HC Deb 25 July 1850 vol 113 cc276-81

Order for Third Reading read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the Third Time."


said, that as the Amendments which had been introduced in Committee had not removed the objections which he entertained to the measure, he should feel it his duty to take the sense of the House on the question of its further progress. Since the Bill was last before the House, a report had been presented from the Commission appointed in 1849. for the purpose of inquiring into those charities which were not reported on to the Attorney General under the authority of the Commission issued in 1835, The House would be surprised to learn that there were 23,746 charities under 30l. a year, and not less than 27,000 charities ranging between 30l. and 100l. a year. The report recommended the creation of some permanent authority, which should be charged with the duties of supervising all those charitable trusts; but the Bill proposed to place those which were below 30l. under the jurisdiction of the county courts, and the charities which were between 30l. and 100l., in the hands of the Masters of the Court of Chancery. The report of the Commission, therefore, appointed by Her Majesty, which recommended the creation of an officer or board for the regulation of these trusts, appeared to him to be in direct contradiction to the present Bill. He would take, in the first place, those charities ranging between 30l. and 100l. which the Bill proposed to vest in the Masters of the Court of Chancery, whose power was to be exercised without appeal. The result would be, that as ten new judges were thus created, there would be ten different opinions on the construction of charitable trusts. With regard to the minor charities falling below 30l., the throwing the appointment of the trustees into the hands of the county courts, would make them entirely subservient to political and party purposes. The judge of the county court would want the requisite local knowledge, and the consequence must follow that these gentlemen would be guided by the advice of their clerks, who were generally political agents. He had no hesitation in saying, that in his opinion great evils had already arisen from the perversion of charitable funds to party purposes under the Municipal Corporation Act. It was true that the Bill gave an appeal from the judge, but that appeal was to be upon facts as settled by the very judge from whose decision the appeal was brought. Again, if a trustee of one of the charities happened to be abroad, he might be superseded by the judge, and the trust might be placed in the hands of the treasurer of the county court. Every lease, therefore, or agreement for a lease, of the charitable property would have to be executed by the treasurer of the county court; and he would leave it to the House to decide whether that was a reasonable course, or one which was likely to save expense. The Bill had not been sufficiently considered; and as he was sure that it would involve charities in litigation, confusion, and expense, he should move that it be read a third time that day three months.

Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day three months."


said, he should detain the House for only a very short time. First, as to the report, he wished to say that it was not by any means the intention of the Commissioners to delay the Bill; and if hon. Members only looked at the report they would see that it was the evident desire of the Commissioners to forward the Bill as much as possible. They would see also that the Commissioners had suggested a special mode of keeping the accounts of charitable funds, as well as that of creating a special tribunal; and, though there were strong objections on general grounds to the establishment of special tribunals confined to particular objects of jurisdiction, as contradistinguished from the present mode of administering the law in this country, yet experience had shown it to be highly desirable that small matters relating to charitable trusts should he adjudicated on by the judges of the county courts. There were upwards of 23,000 charities under 30l., and many of them only a few shillings. Now, it was essential, above all things, that these matters should be dealt with cheaply; and it could be easily shown that the Bill would not produce the effects which his hon. and learned Friend apprehended. Of the jurisdiction given to the ten Masters, namely, that of dealing with charities from 30l. to 100l., there might, perhaps, be some apprehension that with ten Masters there might he ten different tribunals, with varieties of practice and conflicting decisions; hut he would appeal to any one acquainted with the proceedings in the Masters' offices to say if there were not great uniformity of decisions there, owing to this, amongst other causes—that the Masters were in the habit of consulting, with a view to the maintenance of such uniformity. He felt quite persuaded that if they did not allow the judges of the county courts to deal with small matters, they would defeat the purposes of the Bill. This was not a Bill for any party purposes, hut was a measure to enable overseers of parishes and trustees of petty charities to administer them in a more satisfactory manner. It gave them a judge to whom they could refer in matters of difficulty, and it provided for the most perfect possible publication of the accounts, which would be the best security against any breaches of trust for the future. He entreated the House to have the Bill read a third time.


objected to the Bill on a former occasion, and did so still. There were two Bills before them relating to the object before them, namely, the Bill itself, and the report of the Commissioners appointed, in June, to consider the question. The Bill had been before the House since the 1st of March, and the report of the Commissioners since the 25th of June. It was remarkable that the Commissioners made no remark on the nature of the Bill, but they laid down a system incompatible with the system of the Attorney General, especially so far as it related to the local tribunals. There were 28,000 charities in England, 23,000 of which fell within the jurisdiction of the Bill—a consideration that ought to weigh heavily with the House in forming any decision; and the more so, since it was the poorer charities that were most exposed to local and particular abuse. Where a charity had 1,000l. a year, or thereabouts, the public eye was upon it; but when they yielded only a few pounds a year, no notice was taken of the charity itself, and its abuse was unchecked. By the Bill, they were about to take the administration of these charities out of the hands of a public individual who was always before the world, and who regulated his conduct accordingly, and they were about to vest them in the hands of one who was not before the public, but who, not knowing the people individually among whom he is placed, must almost of necessity act under such impressions as he may receive from the county clerk of the people with whom he may have to deal. The clerk of course would know every one in the parish, and could consequently employ his office to advantage for political or party purposes. The great objection to another part of the question was the effect it would have on the education of the people, for the greater part of these charities were for educational purposes; and considering the feeling that prevailed with regard to the mode of education that should be adopted, he was convinced that the Bill would defeat the ends of justice and liberality, which its promoter did not anticipate.

Question put, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."

The House divided:—Ayes 96; Noes 53: Majority 43.

List of the NOES.
Archdall, Capt. M. Herbert, H. A.
Arkwright, G. Hervey, Lord A.
Baldock, E. H. Hudson, G.
Blackstone, W. S. Jermyn, Earl
Blair, S. Jolliffe, Sir W. G. H.
Bremridge, R. Jones, Capt.
Burghley, Lord Leslie, C. P.
Cabbell, B. B. Lindsay, hon. Col.
Chatterton, Col. Masterman, J.
Christy, S. Mullings, J. R.
Clerk, rt. hon. Sir G. Naas, Lord
Cocks, T. S. Newdegate, C. N.
Cole, hon. H. A. Nicholl, rt. hon. J.
Dickson, S. O'Brien, Sir L.
Duckworth, Sir J. T. B. Plowden, W. H. C.
Duncuft, J. Portal, M.
Edwards, H. Seaham, Visct.
Egerton, W. T. Sibthorp, Col.
Forester, hon. G. C. W. Smyth, J. G.
Frewen, C. H. Spooner, R.
Gladstone, rt. hn. W. E. Taylor, T. E.
Goulburn, rt. hon. H. Trollope, Sir J.
Grogan, E. Verner, Sir W.
Guernsey, Lord Walpole, S. H.
Gwyn, H. Willougbby, Sir H.
Halsey, T. P. TELLERS.
Hamilton, G. A. Turner, G. J.
Henley, J. W. Deedes, W.

Main Question put, and agreed to.

Bill read 3° Amendments made.


proposed that in the 20th clause, which provides that in cases of charities for religious purposes the trustees shall be of the same religion as the church or sect for whose benefit the charity is established, the same rule should be made applicable to schools; and he moved that the words "or any school" should be inserted.


consented to the introduction of the words.


then proposed that in the 35th clause the words "or of any schools" should be inserted along with religious or charitable institutions maintained by voluntary contributions as being exempted from the operation of the Act.

Amendment proposed, in page 16, line 26, after the word "therewith," to insert the words "or of any schools."


opposed the Amendment.

Question put, "That those words be I there inserted.

The House divided:—Ayes 38; Noes 77: Majority 39.

Bill passed.

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