§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading, read.
§ THE EARL OF MINTO
, in moving that the Bill be now read the second time, said, that a measure of this kind was very much wanted in Scotland where much excitement existed as to the mode in which the augmentations of teinds were made; and the object of the present Bill was to simplify and render intelligible the system of teinds in the computation of the value of the stipends. Now, that might seem a very easy matter; but in fact the whole system of calculation was based upon an obsolete and dead language, and the result was that the whole procedure was involved in complexity and obscurity. The object of the Bill therefore was that the teinds which were granted in future should be granted in money instead of being calculated in kind; and it enacted that from and after the passing of the Act teinds and all claims exigible therefrom, or connected therewith, including stipends to the clergy of the Church of Scotland, so far as they have been valued in grain, should be converted into money on an average of the fiars prices for the seven years immediately preceding 1875, and that all future augmentations of stipends should be paid in money. The question of teinds was first settled in Scotland in 1833, when it was arranged that they should be paid in kind, and calculated upon one-tenth of what the land would produce; but however suitable that system might be at the time it was introduced, it was by no means suitable to the present time, and in 1808 an Act was passed legalizing the system now in existence. The Bill proposed to settle the calculations upon a fixed basis—namely, the average receipts of the seven years preceding the year 1875.
§ Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2a."—(The Earl of Minto.)
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
hoped that the noble Earl would not persevere with his Motion, because, if he did, he must offer to their Lordships a little more explanation than his noble Friend had given, and he thought that, after the explanation, their Lordships would 372 not be disposed to assent to the second reading. He must, in the first place, remind their Lordships that his noble Friend the Lord President had stated a few nights since to their Lordships, that the subject was under consideration, and that he hoped in the next Session the Government might be able to propose some measure which would be connected with the proceedure in cases of that description. There could be no doubt that, as the noble Earl had stated, the present mode of procedure in calculating ministers' stipends was involved in complexity and expense; but the noble Earl's Bill had not the slightest reference either to the expenses or to the complexities of that procedure. It was a Bill not connected with procedure at all, but a Bill connected entirely with the mode of averaging; and which affected property in a way which measures which were introduced in their Lordships' House were not in the habit of doing. In the year 1808 the Act of Parliament was passed which created a sort of code under which stipends should be augmented. Up to that time they had been dealt with exactly as the noble Earl wished them to be dealt with—namely, by a payment of money out of the teinds where there were any. But the Act of 1808 followed the principle on which they were dealt with by the great Lord Burleigh in the reign of Queen Elizabeth—namely, that the augmentation of stipends should depend, not upon any money payment, but upon the value of grain, in order that ministers might have the benefit of any increase in the price of that article, so as to increase their income. It was remarkable that after that Act had passed, and when prices were very high, the ministers came forward and applied to Parliament to do what the noble Earl was now doing—namely, to fix for the future the augmentation of stipend on an average of the prices for seven years previous—they wanted to have the benefit of prices when they were high. But the measure which was then asked for was very properly refused by Parliament. Now, it was a little remarkable that this Bill should be introduced at a time when prices were very low, and, therefore, would operate to prevent any increase in the value of stipends arising from an increase in the price of grain—to the great benefit of proprietors. He wished, 373 however, to show their Lordships how this measure would work. They were not aware that teinds in Scotland were a different kind of property from tithes in England. They were held sometimes by owners of land and sometimes by what were called "titulars" of the ground; the minister was never entitled, as in England, to the actual tithe, but only to a stipend arising out of the tithe; and if that stipend became insufficient from any reason, then they had a right to have it augmented and modified if the tithe were unexhausted. Now, their Lordships would observe in what position the minister was. He was a stipendiary and an incumbrance on the teind, and entitled to payment of an annual sum out of the teind. The payment by the price of grain was not a payment of so much money; but a payment in money which was fixed on an equivalent for the quantity of grain and victuals which he was entitled to demand. That being the present position of the minister, he thought it would be most unjust that they should take advantage of the price of grain being low at the present time, to calculate the amount the minister was entitled to receive on an average of seven years. It might be that the measure would operate very disadvantageously to the minister, and, at all events, he had a right to be heard upon it. What right had the noble Earl to say to the ministers that the amount of their stipend should only be calculated on a certain quantity of grain or victual for an average of seven years, and to that amount they should be fixed for all time? Was ever such a measure proposed to Parliament? Yet that was what the Bill did. Supposing that in the time of Charles II., the ministers' stipends had been fixed at the then price of money, and had never since been changed, what would the value be now as compared with the value of money, and where would the ministers be and what would be their salaries at the present day? It could not be right, without giving notice to the country at large and without giving those who were most interested notice of the change which was to be made, to pass a Bill affecting the stipends of the ministers. On these grounds he did not think their Lordships would assent to the measure.
§ THE EARL OF MINTO
said, that that was the first time he had heard any ob- 374 jection raised to the Bill, and he thought it would have been well if the noble and learned Lord had raised some of the objections when he first brought forward the subject; because he certainly had not understood, from the reply he had received from the noble Duke, that the subject was under the consideration of the Government. He was gratified by the trouble the noble and learned Lord had evidently taken in reference to the application of the seven years average. As the second reading was opposed by the Government, he would prefer to withdraw the Bill.
THE DUKE OF ARGYLL
said, that this question of augmentation of stipends was first mentioned a fortnight ago, and the Lord President said that he was about to consult the Lord Advocate on the subject, and he was glad to hear that the Government proposed to deal with it. The Bill, however, of his noble Friend referred to a totally different matter. It removed none of the evils connected with the present system of augmentation, but preserved all the personal interests. He agreed with the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack that this was a Bill which would hardly be received by their Lordships.
§ Motion and Bill (by leave of the House) withdrawn.