HC Deb 29 July 1846 vol 88 cc184-7

said, he was quite willing to postpone this Bill if Her Majesty's Government would undertake to bring in a measure on the subject. The question was, however, one of so much importance, that he was unwilling to let his Bill drop without a distinct pledge on the part of the Government that it would be proceeded with. He wished the House would allow the Bill to go through Committee pro formâ, in order to give him an opportunity of printing some Amendments which he wished to introduce in it. The hon. Member concluded by moving, that the Speaker do leave the chair to go into Committee on the Charitable Trusts Bill.


hoped that the hon. Gentleman would not proceed with the Bill at present, as many hon. Members had absented themselves under the impression that it would not come on, and also as his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department had not yet arrived.


said, he would have no objection to postpone his Motion until the right hon. Baronet took his seat.


said, he wished to take that opportunity of stating some of his objections to this Bill. He thought that a Bill less worthy of being concocted by the two hon. Gentlemen whose names appeared on the back of it, and with less appearance of having been revised by a learned lawyer, who he understood had revised it, had never come before the House. It was entitled, "A Bill for procuring regular accounts of all Property secured for Charitable Purposes in England;" but he thought it went much farther than that title would lead one to suppose. He apprehended that, as it at present stood, it included the universities, the royal hospitals, and all voluntary societies; that it comprised in its provisions the 40,000 chapels and schools connected with the Dissenting interests, as well as every school connected with the Established Church; and that it went down from those who had 100,000l. a year to administer, to the churchwarden who distributed 20s. in a loan to poor widows at Whitsuntide. He believed that the Bill was not worth the paper on which it was written, for it gave no penalty against a churchwarden or head of a bible society who should resist its provisions; and he would therefore beg leave to move as an Amendment that the House do resolve itself into a Committee on this Bill on that day six months.


understood, that during his unavoidable absence from the House, his hon. Friend had consented to postpone this Bill, on the understanding that the matter would be taken up by Her Majesty's Government. He had spoken to his noble and learned Friend the Lord Chancellor on this subject, and he trusted that early next Session the Government would be prepared to introduce a Bill, and to state the course which they intended to adopt. He trusted, therefore, that his hon. Friend would now allow them to proceed with the other business on the Paper.


hoped the Government would be prepared with a measure on this important subject next Session. He was very sorry that the Member for the University of Oxford should be the person to oppose inquiry into the manner in which these trusts had been fulfilled. The right hon. Baronet might, however, rest assured that the people of this country would have an account of the manner in which charitable trusts were administered. He could tell the hon. Baronet of charities in which nine-tenths of the funds were expended for purposes which the founders never contemplated. He could mention cases in which those who were interested in the management of charities put nine-tenths of the income of the charities into their own pockets, instead of applying the funds to the purposes for which they were intended. Let an inquiry be instituted, and the House of Commons would see how necessary an enactment of this sort really was.


said, he thought he had distinctly stated already, not only that the Government would consider the question, but that it would be, early next Session, prepared with a measure on the subject. Without entering into any of the details at present, which, he thought, could not be expected from him, he had no hesitation in saying that his own impression was, that the principle of any Bill brought in ought to be the principle of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Montrose, namely, the principle of accountability. To that principle he was prepared to give his support.


was perfectly satisfied with the assurance of the right hon. Baronet as to the determination of Her Majesty's Government to introduce a measure next Session. He would beg to offer but one suggestion to the right hon. Gentleman, and that was, that some means should be devised as a speedy and cheap mode of adjusting all disputes arising in the administration of these charities.


thought the hon. Gentleman had exercised a wise discretion, after the assurance of the Government, in withdrawing the Bill. The principle that all parties in whom was vested any charitable trust, or who acted in the administration of any charities, should render an account of the way in which they disposed of the funds entrusted to them, appeared to him fair and just. One of the objects which would be gained, if the Bill passed, might be furthered, perhaps, by the Government in the interval before the next Session. The advantage of accounts would very much depend upon the uniformity of the form in which they were made. The right hon. Gentleman might in the recess take the accounts of eight or ten charitable institutions, and he would then see the sources from which the revenue was derived, and so make something like a general form; for the clearness and utility of the accounts would very much depend on the mode in which the different items were specified. He recollected that in the Banking Committee there were returns ordered from the bankers of their assests and liabilities; and yet from the returns of such a body it was impossible that any inference could be drawn, in consequence of the different forms in which the returns were made, and the different particulars included under the term "assets." But if the right hon. Gentleman would, in the recess, look to the different accounts, and have a form drawn up which would be perfectly clear and comprehensible, he would avoid errors, and the accounts would be intelligible when they were presented to the House.


said, the right hon. Baronet had commended what was the most objectionable part of the Bill, for he would include the accounts of all voluntary associations. He did not object to the principle of accountability for public money; but he did object to any accounting for private funds; and he hoped that Her Majesty's present Government, reinforced with all the strength of the late Government, would not be able to carry any plan for bringing voluntary contributions within the machinery of this Bill.


had objected to the application of the Bill to chapels, to religious societies, and in other cases, all of which had been since embraced in the Amendments proposed by the hon. Member for Montrose; and he therefore thought the hon. Member for Oxford had not shown his usual plain dealing in treating the Bill as it first stood.

Amendment agreed to.

Bill put off for six months.

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