§ House in Committee, according to Order.
§ On Clause 1,
THE EARL OF DONOUGHMORE
complained that the Bill contained enactments beyond its title, for it made an important aleration in local taxation, by including houses rated under 5l. in the assessment to the county cess, by repealing the clause in the previous Bill which prevented it. The effect would be that it would be found impossible to collect the rate from the occupiers, and it would eventually fall on the lessors, who would thus be made liable to the county cess for all tenements under 5l. The noble Earl moved an Amendment to strike out the portion of the clause enacting the extension of the assessment to houses under 5l.
§ LORD STANLEY OF ALDERLEY
said, the Amendment struck at the principal provision of the Bill. It was desirable, as the assessment was uniform, that the collection and the exemptions should be uniform also. The effect of the exemption of houses under the yearly value of 5l. would be to encourage the erection and continuance of a very inferior class of houses. All the opposition to the Bill came from the owners of a miserable description of house property in Ireland, who now, in consequence of the exemption of small houses from the county cess, obtained larger rents than they would otherwise do.
§ Amendment withdrawn; clause agreed to.
§ On Clause 2,1237
THE EARL OF CLANCARTY
said, that the Amendment proposed by the noble Lord would afford no security against the abuses of the law of exemption, to which he had directed the notice of the House on the second reading of this Bill. Monasteries and nunneries claimed exemption as houses used for charitable purposes; and, to a certain extent, the claim appeared to be borne out, when the Commissioners of National Education made grants to the religious orders, for opening schools within their premises, for the education of the poor. He understood that the school-rooms or school-houses exclusively used for the purposes of education, were all that could be legally exempted; but it was notorious that the exemptions had been carried much further. He viewed this with the more jealousy as it had lately come to light that conventual establishments had been, he must say surreptitiously, endowed out of the grants made for the education of the poor in Ireland. He said surreptitiously, as it was only by the last Report of the Commissioners of National Education, made on the eve of an inquiry, that it appeared that to conventual establishments had been for a long time paid a percentage on the number of children certified by the heads of those houses to be under their instruction; in consequence of which no less than 1,831 girls had been reported as in attendance at a single convent school in Cork. Scarcely less reprehensible was the mode by which exemptions from local taxation were being extended to such houses, for when application was lately made by the guardians of a poor-law Union in the west of Ireland, to the Poor Law Commissioners, to know how to deal with a claim that had been made for the exemption of a religious house and the lands belonging to it, from poor law taxation, the Commissioners left it at their discretion, to act as they might think proper, thereby, in effect, sanctioning an illegal exemption. He did not wish to raise the question, whether State endowments and exemptions from taxation should or should not be extended to conventual establishments; but he desired that whatever was done should be done openly, and that the opportunity afforded by the present Bill should be taken advantage of, to remove that ambiguity in the existing law of exemption, which had led to its abuse. He would, therefore, move the insertion of a proviso to this effect:— 1238Provided always, that nothing contained in this clause shall be held to exempt buildings used for the purpose of residence by persons bound by religious vows, or any lands attached to such buildings, from the payment of poor rates or other local assessments.
§ LORD MONTEAGLE
said, there was no necessity for the proviso of the noble Earl. Monasteries and nunneries were not exempted by law from the payment of poor or county rates; and if boards of guardians, as was alleged, chose to exempt such institutions, they did so in violation of the law. He did not think the Bill should be encumbered with a useless definition of the law, such as that proposed by the noble Earl.
said, the proviso was unnecessary and illogical, because there was nothing either in the present Bill or in any existing Act of Parliament which exempted monasteries and nunneries from the payment of rates. The noble Earl might, therefore, just as well add words to the effect that play-houses, or any other description of property, should not be exempted.
THE EARL OF CLANCARTY
thought monasteries and nunneries were not exactly in the same position as other descriptions of property, because they were, to a certain extent, charitable institutions, and as such should be exempted. He had been told to rest satisfied with the existing state of the law. But he wanted to know what the law was. The Executive Government had been called upon to declare what the law was, but they had refused to do so, telling the guardians who applied to them for information to do what they pleased.
§ LORD STANLEY OF ALDERLEY
said, if any one desired to know the state of the law, he should apply to the proper tribunals. For his own part, he could not conceive how monasteries and nunneries could claim to be exempted.
§ Amendment withdrawn; clause agreed to; other Amendments made; and the report thereof to be received To-morrow.
§ House adjourned till To-morrow.