge could hardly expect him to carry out the suggestion which he had made. With reference to the other suggestion that had been made, he wished to explain that the Bill was compulsory so far as it compelled 1092 the Commissioners to consider the claims of these parishes; but it was permissive in not compelling them to appropriate their funds to any specific object. The Bill was thus partly permissive and partly compulsory, the simple object being that gentlemen living in comfort and luxury on incomes, perhaps, of £15,000 a year, should be obliged to consider the necessities of poor people, almost destitute of clothing, without education, with no means of subsistence, and hardly better off than heathens. This they had not hitherto done, having paid more regard to the interests of the parsons than of the people. He was prepared in Committee to carry out his view of compelling the Commissioners to consider these cases, and of allowing them to apply part of their funds to these claims concurrently with other claims. The hon. Member for East Norfolk had stated there were 800 parishes with 5,000 inhabitants, and that the Commissioners were unable to grant £200 a year to all these; but the number of such parishes where working people congregated, and where spiritual destitution existed, was not more numerous than they could provide for, and his proposal was not that £200 per annum should be given, but that that should be, the maximum. The Bill did not specifically appropriate any of the Commissioners' funds, and if the hon. Gentleman opposite was ready to acquiesce in the second reading in order that it might be amended, he would be satisfied; otherwise he must ask the House to decide whether money coming from the pockets of the residents of the metropolis should be distributed among those who had raised the fund, or whether it should be squandered on parsons and patrons scattered over the country.
§ MR. BERESFORD HOPE
begged to be allowed to explain. When he gave his name to the Bill it was on the understanding that it might be altered in Committee, and in the belief that the present scheme of the Commission, whether or not abstractedly the best, was a debt of honour, and was to be respected. Since, however, the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets did not take this view, and after the reply they had just heard, he declined to be made the instrument of an attack on "patrons and parsons," and he would not vote at all.
§ Question put, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."1093
§ The House divided:—Ayes 78; Noes 173: Majority 95.
§ Words added.
§ Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to.
§ Bill put off for six months.