HC Deb 06 August 1833 vol 20 cc390-1
Mr. Halford

said, he rose to bring forward a Motion of which he had given notice, and the object of which was to rescind the order made in the month of May last. That was an order upon the Corporation of the Borough of Leicester, to lay before the House certain Returns relative to the amount of the income of some property left for charitable purposes, under the will of Sir Thomas White, in 1556, and also relative to the manner in which that income was expended. The value of those funds depended on the respectability of those to whom they were intrusted, and those trustees were amenable to the Court of Chancery for any abuses of which they might be guilty. If any evils existed, the Court of Chancery was the place in which to seek for the remedy against the trustees of a charity, and not in the arbitrary interference of this House. Besides this, these trustees might be called to account before the Boards of Commissioners acting under the authority of the Act passed to regulate charities, which Act was in full operation. In his opinion the trustees ought not to comply with this order, and he hoped the House would not think of confirming it. The charity was directed to assist individuals by the loans of money. These individuals were generally tradesmen, to whom such assistance was sometimes of the utmost importance, and whose names it would be invidious to disclose in the manner now required. He trusted, therefore, that the House would not exert its authority in this matter, which was only brought forward to gratify a turbulent faction in a country town. He moved that the order be rescinded.

Mr. William Evans

observed, that his constituents wished to know the manner in which these funds were administered, and they had good reason to do so. The property was supposed to amount to 15,000l., which was lent out in sums of 100l. each, to different individuals; and it was payable only at the end of nine years, and then without interest. Application had been made to the Court of Chancery, and twenty-seven years ago an order for an account of all the names of the persons to whom these loans had been made was granted by that Court, but no information had yet been obtained. An order of that House, of a similar kind, in 1828, had been equally unavailing. The general feeling of the people of Leicester was, that these loans were not made impartially as Sir Thomas White would have required but were employed for the purpose of keeping up a political influence in the town; and that by them such influence had, in fact, been kept up. The Corporation had more than once proved that they knew how to meddle with election matters. He should, therefore, press the House to reject the Motion of the hon. Member.

Sir James Scarlett

was convinced that if the attention of the House could have been fully drawn to the order at the time it was moved, the order never would have been made. The House could not grant it without an improper interference with private property. If the trustees had been guilty of abusing their trust, the Court of Chancery, and not that House was the place in which to call them to account. No tribunal could be worse fitted for doing impartial justice in the case than the House of Commons, and he implored the Members not to set so dangerous a precedent. The Motion had his hearty support.

Mr. Hume

said, that no Corporation had more misapplied its funds for political purposes than that of Leicester, and all that was wanted was full information. The House of Commons was the fittest channel for obtaining that information. It really seemed as if the Corporation was afraid of inquiry, and, therefore, did not like to produce the papers. All that was needed were facts, without the intervention of the Court of Chancery.

The Attorney General

reminded the House, that the funds, the distribution of which was to be inquired into, were not corporate, but private property. Every day a Court of Equity dealt with, and decided such questions, and the parties were put to their oaths upon the subject. The House could not take into its hands the administration of charities, which belonged to the functions of a Court of Justice. If the Corporation of Leicester mal-administered the funds, it was liable to an information ex officio by the Attorney General, who could not, without the risk of condign punishment, refuse his sanction to such a proceeding. This course would both reach and remedy the evil, if any existed. The Commissioners of charities would soon examine into the subject, and expose the abuses of the charity.

Mr. Wynn Ellis

contended, that this charity was a public trust, and that the House ought, therefore, so far to interfere as to order the documents to be produced.

Motion negatived.

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