HC Deb 07 April 1843 vol 68 cc738-43
Sir G. Grey

in rising to move in pursuance of the notice he had given for leave to bring in a bill for the better application of certain charitable trusts for purposes of education, did not intend to enter into the general question of education which had already occupied the attention of the House during the present Session, and respecting which future opportunities for discussion would arise. At this late hour he would only state as briefly as possible the object which he had in view in the present bill, and the grounds upon which the bill was founded. The object was simply to render applicable to purposes of education a large amount of funds in the aggregate, but scattered over the country in small sums, originally appropriated to education; but now, either from the small amount of the fund in particular cases, from the failure of trustees, from the terms of the original endowment, or from some other cause incapable of being usefully applied to the important object for which they were intended. Of the existence of such funds in one who had directed his attention to this subject could entertain a doubt, but the most ample evidence respecting it had been collected in two valuable pamphlets recently published, one by Mr. Hine, who for many years filled the office of secretary to the commissioners for inquiry into charities, and in that capacity had the opportunity of acquiring greater experience, perhaps, than any other individual as to their charities. The other by Mr. Eagle, who was himself one of the commissioners. As to the amount of such funds, Mr. Eagle states that— An approximation to the probable amount of strictly educational funds may be made by a reference to the digest of the reports of the Charity Commissioners, published in 1835. The sum at that time appeared to be—

£ s. d.
For Endowed Schools 180,309 12 5
For other Schools 16,938 17 5
Total Income 197,248 9 10
The aggregate amount of charitable funds for all purposes at that time, inquired into by the commissioners, being 748,178l. 5s. 9d., and the whole being estimated as at least 1,000,000l., if the educational funds be taken to bear the same proportion at at the former period, they will not amount to much less than 250,000l., per annum."

This two, is exclusive of various institutions which were exempted from the inquiry, such as the two universities, public schools and other charities, of the charities investigated by the commissioners, Mr. Hine states—

The smaller charities by which I mean those whose incomes range from 1l. to 20l., form a very large proportion of the whole number, these are peculiarly liable to some of the evils I shall have occasion hereafter to point out, and for those evils they are in effect altogether without means of redress. The evils here adverted to, in fact, render such charities almost useless, Mr. Eagle says—

The reports of the inspectors appointed by the committee of the Privy Council on education will satisfy those who feel an interest in the matter, that the present application of educational funds derived from the smaller charities, is in general so lamentably defective as to tend to injure rather than otherwise those whom it was intended to benefit, and that some alteration with respect to them has became a matter of absolute necessity. And he adds that—

Utterly inefficient as their funds are for all useful purposes in their present state, they would form in the aggregate a most valuable addition to Parliamentary grants. At present the terms of the endowment in many cases precluded trustees who were anxious to employ the charity funds advantageously, from applying them in support of schools established with the aid of the Parliamentary grant administered by the Committee of Council, and consesequently they remained unapplied to any useful purpose, the Court of Chancery being the only tribunal which can be resorted to for the regulation of charitable trusts, and the expense of an application to that court being a complete bar in many cases to any remedy. One common case was, that of a failure of trustees, no power, perhaps, of keeping up the succession of trustees having been contained in the original grant, or never having been acted on, so that the property had become legally vested in some unknown representative of an original trustee, and no new appointment could be made except by the Court of Chancery. Upon this point, Mr. Hine states:—

The most general and prominent evil by which charities are affected is the want of an easy and inexpensive mode of keeping up the succession of trustees. It often happens that the instrument of foundation omits to make provision for such succession, and when it does make it, and the donor has empowered a given number of surviving trustees to nominate others to fill up the trust, the nomination is generally deferred till the prescribed number of trustees no longer exist, when if an appointment is made it is invalid, but more commonly no appointment is made at all. This occurs either through inadvertence, or because the funds of the charities are too small to bear the expense of a conveyance or transfer to the new trustees. Rent charges of which a very great proportion of the endowments of charities consists, and which are frequently below 10l. in annual amount, are especially subject to this evil. The reports of the commissioners teem with instances of such gifts, and it may be safely asserted, that except where they form part of a larger endowment, the succession of trustees is hardly ever kept up; the consequence is, that these charities are at the mercy of the owner of the property, out of which they issue who may withhold the payment with impunity. In addition to this evil affecting their smaller charities generally, another had arisen from the operation of the Municipal Corporation Act, which is also pointed out by Mr. Hine, he says—

By the 71st section of the municipal corporation set, persons who at its passing were trustees of charities is their corporate character wave constituted trustees in their individual character, till the 1st of August, 1836, but their estate interest and title, and their power were immediately thereupon utterly to cease and determine, and it was provided that if Parliament should not otherwise direct before that day, the Lord Chancellor should make such orders as he should see fit for the administration of the trust estates. No provision for the case having been made by Parliament, applications were after the 1st of August made by petition to the Lord Chancellor relative to charities in many corporate towns, and under his Lordship's directions, appointments of trustees of the several charities took place, but the property belonging to them has not been conveyed to such trustees by reason of doubt in whom it was legally vested, and by whom conveyances could be made. Much inconvenience has consequently been felt. In other towns the property of the charities was two small in amount to bear the expense of applications to the Lord Chancellor, they have therefore remained Since August 1836, without the protection of any regularly appointed trustees. He would only add one other passage from Mr. Hine's pamphlet on the question of expense to show the inadequacy of the present remedy for the cases to which he had adverted. He says—

When the Court of Chancery is resorted to to effect the appointment of trustees, the expense of the proceedings including that of a conveyance to the to can hardly be estimated at leas than 50l. or 60l., even in a simple case, and one where the defect of trustees is of recent origin, but where no appointment has taken place perhaps for a century, the expenses may be immediately augmented. He was aware that the evils thus clearly pointed oat in the passages which he had read, affected all charities, and not only those for educational purposes, and he felt that a remedy was required in other cases. Suggestions had before been offered to Parliament with a view to provide such a remedy, particularly by Lord Brougham, but fully admitting the importance and necessity of some general measure, he (Sir G. Grey) wished now to confine himself to a particular class of charities, namely, those of email individual amount and limited to educational purposes. He thought that these cases were most urgent, and at the same time moat easily admitted of a remedy. The measure which he should propose would require no new machinery. He proposed to avail himself of the Committee of Council on education, which might be properly made use of for this purpose. It was a body to whom was entrusted the general superintendence of education aided by Parliamentary grants, it was composed of individuals holding high official stations, and directly responsible to Parliament for the due discharge of their duties, they possessed means of instituting local inquiries and of communicating with parties as to each case which might come before them, they could command the advice and assistance of the law officers of the Crown, and they were in personal communication with the highest legal authority, the Lord Chancellor. He, therefore proposed that in certain cases which would be specified in the bill, a scheme might be laid before her Majesty in Council for the better application of charitable trusts for education, which scheme might be adopted with or without modifications, and that when adopted it should regulate the future administration of the trust. He proposed a similar provision with regard to the appointment of new trustees, and in accordance with the existing practice in some cases, it would be provided that upon the approval by her Majesty in Council of any scheme for this purpose, the trust property should be at once vested in the new trustees without any conveyance. He proposed that such schemes should be laid before the Privy Council only by certain parties, namely, some trustee of the property, or some person in the possession or management of it, or having an interest in its due application, to whom, in order to check any improper interference, he should add her Majesty's Attorney-general, making his concurrence in every case requisite to any scheme to be submitted to Her Privy Council. He felt that this brief statement of the provisions of the proposed bill would be sufficient on the present occasion; and he did not anticipate any objection to his motion, "for leave to bring in a bill for the better application of certain charitable trusts for purposes of education."

Sir James Graham

, in giving his assent to the introduction of the bill, wished to guard himself from misconstruction. The object of the bill was a good one, and he was willing further to admit that a necessity existed for legislating on the subject, though the subject was attended with much difficulty. He was not, however, prepared to admit the distinction drawn by the right hon. Gentleman between charitable trusts for educational purposes and all other charitable trusts. He was of opinion, this view of the subject was a too limited one, and he thought that the process recommended by the right hon. Gentleman might be made of a more simple and efficient character. He merely rose for the purpose of guarding against any misconception as to the assent of Government in allowing the bill to be introduced.

Leave given.

House adjourned at one o'clock.