I beg to move, " That the Lords Amendments he now considered."
The House will notice that the Lords have sent this Bill back to us with no alteration whatever in any important feature. Apart from matters of drafting or definition there are only two Amendments, one to make uniform the dates for the collection of tithe, and the other to correct an error that was made in this House owing to a misunderstanding. Therefore I will, when the time comes, move in each case to accept the Lords Amendments.
I beg to move "That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment."
This is in substitution for Clause 9, which in due course we shall move to leave out. The object of Clause 9 was to synchronise the collection of ecclesiastical tithe rent charge. It was pointed out in another place that if two-thirds of the tithe rent charge were collected on 1st April and 1st October of each year it would be more convenient that the remaining third should also be collected on those dates. These dates were discussed in the Standing Committee upstairs, and the Committee came to the conclusion that the two quarter days I have mentioned were the most suitable, and this Clause merely extends that decision to the whole of the tithe rein-charge.
This is a very valuable Amendment, but it is rather more than drafting. Under the Bill as it originally stood there were three series of deductions to be made from the tithe payable to an incumbent. The first was the cost of collection, that is the percentage charged for collecting the tithe, the second was the cost of administration, which of course means a very heavy matter of clerks and so forth, and Queen Anne's Bounty, and thirdly the cost of pooling. An undertaking was given, which one is very grateful for, that the cost of administration should be defrayed by Queen Anne's Bounty, and as it was inconvenient to do that here, that it should be put in in another place. But that is not quite what has been put in. The omission of these words is an improvement, but at a later period they say that when Queen Anne's Bounty choose to delegate the powers of administration, which would include the very expensive procedure of pooling the tithe, and put it into the hands of the local committee, which it is rather intended they should do, a fresh Amendment, of which this forms part, is put in this Bill, and it is said this cost of administration shall not be paid by Queen Anne's Bounty but shall fall upon the incumbent, just as it was before. Therefore the concession that was promised us has really not been carried out by this series of Amendments. The promise was that the only charge to be left to the incumbent was the cost of collection and, of course, the other deductions that were necessary to be made, and the cost of administration was to be found elsewhere. I think my hon. and learned Friend is raising the same point by an Amendment to the latter part of the Lords Amendment, but I thought it right to raise it now lest it might be thought I was accepting it.
I think it might be move convenient to raise this on the late Solicitor-General's Amendment. In this position it is wrong. This was originally dealt with on Clause 4, where the words " expenses of administration " were left out, and the deduction for that particular cost could no longer be made, and this omission is to carry out the undertaking; that the Bill would be examined, and as a matter of drafting all other references to the cost of administration should be left out.
Lords. Amendment: In page 16, line 33, at the end, insert:
The expression 'costs of collection' in-eludes all costs and expenses incurred by a committee constituted for a collection area in the exercise of any of the powers (whether of collection or management), and of the performance of any of the duties delegated to the committee:
The expression total income in relation to a benefice means the total income arising from the benefice estimated in accordance with the provisions of the Income Tax Acts for the preceding income tax year, but so that where the incumbent of a benefice holds more than one benefice (whether united for ecclesiastical purposes or not so united) it shall mean the sum of the total incomes, estimated as aforesaid, arising from the several benefices."
as they appear in the Lords Amendment, include not only the costs of collection but the costs of management as well. As
I understand the position, we were given at a certain stage of this Bill what we all realised to be a very valuable concession, for which I hope we were truly grateful. That concession was that the costs of the administration of the Measure should not come out of the funds which would come from the tithe but should be met by the other funds of the Queen Anne's Bounty. So far so good, but when we turn to Clause 10, we find that Queen Anne's Bounty is given power to constitute a committee for each collection area. So far we make no complaint, neither do we complain of the fact that representation is given on these local collection committees to representatives of the incumbents of benefices within, the collection area: but the Clause goes on to provide that
there shall be delegated to the committee all the powers of Queen Anne's Bounty in relation to the collection of tithe rent-charge"—
The difficulty which arises, after the concession which has been given to the priest, is obvious. We do not know exactly how much of the powers of Queen Anne's Bounty are going to Le delegated to these committees, but we do know that whatever may be the cost to the local committees of the powers of management which may be delegated, they become under the definition which has been put in by the House of Lords, part of the costs of collection, because costs of collection include costs of management. In other words, that means expenses of management which are passed from the Queen Anne's Bounty to the committees.
The concession which the clergy have obtained is that so long as the matter is dealt with directly by Queen Anne's Bounty, the costs of administration of the fund shall not be borne by the clergy but under the Lords Amendment, those costs become part of the burden which is to be borne out of the clergy fund. The liability of the clergy will depend upon an accident whether the fund is administered by Queen Anne's Bounty or administered by the local committees. If it is administered by Queen Anne's Bounty they will not be liable for the costs of administration and manage- ment; those costs will not fall upon the clergy fund; but if by some accident or by design, as I hope may be the case, a large amount of the work is delegated to the committees, then the costs of administration and management will fall upon the clergy fund, unless my Amendment is accepted. That is the effect of including in the costs of collection the costs of management.
We are not holding a blunderbuss at the Government, because from our experience in these matters we know that it. would probably kick in our direction. But I am appealing to the Government, who have given us the concession that the costs of central administration shall be borne by Queen Anne's Bounty, shall now say that that shall apply just the same when the committees are acting, and not Queen Anne's Bounty. That result can be effected simply by leaving the words " costs of collection " as they stand in the Lords Amendment, and leaving out the dubious words " whether of collection or management." I cannot see why we should necessarily include in the costs of collection the costs of management. Several Amendments have been moved in the last few minutes to exclude the costs of administration of Queen Anne's Bounty when dealing with the fund, and it is not unreasonable to ask that when a committee is dealing with the matter, and not Queen Anne's Bounty, that Queen Anne's Bounty should also bear the costs of collection.
The object of the hon. and learned Member's Amendment is that Queen Anne's Bounty should definitely be charged with the obligation of bearing the cost of local management. I gladly recognise that Queen Anne's Bounty have made a valuable concession in bearing the costs .of central management, but I am afraid we cannot reasonably ask them to go further. We put these words in to make it quite clear that the cost of these local committees under Clause 10 are to be met out of the tithe rent charge, and are not to be reckoned as part of the central costs of management which, by Queen Anne's Bounty's own concession, are to be paid out of their funds. I think the general application of these costs of management has been rather exaggerated by the hon. and learned Member, because under
Clause 10 he will see that these are only costs of
collection of tithe rent charge and such of their powers of management in relation thereto
as Queen Anne's Bounty shall think fit to delegate to the local committees. Therefore, it is only management in connection with the costs of collection, and not the costs of management generally. The cost of the distribution of the fund, the redemption of the fund or the investment of the fund—none of these functions apart from the actual cost of managing the collection would be thrown upon the local committee. The hon. and learned Member has welcomed the concession on the part of Queen Anne's Bounty.
Many of us have felt, as the hon. Member has felt, that it was desirable to get rid of any suspicion of a new bureaucracy being set up. After that attitude, I think it is somewhat unreasonable to ask that Queen Anne's Bounty, having made that concession, should be asked to pay for the cost of local administration. They have not got funds available for this heavy charge, and I do not think it would be in any way reasonable or just to ask them to go further.
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for what he. has said. I do not think he has quite grasped the. seriousness of this matter for the clergy. As he has just said, it will be a heavy cost, and to poor clergymen it is a very serious matter. The clergyman pays for the cost of collection, which may go up to 3, 4 or 5 per cent., but by this Bill he will have to pay something more, and the poor clergyman feels that very seriously. My right hon. Friend has said, and I hope he is right in saying it, that there is no power to delegate any part of the management to the local committees. I should gather that he got that view from the suggestion of one of the Law Officers, namely, the Solicitor-General, that there is no power in Queen Anne's Bounty to delegate to the local committees any power of management except management in connection with collection.
I gather that my hon. and learned Friend assents to that. If that be so, it removes one of my great grievances. The heavy cost of administration will be that of the pool which has been arranged. The question of pooling the tithe will be a very heavy matter in regard to cost, and I want it to be made perfectly clear that the costs of administering the pool, that is, dividing the monies amongst these various people throughout England or throughout the particular districts, and levelling down the tithe which is payable to each particular person, cannot be delegated to the local committees; and that the costs of administering that, which will represent a very heavy item, will not be put upon the parson. I hope the House will see the enormous importance of this point.
When we were discussing this matter before, the important point was that the tithe was to be pooled, so that a person who got good tithe and got his full £100 should not get that, but that it should be pooled with that of his neighbour, who, perhaps, only got £60 of his tithe. The calculations in regard to that are very complicated, and must be very expensive to carry out. These are costs of administration and not costs of collection. It is these costs which I am frightened about, and it was these costs, which I was afraid might come upon the clergy, which made me support the Amendment of my hon. and learned Friend. If they were to fall upon the clergy it would be a very serious matter. If the Solicitor-General tells me that that is not so, I shall be perfectly content to ask my hon. and learned Friend to withdraw his Amendment.
I think from what has been said that it will not be thought in any way that Queen Anne's Bounty has gone back on the very valuable concession which it made in connection with the administration of those funds. The position is perfectly clear. Queen Anne's Bounty has undertaken to pay all the administrative expenses in connection with the funds which are incurred at headquarters. That is to say, that when once the funds are collected and paid into Queen Anne's Bounty, all the, expenses of investment, of redemption, paving over in connection with rates, etc., will be incurred and paid by Queen Anne's Bounty, and will not be a charge upon the tithe owner. The expenses before the money is received by Queen Anne's Bounty, that is to say, expenses incurred by the local collecting committees should be borne by those committees.
With respect to the addition of the words "or management," as far as I understand them, they are not intended in any way to add to what was previously intended by the word "collection." It has been held that there may be some small expenses, but I think they will be very small, apart from the actual collection, in connection with the provision of maps and the carrying out of survey, and matters of that sort, which are required to bring the collection into proper order at the start. These expenses are covered by the words " or management." I am sure that the Bill does not in any way contemplate that there should be the delegation of additional administrative powers to the local committees, and doss not in any way relieve Queen Anne's Bounty of the concession which that Bounty has already made. I hope the matter has been made perfectly clear as between the central and local administration, that the central expenses will be defrayed by Queen Anne's Bounty, while the whole costs of collection locally, including, if so arranged, the cost of pooling these collections locally, will be borne locally and will be a charge upon the fund.
I agree with the hon. and gallant Member's explanation of Clause 11. The local committees will be responsible for the cost of their own administration; they will pay the expenses of their own local pool. They will, however, be relieved of all costs in connection with the investment and management of the balances which they send up to London.