[Sir CYRIL COBB in the Chair.]
Where the standard value of the stipend exigible from the teinds of the lands of any heritor in a parish as shown by the teind roll exceeds the sum of two pounds—
Amendment moved (11th March, 1925): To leave out the words "two pounds" ["exceeds the sum of two pounds"] and to insert instead thereof the words "one pound."—[Mr. Clark Hutchison.]
Question again proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."
The LORD ADVOCATE (Mr. W. Watson): It will be for the convenience of the Committee if I state the proposals of the Government with regard to the small heritors. When we came into office and found last year's Bill, which had passed through the House of Lords under the last Government, and had been introduced into the House of Commons, we found that the basis of redemption had been considerably changed from the original form which it took in the Bill as introduced over a year ago under the last Unionist Government. As the result, as everyone knows, of conferences between representatives of the church and representatives of the heritors, the compulsory basis of redemption which had applied to the heritors in the original Bill, was modified. Redemption had been made optional in the case of the heritors, except a certain class. As the Bill stood, that class was defined as being those whose liability for stipend was less than a sum of £2. I would remind the Committee that in consequence of that class being left with compulsion on them as regards redemption, certain concessions were made with regard to the number of years purchase on the period for which such compulsory redemption should be carried out. The present Government took the view that, on the whole, these proposals were 1033 not unfair, and they also took the view that it is very essential and important that the House of Commons and Parliament should decide. I hope everyone will agree with me when I say that I have never made any mystery about the small heritors being consulted or not consulted. I have stated more than once, in answer to questions by the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. T. Johnston), that, in fact, they had not been consulted, and that it would be a very difficult thing to consult some of the heritors all over the country, but that their interests had been to some extent—I do not think there is any dispute about it—safeguarded. The method by which they were safeguarded was considered during the progress of the Bill last year. I have said before, and I repeat now, that this is essentially a matter for this Committee, in the first instance, and for Parliament to decide, and to do fairness to the small heritor. I have always looked at it in that light, and it was for that reason that, on the Second Reading of the Bill, I said the Government would consider carefully any suggestions that were made on this very important topic. It was also for that reason that I was glad to wait and to listen to the speeches and proposals that were made yesterday. After these preliminary observations, I will come more directly to the topic of the small heritors. There are two directions in which the small heritor is affected peculiarly in this Bill, and with regard to which hon. Members opposite have taken great interest—quite properly, and I welcome it. One is the question of heritor's assessment, and the other is the question of liability for stipend. It is as regards the latter that the question of compulsory redemption comes in. These two forms of liability are, in their nature, essentially different in many ways, and should be considered separately. I have assumed, and I am sure with complete confidence, that the church itself would also be very much interested in the question of sympathetically and fairly dealing with the small heritors. It is obvious, as has been stated in several speeches, that it is to the interests of the church that as little irritation as possible, and certainly no unfairness, should be risked by pressing the existing legal rights of the church too far. It is all in the interests of the church and, certainly, if nothing more, in the 1034 interests of church union, which is the main object of this Bill, that that course should be taken. That being so, let me approach the question of heritors' assessments. As was pointed out yesterday, there is a very vital distinction between heritors' assessments and the question of liability as to stipend. In the case of the real rental basis on which the heritors' assessments are laid, the improved value, for instance, of the small feu by the building of a house, comes into account and swells the real rental. That is in complete distinction to the law of teind, where it is not taken into account, but only the agricultural value is taken into account. Secondly, it may interest the Committee to know that so long ago as 1887 a very well known member of the Church of Scotland, the late Mr. James Campbell, of Stracathro, who was a Member of Parliament for many years, conscious (as the church always has been) of the hardships that sometimes were put on the smaller heritors in regard to these assessments, introduced a Bill for the modification of the assessments. That Bill did not make progress, mainly, I understand, because of the opposition from the then other side. A good many years later, in 1900, an Act was passed with regard to ecclesiastical assessments, and in that Act, in Section 3, there was a provision made, but only an optional provision, which established a method of relieving the small heritors. That provision was, if I may paraphrase it briefly, that when you were recovering an assessment on real rental, if the Kirk Session, or some kind donor through the Kirk Session, provided the deficiency that would ensue, then £50 could be deducted from the rental of every real renter, on everyone's rent on the real valuation roll. The result would be, of course—it being optional—if operated, that every feuar, for instance, with a real rent of over £50, escaped from such an assessment. Naturally, and quite properly, at the same time he lost all interest in attending meetings and he lost the right of voting on the question of repairs. That provision has been operated, but not as generally as might have been hoped for. It occurred to the Government that we might find there some fair basis on a similar system of removing that sense or feeling or effect of hardship in the present 1035 case. Therefore, what the Government propose to do with regard to that—bearing in mind, of course, that under Section 27 it is only one assessment for repairs, and that is the end of it, before the buildings are handed over—is that it would be fair to put in a compulsory Clause which would provide for the compulsory deduction of a sum of £30 from the rental of every heritor, not only the small ones, but the big ones as well. The result would be, of course, the total exclusion of those whose rental was less than £30, and a very substantial modification of the liability of those whose rental was greater. For instance, a person with a £35 rental would be assessed on a rental of only £5. This may require to be put in the form of a new Clause. I think an Amendment will do it, but we shall not reach it for some time, and certainly not to-day. I will put it on the Paper as soon as possible. It will provide that, in effect, the loss will fall on the Church. We have thought over this matter very sympathetically and very carefully. I have been thinking over it ever since the Second Reading of the Bill, and even before that. I hope the Committee will accept our proposal as a fair—I do not want to use superlatives—concession to give in order to secure that there shall be no undue hardships as regards the levying of assessments for repairs. I turn to the other question, which is somewhat complicated. I will, however, try to make my meaning as clear as I can. The liability of the heritor for stipend is not affected, where there are buildings, etc,. by the improved value caused by the erection of the buildings. Let me take an illustration. I suppose in most cases you might take £2 an acre—it might be more or it might be a little less. When you have made the deductions to arrive at the agricultural value, one-fifth of that would be, if my arithmetic is sound, 8s. which one-fifth is for teindable rental and that would be the total possible liability if he had a whole acre, but in the case of houses, of which there are many with less than one-eighth of an acre, then something less than one shilling is his liability for teind, though his real rental on assessment may be considerably more. I have a strong feeling that what is at the back of the mind, for instance, of the 1036 right hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. W. Adamson) is this idea, and it is one that must appeal to everybody. There will be many cases in which the liability for stipend is so small that it has not been worth the minister's while to bother about the heritors, but if, because of this Bill, there is a question of redemption even over a short period of years, then it may become worth his while, and that which he would not have done apart from the Bill will be brought into operation by reason of the terms of this Bill. And the real standard I am after is: What is the level below which in general—you can only look at it broadly—it has not been worth the minister's while to recover? I can give you only some general idea as to that, but I hope that the Committee will support what I am going to add. Take the case of St. Cuthbert's parish in Edinburgh, which is typical of one of the big city parishes where stipend is payable through teind. There was not long ago an augmentation of the parish, and in that locality with the augmentation there will be liable for stipend over 6,000 heritors. If you were to scrutinise that and take out the heritors—I cannot put it more accurately than this—of about a 1s. and under—some might be for only 1d.—you would take something like 4,000 heritors out of the list, and that would mean a deduction of something like £200 from the stipend. If you begin going up you will have a rapid increase in the loss to the stipends. Following that broad line, of course, it seems clear that a minister to-day will not sit quietly and lose £200 of his stipend, and it is worth his while to collect down to a smaller sum than that. That set one thinking as to what would be the fair thing, and the Government have come to the conclusion that it would be fair that every heritor who is shown to be liable for a sum of less than a 1s. on the roll shall be exempt from continuing to pay stipends, and equally from liability to redeem that stipend, and disappear. That loss will fall on the Church, because I am sure—and I have heard it said in the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland myself—that the Church realises that, in a case of that kind, it will be up to the members of the Church, when we get a united Church, to strengthen it in every way and assist in anything of that 1037 kind that may keep our relations good, and make everybody feel that there is no sense of injustice I have gone a little faster than I ought to have gone, and the Committee will excuse me if I hark back, particularly in view of the terms of the Amendment of the right hon. Member for West Fife. There are three methods by which you could have operated this relief which I have in mind. You could have done it, as the right hon. Gentleman suggests, by saying that those who have not been called on for a certain period shall get this relief. Or you may say that those who have not paid for a certain period shall get relief. Then there is the third method, which is the one to which we have felt driven, of giving a general exemption under a certain figure. Obviously, it would be neither fair nor practicable to say that people who have not paid should get relief. It would be encouraging not only the people who had not been asked but also the people who had been asked and had evaded payment or refused to pay. They do not deserve any particular sympathy. Then comes the alternative of the right hon Gentleman, which deserves and has had the very careful consideration of the Government, as to whether it was not practicable. That is the real question. If we thought it only practicable we should have adopted that method. But I suggest that it is not. What is to constitute the proof, whether a man has been called on to pay or not? Is it to be written evidence? Very few ministers ever demand in writing when asking for sums of that kind. They are generally done by a parochial call. If it is not going to be written evidence, then I see a great deal of trouble about verbal evidence and even possible sources of irritation arising out of disputes as to whether people have been asked or not. Further, the practice of a particular minister should not be allowed to prejudice the interests of his successors. There are all sorts of complications of that kind and we came to the conclusion that it would be a cleaner job to take a fixed standard and exempt everybody below it. The result would be to exclude all the people whom the right hon. Gentleman proposes to cover by his Amendment, and even more. But there is a further concession which the Government think would also 1038 be fair. There is the case of many of the occupier owners, whose difficulties were referred to, because they found, having bought at the top of the market, that they are rather suffering now. Take, for instance, the tenant owner, the farmer who has bought his farm. In the large majority of these cases the liability for teind does not come under this heading. It will be more than the £2. But it does appear to us that it would be certainly possible, and more fair, to accept the Amendment which is under discussion at the moment, and to limit the field of compulsory redemption to those who are under the £ Some suggestions were made yesterday in regard to why a sum of £2 was taken. My own impression, if not something stronger, is that it had not much to do with the acceptance of constitution of the charge. The real question is, what is, from a business point of view, a practical sum to put as a burden on land, from the point of view of the difficulty of recovery, etc.? The right hon. Gentleman would probably agree that that was the main consideration when the £2 was fixed. So far as I know, it is equally true that the £2 was never fixed as a final figure. It was fixed because it was thought primâ facie that it was a fair figure; but I do not think that the last Government or the present Government ever looked on it as a final figure, if Parliament came to the conclusion that a fairer figure could be arrived at. So far as I know, from the legal point of view, and from the little I know from the business point of view, there can be no great objection to having a burden on land of the amount of 20s., and as thereby you are limiting the area of compulsory redemption the Government also propose to accept the Amendment at present before us. I hope that I have said enough to make clear the intentions of the Government in this matter. I hope very much that, looking at it from a broad point of view, this Committee will agree that the Government proposals are fair and do justice. That is what we all want to see. We shall be pleased if hon. Members can see their way to agree on this basis, and to accept it as being what Parliament, or the Committee anyway, having fairly considered the matter and discussed it from all points of view, think it would be a fair settlement, doing justice to those whose interests are concerned, in the case of 1039 the small heritors, and at the same time doing no injustice to those legal rights of the Church, keeping in view the attitude of the Church in regard to its desire, which I know is to maintain good relations with all those with whom, as a national church, they come in contact in the course of their administrations.
Mr. T. JOHNSTON: We are all indebted to the Lord Advocate for the explanation which he has given, though opinion may differ as to the value of some of the concessions which he has offered. I find it very difficult to follow exactly what was implied by the second part of his concession, and I think that it would be impossible for this Committee fully to appreciate what is meant until it has seen the Amendments in print and has had time to consider them. But there are one or two points on which we might get further information this morning. First of all he told us about the concession which he was giving us on Clause 27, where he was taking £30 off the rent of every heritor before the heritor was taxed for the repair of a manse. That is prior to the manse being taken over by the General Trustee appointed under this Bill. So far so good. A number of very small heritors who appear on the valuation roll at £30 and under will escape, but the man with £31 is still in the soup.
The LORD ADVOCATE: For £1.
Mr. JOHNSTON: The point is: what purpose can be served by the church in endeavouring to continue an assessment upon £1? Suppose I have a cottage on the valuation roll of £31. My first £30 is exempt. The minister in the parish I live in perhaps wants to put electric light in his house or to improve the manse in some way or other prior to it being taken over by the General Trustee. He may want to put it in tenantable repair. Various opinions are held as to what is tenantable repair. I should say a man is entitled to have electric light put in his house if electricity is operating in the neighbourhood. However, let that go. The point is this. However small the repairs may be, I am only to be charged my share upon £1. It may be 1d. or 2d. or 3d.. What purpose can the Church have, in all the trouble and turmoil 1040 which will undoubtedly arise, in attempting to collect that 1d., 2d. or 3d. from me and hundreds of thousands of others in my position. They will never get it. The purpose of stirring up all this trouble over so very little beats me. The Lord Advocate says the loss will fall upon the Church, that is, that there will be voluntary collections to raise the necessary funds to relieve everyone at £30 and under. But over that—I expect the sums will come very small—there will be a tremendous turn-up before the money can be collected. I think it would be far better if the Lord Advocate, or the Church authorities who are considering the matter, had boldly taken their courage in their hands and said "We will not assess anyone at all for the putting of manses into repair prior to those manses being taken over by the general trustees," instead of this half and half method of letting off everyone up to £30 and charging some £1, some £2 and some £3. They will never get the money. I live in a parish where the assessment was levied on people who were on poor relief. The Lord Advocate may not have heard of an extraordinary incident of this kind, of people who were actually on the roll of owners of small cottages. The cottages had fallen certainly into a dilapidated condition, and the local parish council refused to take over the ownership of the property because had they done so they would have been compelled to put it into tenantable repair and sanitary condition. They allowed these people to remain not only in occupancy but on the roll as owners of these dilapidated buildings. Then a new church was to be built. The first proposal was 4s. in the £. Certainly there were deductions after that. There was a tremendous agitation and public meetings were held and the kirk sessions stepped forward and collected so much and the rent heritors made some offers, but actually notices and threats were served upon the people who were in receipt of poor law relief to compel them to pay up a share out of their poor law relief in order to compel them to build a church. I am giving that only as an illustration of what might happen. The Lord Advocate shakes his head. I suppose he would have shaken his head 10 or 15 years ago if I had said it was possible to do in the Kirkintilloch case. But it was attempted. 1041 The amount of trouble the Government and the church will incur by an attempt to levy upon the odd pounds over the £30 is not worth while and he would be well advised to cut the cackle altogether and allow the manses to be repaired by the Church people themselves. On the second point he referred to, he is going, as I understand it, to let people off with less than 1s. Everyone whose charge would be less than 1s. is to be allowed free.
The LORD ADVOCATE: As shown on the teind roll.
Mr. JOHNSTON: What that precisely means I do not know. I do not know what capital sum it means to the small heritors. The Lord Advocate has given us an illustration of what it means in a city parish. What it would mean in a rural parish I do not know, and I think he might give us some further information as to the precise monetary value. How many are going to be caught in the net still? Is it going to be worth their while still to tackle the small man for 1s. 6d. or 2s.? Is it going to be worth the while of the Church in collecting it? We ought to have further information on that point before the Committee agrees to accept the Lord Advocate's concession. As far as Clause 27 is concerned, I intend to oppose any payment whatever being made by any heritors for the putting of these manses into tenantable condition. It is not worth while, and it is bad business from the Church's point of view. He will raise a tremendous storm, and I trust on further consideration he will see that it is not worth his while pressing it.
Mr. KIDD: I think the Committee will have the suspicion that the hon. Member is rather dissembling his love for the Lord Advocate for the concessions which have been made. First of all with regard to the ecclesiastical assessment, his argument would apply equally well if the Lord Advocate had made a concession of £50 or £80 or £100. That being so, what he is asking is not a settlement. The legal liability of the small heritor is beyond all shadow of doubt, but there have been considerations offered, particularly by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Fife (Mr. Adamson), and thoroughly appreciated by the Lord Advocate, and apart altogether from the question of law some 1042 concession, looking to the spirit in which we wish this Bill carried through, might be made to the small heritor. With regard to the teind, every small heritor will be exempt. I think I might challenge any hon. Member opposite to give an individual case of any small heritors he has in mind who will after this concession be liable for teind. With regard to the real rent of the property, £30 surely will exempt everyone for whom this or any Committee could have the sympathy which has induced the concession at all. A man with £31 property gets off with £1, and I think once we get into the region of those figures we are in a region where some respect should be paid for ordinary legal liability and a little less respect should be paid for the feeling which has induced the compromise proposal. There are members on this side who did sympathise with the position in which the small heritor was to be placed by this Bill. They are quite as full of sympathy for the small heritor as any other members of the Committee can be. Speaking for colleagues of my own, we are bound to express our appreciation of the generous consideration the Lord Advocate has shown. Speaking with greater freedom, we can acknowledge not only the fairness but the generosity of the Lord Advocate in making these concessions, which will entirely remove any sense of grievance in the quarter in which grievance might otherwise have been suspected.
Mr. BARR: Like other speakers, I should thank the Lord Advocate at least for the care he has taken in this matter and for his desire to meet us, as far as he might think that possible. I do not propose to speak now on the concessions he has made with a view to Clause 27, because there are Amendments on the Paper which will have to be considered when we come to that point and when we have time to consider them on the Paper. In regard to the matter we are more immediately considering, I do not think the case he put, of St. Cuthbert's, was at all a typical one, because it shows that some £200 of stipend was collected from small heritors. We know that in some parishes it will be a question if even £200 altogether is raised for the minister's stipend through the levies, whether on the large heritors or on the small. Therefore I think the number that he was to show who would be exempted in a case like St. Cuthbert's, while they would apply 1043 in degree to other City churches, do not cover at all the main class of case that we have in view. The exemption is for those who are liable for less than 1s. in payment of stipend out of teind, and we must be thankful for small mercies; but it does not go far to cover the cases we have in view. The hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Kidd) has challenged us to mention cases which would not be covered, and he has expressed himself as if this would meet fill the cases we have in view. I would recall to his recollection that the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. James Brown) raised cases which were very much in our view—the case of the small farmer who has been obliged to acquire his holding and is not at all affected by this concession. The limit seems to be a very low one indeed. It is a very small concession and, though it may affect a large number of small heritors, yet it does not touch those whom we have in mind. The hon. Member for Linlithgow spoke of the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Johnston) as dissembling his love towards the Lord Advocate and his Amendment, but I think the hon. Member for Linlithgow dissembled his love for the small heritor very much. Though he expressed sympathy in that connection yet he went on to say that we had done quite sufficient to meet the case. As to the exemption of those between £1 and £2 from compulsory redemption, that certainly is a more substantial concession. At the same time, we still desire to plead for those who are under £1 and who would be obliged to redeem under this concession; and we wish to emphasise the fact that a very small sum may be quite as heavy a burden on the small man as a very large sum would be on one of the great heritors of the country. I wish the Lord Advocate was in a position to tell us how far he has been able to meet the point put forward yesterday and raised in the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Fife (Mr. Adamson) regarding the imposition of fresh liabilities on those who have not hitherto been roped in at all. I am not referring to those who have not paid the amounts which they were entitled to pay or for which they were levied, but to those who may be roped in under this Bill in large numbers for payments which they were never before called upon to make. 1044 I do not say more at this stage beyond stating that this mode of levying by force the amounts that are to make up the stipends of ministers or to assist in maintaining manses and churches is to many of us very obnoxious, and very far from the principle on which we think a Christian church and Christian men should support their ordinances and their buildings.
Sir HARRY HOPE: At the Committee yesterday there was a considerable, perhaps a general, expression of opinion that some concession should be made to meet the situation. We have heard the Lord Advocate's statement to-day and the question before us is: Do the concessions announced by the Lord Advocate meet the cases which yesterday we had in mind? The hon. Member for Motherwell (Mr. Barr) has stated that the cases cited by my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. James Brown) of small farmers who have bought their farms are not going to be helped in any way. Does not the concession which brings the amount down from £2 to £1 as regards the man who will have to redeem by compulsion meet cases of that kind? I think it is a very valuable concession for small heritors of that class. As regards the feuar—the man who has feued a bit of land and built a cottage upon it—of whom we heard a great deal yesterday, and for whom I have considerable sympathy, if in his case the rent of the cottage is less than £30 he is going to get off. Does that concession not meet a very large body of cases? I think we shall find that under this concession, which I may term Concession No. 2, a very large number of cases throughout Scotland will be met. With reference to the third point made by the Lord Advocate regarding people who are cited on the teind roll at less than one shilling, there again you cut out a large army of people who will not be pestered for or be liable to pay teind. When these concessions are considered and when we have regard to the number of people affected by them, I think the sympathy which many of us expressed yesterday concerning the cases brought forward, can now be said to have been legitimately met. Personally, I think the concessions announced to-day will go a long way to meet public opinion in Scotland and, if we approve of these concessions, we will have done a great deal to make this Measure a workable one, a 1045 practical one and a beneficial one for the Scottish people.
Dr. SHIELS: I also desire to express my appreciation of the concessions which the Lord Advocate has intimated. Whatever our feelings may be as to their extent, at least we must appreciate the spirit in which they are oflered. I certainly think some of them are substantial. I am rather surprised at the solicitude of some of my hon. Friends in regard to the heritors. I have been accused of inconsistency in this Committee, but I think that inconsistency is not confined to me. Here we have a concession that all those below £30 will be excluded or at least that £30 will be deducted. I would remind hon. Members that there are certain large landowners in Scotland, and I have in mind one particular case in which the lands extend from Midlothian to Dumfries, and include 100 parishes and where the annual charge for the upkeep of churches and manses is very large. The point we have often made is that originally there were three burdens on the land—the poor, education, and the Church. The land is gradually being relieved of those burdens. There is a very substantial concession to the heritors in the Bill, in the fact that once the buildings are made habitable the heritors are relieved for all time from responsibility for the upkeep of those buildings. They are simply invited to make one last gesture, to put these buildings into habitable repair and to hand them over, and it seems to me that the suggestions of some of my hon. Friends imply the saving of many hundreds of pounds to the large landowners—a thing which, I am sure, in their more sober moments they would never desire to advocate. I think that the £30 deduction will meet the most pressing cases, and in regard to the matter of the shilling man on the teind roll I, like the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Johnston), would like to have some information as to what that really means and the proportion of small heritors affected. With that reservation I gladly welcome the concessions.
Mr. WILLIAM ADAMSON: Like others, I appreciate very much the spirit in which the Lord Advocate has approached this question. I would remind the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. 1046 Kidd) that it is not a case of dissembling my love for the Lord Advocate. I think the right hon. and learned Gentleman has approached this question with the desire to find a way out, and I think everyone on the Committee is prepared to give him credit for that desire. The statement he has made this morning is a very important one, and I think he will be the first to admit that we should have a little time to examine that statement. It is very difficult for those not thoroughly acquainted with all the technical difficulties which arise in connection with the subject we are discussing to assess the real value of the offer made by the Lord Advocate. I think we ought to adopt the suggestion made by the hon. Member for Dundee and others, and take a little time to look round this matter before coming to a final conclusion. I am not at all sure that the concession to the small heritors, so far as liability for stipend is concerned, will cover all the people whom I had in view in framing my Amendment. The hon. Member for Linlithgow challenged us to produce one case that would not be covered by the concession. I might reverse the process by asking him to assure us that every case is covered, and I do not think he could do so. On the question of the assessment of the small heritor for repairs to churches and manses—not only the assessment of the small heritor but that of the large heritor as well—I think the Lord Advocate would be the first to say that, while he has gone a long way towards finding a settlement, his proposal by no means covers the Amendment to Clause 27, which stands in my name. As he knows, I only put two Amendments on the paper. I attempted to put my finger on two of the real difficulties in the way of a satisfactory settlement. So far as I am personally concerned it is not only a question of money. I assure the Committee that personally I want to see the Church of Christ maintain its position in the national life. That cannot be done if there is to be friction over the settlement which we are now attempting to reach. One of the things that will prevent settlement is any large amount of friction on any of the points emerging from this Bill. I say quite frankly, both to the Lord Advocate as representing the Government, and to the other members of the Com- 1047 mittee, that even if we spend a little more time in the Committee in discussing the business side of the big questions covered by this Bill, the time will be well spent. This is the place where the business side of it ought to be discussed, and this is the body that ought to discuss the business side. Therefore, I hope the Lord Advocate will agree that when we have discussed this point as fully as we can this morning, he should give us more time in order that we may look into the terms of the offer he has made. There is one further question in regard to the small heritor. The Lord Advocate mentioned a sum of less than one shilling. Does that mean that the man whose assessment for stipend is one shilling, is not excluded?
The LORD ADVOCATE: He is not excluded. You must draw the line somewhere.
Mr. ADAMSON: It means those whose assessment is under one shilling.
The LORD ADVOCATE: That is so.
Mr. ADAMSON: If the man's assessment is a shilling, he pays.
The LORD ADVOCATE: Yes. If it is 11½d. he gets off. There are such cases, as the right hon Gentleman knows.
Mr. ADAMSON: There are difficulties arising under the offer which might have been met had provision been made for exclusion up to one shilling or under.
The LORD ADVOCATE: The man whose assessment is under one shilling and a halfpenny would grumble. You must draw the line somewhere.
Mr. ADAMSON: I thought it better to bring up this point. I cannot say whether all the people whom I have in mind will be covered or not, and I should like time to look into it; therefore, I hope that the suggestion of the hon. Member for Dundee will be accepted.
The LORD ADVOCATE: I do not think there can be much doubt in the minds of any Members of the Committee that the present Amendment should be accepted, namely, to reduce the £2 to £1. The proposals that I have made this morning on behalf of the Government do not arise either on Clause 12 or Clause 13, but they do arise at once on Clause 14. I see the reasonableness of asking that time should be given for consideration, and I will get 1048 the Amendments on the Paper in regard to Clause 14 as soon as I can. The Government could not finally settle about this matter until they had heard the full discussion yesterday, because they were very anxious to hear all points of view. If the Committee is prepared to accept the Amendment now before the Committee—there are two manuscript Amendments which are identical, which will follow on Clause 13—we shall not touch this subject again until we come to Clause 14. We might go on with the rest of the Amendments on Clause 12 and Clause 13, but not proceed with the Amendments on Clause 14 to-day.
Mr. BARR: Yesterday I put certain questions to the Lord Advocate, which are to be found in column 125 of the OFFICIAL REPORT, and I should be glad if he could reply to them. The questions arise out of a statement made by the hon. Member for Linlithgow as to the great cost there might be in taking out mortgages, if you were above the £2. That raised the point whether Clause 12, as it now stands, does not automatically fix the land charge, without any taking out of mortgages.
The LORD ADVOCATE: The hon. Member for Motherwell (Mr. Barr) is right as far as the Statute now stands. It is vites statuti—that is, by the force of the Statute itself. It fixes the charge on the land, and there is no necessity, as the Bill stands, for registering.
Question, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause," put, and negatived.
Proposed words there inserted.
Mr. BARR: I beg to move, in Sub-section (1), to leave out the words "permanent and".
The LORD ADVOCATE: I am prepared to accept this Amendment. I think these words are unnecessary, and I do not know how they crept into the Clause. We need not discuss it, as it is a mere matter of phraseology.
Amendment agreed to.
The following Amendment stood on the Order Paper in the name of Mr. BARR: To leave out, in Sub-section (1), the words "General Trustees" and to insert instead thereof the words "minister of the parish holding office at the time of the passing of this Act, and on the occurrence of the first vacancy 1049 thereafter in favour of the Scottish Ecclesiastical Commissioners as hereinafter specified, and such burden shall be."
The CHAIRMAN: I think this Amendment is consequential.
Mr. BARR: This matter was dealt with on a former Clause, but I might have raised it again so that we might have further discussion, but inasmuch as I and those who support me have expressed aversion to these moneys being handed over to the General Trustees of the church, and so appropriated for the church instead of, as they are at present, being under civil control and handed to the minister, I do not think that it is necessary to press the matter further at this time, although probably you would rule the Amendment in order. I will move my next Amendment. I beg to move, in Sub-section (2), to leave out the words "and the said instalments shall be recoverable by the same means and in the like manner as any feu-duty out of the said lands would be recoverable." I attach considerable importance to this Amendment, because you are here taking means to enforce the payment of this land charge in the same way in which a feu-duty may be recovered. That would be either in the Sheriff Court or the Small Debt Court, or it would be by what is known as the irritation of the feu. If it had not been paid for two years you could institute a mode under which the property would be taken over, although I believe anyone can pay up to the last minute. There is a parallel drawn in this Clause between the land charge and the feu-duties. The church to which I belong, if you take its last year's account, had £154,000 invested in feu-duties. Since then further investment has been made, and I think the sum will have reached over £200,000. That, of course, is no parallel at all to this land charge, because the feu-duties have been acquired through the free-will offerings of the people. I do not believe in the church trafficking in feu-duties in that way, because, we know the result of it. My own church, and others, combined in the year 1907 to make an appeal to the Prime Minister. A Committee was then dealing with the question of land values, and there was a threat of a tax on feu-duties. The result was that the deputation came up to London and opposed that land legisla- 1050 tion. The deputation consisted of Lord Overtoun and others. If they do this in the green tree, what will they do in the dry? You are going to put the church by these means in a position of antagonism to the land legislation which is certainly coming in the future. My main point at present is in regard to enforcement. The Lord Advocate has said that these matters are not often put into writing, but I hold in my hands a summons wherein a small heritor, whose farm is entered in the Valuation Roll at £70 per annum, has been summoned for four years in succession before the Small Debt Court for a sum which, according to this summons, is £5 6s. 1d., although the sum varies from year to year. His goods have been impounded and exposed for sale. He has stated very freely his objections to payment. He objects to being compelled to contribute to the upkeep of an established church of which he is not a member, and he objects to being forced to support a form of religion which is not his. He thought that the day had gone by for such enforcement.
The LORD ADVOCATE: Was it for stipend or heritor's assessment?
Mr. BARR: For stipend. I shall be pleased to let the Lord Advocate have the papers, if he cares to see them. In this Bill, you are imposing this land charge, and I do think that you should have regard to conscientious scruples of this kind, and should not put the church to the odium of enforcing in the Small Debt Court or in the Sheriff's Court, and by the process of impounding, the levy that you are here imposing. I should like to read a very appropriate quotation from John Milton in this regard— "Forced consecrations out of another man's estate are no better than forced vows, hateful to God who 'loveth a cheerful giver'; but much more hateful wrung out of men's purses to maintain a disapproved ministry against their conscience; however unholy, infamous, and dishonourable to His ministers and the free gospel, maintained in such manner as by violence and extortion." I desire to press this Amendment, so that we shall not have in Scotland—as we are more likely to have in future than in the past, because the mode under which we are proposing to maintain Christian ordinances is becoming better known—any extension of these processes that have taken place in different parts of the country.1051
The LORD ADVOCATE: The hon. Member has raised two points. First he suggested that there might be an irritation of the feu. I can assure him that, as far as I can read the words of the Clause, it cannot possibly mean the irritation of the feu, which is not a means of recovery of an instalment, but is the forfeiture of the land. It is the feu itself, and could not be appropriate to a charge of this nature. On the other hand, it is essential that if you are going to have a charge on the land, you should have the ordinary means of recovery appropriate to such a charge. That is what this sub-Section proposes to provide. The other point which the hon. Member raised was with regard to the general Statute, exemplified by the case of a gentleman who declined to pay, in respect to stipend, for one year a sum of over £5. Clearly, he is a gentleman of substantial rental.
Mr. BARR: £70.
The LORD ADVOCATE: Otherwise he could not be liable in that amount of
|Division No. 5.]||AYES.|
|Advocate, The Lord||Crookshank, Colonel||Hutchison, Sir Robert|
|Baird, Sir John||Dalkeith, Earl of||Kidd, Mr.|
|Berry, Sir George||Fanshawe, Commander||MacAndrew, Mr.|
|Bethell, Mr.||Harvey, Mr. Charles Barclay-||MacIntyre, Mr.|
|Broun-Lindsay, Major||Henniker-Hughan, Vice-Adm. Sir A.||Mitchell, Sir William Lane|
|Campbell, Mr.||Hope, Sir Harry||Russell, Mr.|
|Charteris, Brigadier-General||Howard, Captain||Shaw, Lieutenant-Colonel A. D.|
|Cochrane, Commander||Hunter-Weston, Lt.-Gen. Sir A.||Sprot, Sir Alexander|
|Couper, Mr. J. B.||Hutchison, Mr. Clark||Steel, Major|
|Craik, Sir Henry|
|Barr, Mr.||Johnston, Mr.||Watson, Mr. Maclean|
|Hardie, Mr.||Maxton, Mr.||Wright, Mr.|
|Henderson, Mr. Thomas||Scrymgeour, Mr.|
The following Amendment stood on the Paper in the name of Mr. BARR: In Sub-section (3) to leave out the words "either (a) for such consideration or in such manner as may be agreed upon between the person liable and the General Trustees, or (b)"
Mr. BARR: I do not propose to divide the Committee on this point, but I object to the general trustees making the bargain as if the matter of the standard charge was really theirs. I think that we should not give them this latitude, but should confine them to definite matters of ascertaining the mode of purchase. You are giving them great latitude and enabling them to make a bargain as if they were dealing with properties and moneys which are theirs, whereas we main-1052
stipend. I cannot see that that has any bearing on the question which this Amendment raises. It seems to me to suggest a general objection to a charge being made on the land at all, and not to the method of recovery of the charge: a matter that we have already discussed at least once. Accordingly, I do not think that any valid objection to the Clause as it stands, as regards this particular part, has been, made by the hon. Member, and I hope that the Committee will not accept the Amendment.
Mr. JOHNSTON: The Lord Advocate has given us an assurance that under Sub-section (2) of Clause 1 there shall be no irritation of the feu. Can he give an equal guarantee that there shall be no irritation of the feuar?
Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."
The Committee divided: Ayes, 28; Noes, 8.
tain that they are national properties and should be conserved in future not only for the payment of stipends now, but for public purposes for which we hold they are chargeable, and to which they should be applied.
The CHAIRMAN: Then you do not move any of the Amendments to Clause 12 which are consequential on this Amendment?
Mr. BARR: No.
Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.
A standard charge shall from its constitution continue a real burden on the whole 1053 of the lands subject thereto, and on every part of those lands notwithstanding any disposition of the lands or any part thereof unless and until intimation of an allocation of the standard charge has been made in writing by the General Trustees and the disponer or his representatives to the Clerk of Teinds, who upon receiving such an intimation shall forthwith make the necessary entry in the teind roll.
If as the result of any such allocation the portion of a standard charge so allocated upon the lands disponed or remaining a real burden on the lands retained by the disponer does not exceed two pounds; the disponer or his representatives shall within three months after the date of the entry in the roll redeem the same by payment to the General Trustees of a sum equal to the amount so allocated or remaining a burden multiplied by twenty; and if the portion of the standard charge so allocated or remaining a burden exceeds two pounds but is less than fifteen pounds, that portion of the standard charge shall as from the date of the entry in the teind roll be increased by five per centum.
The following Amendment stood on the Paper in the name of Mr. BARR: After the word "constitution" to insert the words "save as hereinafter provided."
I suggested these words so as to safeguard ourselves in regard to the small heritor, not the small heritor who is under £2, but the small farmers of whom we have been speaking, and who have part of those lands in regard to which there is to be allocation. But I think this will come up in connection with an Amendment later on the Paper. I just wish to elicit from the Lord Advocate how far this new allocation of standard will rope in all, whether they have made payments before or have been called on for payments before.
The LORD ADVOCATE: I do not quite follow the hon. Member's question, but, as I conceive it, if an allocation splits up the liability it will make the parties who are liable on the allocation liable separately for the first time, because they have not been previously liable. They have not been called on before. This only arises in a case where the estate is sold in small lots, and it is desirable to allocate the stipend so that each of these small people shall not be liable for the whole, which is the result until the allocation takes place. Allocation is all in the interests of the purchasers because the liability is, by the allocation, limited to a fixed part of the total. Until the allocation they are liable for the whole, 1054 with the right of relief against the others. I do not understand the hon. Member's difficulty. Does the hon. Member move?
Mr. BARR: No.
Amendment made: Leave out the words "two pounds" ("two pounds the disponer"), and insert instead thereof the words "one pound."—[The Lord Advocate.]
The following Amendment stood on the Paper in the name of Mr. BARR: Leave out the word "shall" ("representatives shall within"), and insert instead thereof the word "may."
Mr. BARR: I leave that out in consistence with the other Amendment, but I do not wish to press it because it might, operate in favour of the small holders or it might just as well operate against them. Therefore, while I desire consistently to carry through this matter of redemption not being compulsory on any heritor, inasmuch as alterations have been made as to those liable for compulsory redemption, and as this may operate in both ways, I do not move the Amendment. The following Amendment stood in the name of Mr. BARR: Leave out the words "and if the portion of the standard charge so allocated or remaining a burden exceeds two pounds but is less than fifteen pounds, that portion of the standard charge shall as from the date of the entry in the teind roll be increased by five per centum."
Mr. BARR: My object was to have it made clear by the Lord Advocate whether this 5 per cent. is additional to the 5 per cent. imposed under the second Clause of the Bill? I understand that in cases of this kind there is 5 per cent. customarily imposed, and I am wondering whether you should impose an additional 5 per cent. in view of the fact that under Clause 2 you have already imposed 5 per cent.
The LORD ADVOCATE: I rather demur again to the suggestion that the 5 per cent. in Clause 2 was an additional imposition. As I explained previously, it was a method of arriving at an average. It was argued on one side that 50 years' average brought out too little, and on the other side it was maintained that it was fair. A compromise was arrived at, and it was agreed that instead of taking 1055 the proceeds of a lesser number of years, which would have brought it to something higher, the simple way was to modify the 50 years by adding 5 per cent. What we are dealing with here is a different matter. The reason of the 5 per cent. is the extra cost caused by splitting up feu duty, etc., and your security is less. This is based on previous Parliamentary precedents. In the Conveyancing Act, 1874, there is provisions by which feu duty is split up and 5 per cent. is added. This has nothing to do with the original calculations as to what average you are to take for the liability of stipend.1056
Amendment made: Leave out the words "two pounds" ("exceeds two pounds but"), and insert instead thereof the words "one pound."—[The Lord Advocate.]
Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.
The LORD ADVOCATE: This is as far as we can get to-day, and I beg to move "That the Committee do now adjourn."
Question put, and agreed to.
Adjourned accordingly at Twenty-seven Minutes past Twelve, till Tuesday, 17th March, at Eleven o'Clock.
THE FOLLOWING MEMBERS ATTENDED THE COMMITTEE:
Sir Cyril Cobb (Chairman)
Adamson, Mr. William
Advocate, The Lord
Baird, Sir John
Berry, Sir George
Couper, Mr. J. B.
Craik, Sir Henry
Dalkeith, Earl of
Harvey, Mr. Charles Barclay-
Henderson, Mr. Thomas
Henniker-Hughan, Vice-Admiral Sir A.
Hope, Sir Harry
Hunter-Weston, Lieut.-General Sir A.
Hutchison, Mr. Clark
Hutchison, Sir Robert
Mitchell, Mr. Stephen
Mitchell, Sir William Lane
Shaw, Lieutenant-Colonel A. D.
Sprot, Sir Alexander
Stewart, Mr. James
Watson, Mr. Maclean