§ 4.0 P.M.
§ The PRESIDENT of the BOARD of AGRICULTURE (Mr. Prothero)
I beg to move, "That leave be given to bring in a Bill to amend the Tithe Acts, 1836–1891."
The House is no doubt aware that the value of tithe rent-charge has risen very rapidly during the War. In 1914 it stood at 76, to-day it stands at 109, and there is every prospect it will continue to rapidly increase in value. The increase is solely due to the War, and it has not been affected by Part I. of the Corn Production Act. The tithe rent-charge is now paid by the owner, but in most cases, except where the owner is also the occupier, he derives no benefit from the increase in prices, and, although it is true he is legally entitled to raise the rent as a remedy for the increased burden, generally speaking landowners have not resorted to that remedy, notwithstanding the fact that the increase of burden has been very considerable. Under these circumstances it is suggested that the tithe rent-charge should be fixed temporarily at its present height, and that there should be increased facilities for redemption. Most of the tithe rent-charge in this country is owned by ecclesiastical bodies, and so far as I have been able to understand, in consultation with the official representatives of the clerical tithe owners, they are disposed to consider favourably any reasonable proposal on the lines suggested. The present Bill deals with this question in this way: The tithe rent-charge shall stand at its present value for seven years, and tithe payers are to be enabled to redeem the rent-charge without the present limitation of 20s. and without the consent of the tithe owner. The redemption money instead of being, as at present, twenty-five times the original commutation figure will be such amount as in each case is agreed between the tithe owner and the tithe payer, and in default of such agreement it will be such sum as is considered by the Board of 1824 Agriculture to be reasonable compensation. An agreement by the incumbent will not require the consent of the bishop or patron, but must be approved by Queen Anne's Bounty. The Bill also provides greater facilities for the conversion of corn rents and for the redemption of such rent. Some day, of course, it may be desirable that Parliament should consider some larger scheme for the extinction of tithe rent-charge, but as a temporary expedient I hope the House will approve the proposals contained in this Bill, which it is intended to ask the House to discuss when we meet again after the Adjournment.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Prothero, Sir George Cave, and Sir Richard Winfrey.
§ TITHE BILL,—"to amend the Tithe Acts, 1836 to 1891," presented accordingly, and read the first time; to be read a second time To-morrow, and to be printed. [Bill 75.]