HC Deb 07 March 1828 vol 18 cc1056-8
Mr. Secretary Peel

observed, that on a former evening an hon. member had put a question to him with the view of eliciting some information respecting the labours of the commission appointed to inquire into the abuses of charities, and at the same time the hon. member expressed an opinion, that the reports made by the commissioners were inoperative, and, as it were, a dead letter. At the time the question was proposed, he had stated his impression, that in every instance in which the commissioners thought it desirable that the attention of the Court of Chancery should be called to any charge of abuse, the Attorney-General had directions to attend immediately to their wishes. Upon inquiry he had found that such in fact was the arrangement. In order to prevent unnecessary correspondence, it had been arranged between the Secretary of State and the commissioners, that the latter should have the power of making direct application to the Attorney-General; who in his turn was authorized to institute proceedings immediately. In 1824, he had moved for a return of the number of counties to which the commissioners had extended their labours, and the number of causes which had been instituted by the Attorney-general in connexion therewith. He thought the best course he could pursue was, to move for a return of a similar nature respecting the period which had intervened from 1824 to the present time. An hon. member had on a former evening objected to the expensive nature of the Reports which had proceeded from the commission; but he should have recollected that the commissioners were obliged to go into great detail; it being the object for which they were appointed to produce a permanent record of the funds of each charity, in order that it might be seen that they were fairly applied. He was of opinion that extensive benefit had resulted from the labours of the commissioners and the Attorney-general. The right hon. gentleman concluded with moving for a return of the nature he had stated.

Mr. Brougham

seconded the motion. There certainly was, he said, in many commissions, a great tendency to slumber in their proceedings; although appointed for temporary purposes, they enjoyed a good revenue, and did little work, just enough to serve as a pretence for continuing their appointment. That observation, however, did not apply to the commission in question. He concurred in what had fallen from the right hon. gentleman respecting the reports of the commission. What parliament wanted was a registration of the rights of the poor, a distinct declaration of the objects of the various charities in the kingdom, in order that every person who had a right under the endowments, might at once be able to claim it. The cheapest mode of registration was by means of the press. Many hundreds of copies of the commissioners' reports had been spread over the country; and in various places, portions of those reports had been reprinted, to make all mankind acquainted with the contents. He considered the reprinting of parts of the reports a very judicious proceeding, and was desirous that some plan should be devised for doing it more frequently. Of this he was satisfied, that the labours of the commission had caused the correction of many abuses which had arisen in charities; frequently, he would admit, from ignorance, but very often from unworthy causes. When, in travelling over different parts of the country, he saw houses rising connected with charitable estates, which bore the date, not of 1720, but the more recent one of 1821, he could not avoid guessing that their erection was not unnaturally connected with the inquiries of the commissioners. He bore no responsibility on his shoulders with respect to the appointment of commissioners. Some of the appointments were, he thought, very injudicious, but altogether, in the performance of their duties, they had fully answered his expectations: nay, they had exceeded them. He trusted he should have no more objections to the voluminous reports of the commissioners, because he considered it absolutely necessary that they should include statements of great detail. Those reports contained much curious and interesting information for the historian and antiquary. This species of information was frequently selected for the use of the public at large, and published in a detached form.

The motion was agreed to.