HC Deb 08 August 1853 vol 129 cc1485-95

Order for Third Reading read.


said, he wished to take that opportunity of saying that he thought that those who were interested in Catholic charities had committed a mistake in coming before the House on a former occasion, and claiming, or having the appearance of claiming, for those charities an exemption from the laws which ought to affect all classes of the community equally. He had a very great objection to taking any course which could have even the appearance of putting forward a claim to exceptional legislation on the part of the Catholics of this Empire. He believed that they had no interest in such exceptional legislation, and he believed that it would be a very great blunder in them to demand it, so far as their own interests were concerned, for it was their own true policy to stand on the ground of common right and common law. But with regard to this particular question, it happened, in fact, that Catholics were not demanding any exceptional legislation in their favour. He believed that the best course that could have been taken would have been to introduce into this Bill clauses which would have placed Catholic charities on a proper footing, and redressed the grievances of which they complained, instead of excepting them from the operation of the Bill. He considered that exception to be of very little value, and he should as soon see the Bill without it, though he was quite willing to acknowledge the readiness with which the noble Lord had introduced it. He (Mr. Lucas) was therefore disposed to move the introduction of a clause to carry out the object which he had in view; namely, the exempting them from disabilities on the ground of superstitious uses, and if it should be found to be impossible to insert it in the Bill, he hoped that the noble Lord would at least give some assurance, on which Catholics might rely, that every effort would be made next Session to place Catholic trusts on a satisfactory and firm basis.


said, he agreed with the hon. Member who had just sat down, that it would be very desirable to modify the law in respect to superstitious uses, in order that some of those practices which were now made illegal by the force of an Act of Parliament should be legalised and allowed; but he was afraid that any clause which could be proposed now would really be too late to effect that purpose. In the first place, many hon. Members were not present in the House now, who thought from the last discussion, that the course to be pursued in this respect had been agreed upon; and, in the second place, he did not think it would be possible in a short time to prepare clauses to effect the object which the hon. Gentleman had in view. He was quite sure that the clause which the hon. Member suggested, would, at all events, be very much opposed. He could not tell how much it might legalise that which the House would consider to be contrary to public policy, whether as regarded Roman Catholic or any other charities in the country. He would state, however, that it was the intention of the Government to introduce a Bill next Session, which might, in an unobjectionable manner, include Roman Catholic charities within the purview of this measure.


said, he thought the right course would have been not to have introduced into the Bill, in the first instance, any clause for exemption for two years. The course which he intended to have taken was, first, to suggest clauses by which the change might have been made, and in the event of these clauses not being agreed to, then to propose such an exemption as had been agreed to for two years. However, when the Bill came on, and the noble Lord agreed to make an exemption for two years, he thought it not desirable to agitate the question further. For his own part, fully agreeing in the opinion that such a change ought to be made, he should be glad to assist in supporting clauses putting Roman Catholic charities on a legal footing.


said, he did not agree with his hon. Friend (Mr. Lucas), that the exemption clause ought not to have been inserted. He thought a protection of that kind was absolutely necessary. He heard, with great pleasure, the observations of the noble Lord on the subject, and begged to express the gratification he felt at the mode in which the noble Lord had given utterance to his sentiments. He did not wish that this Bill should not apply to Roman Catholic charities; he thought it ought, for he looked on the Bill as an excellent one; but there was reason, from a previous state of the law, why for a time protection should be thrown around them, but that protection was to enable the House to legislate, not for Roman Catholic charities alone, but on a broad basis for all charities. As the law at present stood, a bequest for the celebration of divine worship according to the rites of the Catholic religion would be void as coming under the law of superstitious uses. Again, under the 9 Geo. II., if they enrolled in the Court of Chancery a deed of trust for a Roman Catholic charity, the transaction was void, and they were consequently obliged in the deed to conceal the object of the charity. He believed he was not wrong in saying that the Mortmain Committee recommended a repeal of that Act of Parliament, and that the doctrine, for it was not a law, but a principle of Courts of Equity, of superstitious uses should be done away with.


said, he hoped that within two years the law of Mortmain would be amended. At present it was a matter of the utmost difficulty, in some parts of the country, to settle property for benevolent purposes, such as infirmaries, schools, and the like. They could not take a lease for a term of years for building purposes, but they were obliged to resort to the subterfuge of having a nominee as lessee, who assigned to the trustees; and in regard to copyhold property, it was perfectly impracticable to make a title until Lord Tenterden's decision was overruled, because it could not be conveyed in the way that the Mortmain Act required. The noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) would render a greater support to education by removing these difficulties, than by a thousand Education Bills. If he would put the law in a form by which they could have facilities for establishing these institutions, they would have plenty of them in the country, and the law ought to be such as to apply equally to all.

Bill read 3°; Clauses added.


said, he had an Amendment to move, the object of which was to enable the Commissioners to sit in Parliament, if elected, in the same manner as the Poor Law Commissioners.

Amendment proposed— In page 2, line 31, to leave out the words 'paid Commissioner,' and at the end of the Clause, to add, 'and such Commissioners to be appointed under this Act, as shall hold their office during good behaviour, shall be subject to the provisions of the 26th section of the seventh chapter of the Statutes made in the sixth year of the reign of Queen Anne.'


said, he must oppose the Amendment of the hon. Member for Gateshead, on the ground that if the Commissioners were eligible to seats in Parliament, they might be enabled to exercise undue influence in borough elections by means of the local charities.


said, that he did not consider the case of the Chief Commissioners of the Poor Law Board being entitled to sit in that House as precisely analogous to these Commissioners, because the functions of the Commissioners under this Bill were partly judicial. Generally speaking, however, he was in favour of taking away the disqualifications with respect to persons sitting in that House; and he did not know that if they had had a full discussion of the matter when the Bill was in Committee, he might not have been induced to vote in favour of his hon. Friend's Amendment; but it ought to be recollected that the Bill went through Committee, and was reported without any special notice being taken of this point; and he did not think it would be just, after the Bill had passed through these stages, to make so important a change as that now proposed; and he certainly, therefore, could not consent, on the part of Government, to the Amendment.


said, he did not see what there was to prevent the noble Lord from taking the discussion upon the question then. He thought the matter should not be delayed, because, in his opinion, it would be of the greatest possible advantage that the Commissioners under this Bill should have seats in that House, and be able to state in the face of day, in answer to the inquiries of hon. Members, what had taken place on the Commission.


said, the present Bill was one of the most important that had occupied the attention of the Legislature for some years. For himself he entirely approved of it, and he congratulated the noble Lord on at last finding out the means by which these public estates were to be placed upon a better system than heretofore. But in proportion to the importance of the Bill was the importance of considering who were to be the Commissioners, and whether or not they should have seats in that House. As to whom they were to be, that of course would rest with the Government, and no doubt the whole value of the measure would depend in a degree on the persons appointed. But the question whether the Commissioners should have seats in that House was even more important than that; and, in his opinion, it was highly desirable that they should be brought under the control of the public, and they could certainly not be under that control unless questions could be put to them in that House with reference to the matters entrusted to their charge. In one respect, however, the Motion of the hon. Member for Gateshead (Mr. Hutt) went too far. He (Mr. Walpole) doubted very much whether all the Commissioners ought to have seats in Parliament. He thought they ought to have one Commissioner responsible for the duties of his office in that House; but he doubted if the appointment of three Commissioners with seats would be advantageous to the charities; and, more than that, he apprehended that it would be giving too much authority to the Government for the time being if that were the case.


said, he should oppose the Amendment, believing that it was better that persons holding judicial offices should not have seats in that House.


said, he thought that the feeling of the House had already been sufficiently elicited to show the noble Lord the Member for London that the adoption of the proposition of the hon. Member for Gateshead, in a modified form, would be acceptable. He thought the object of the hon. Gentleman would be attained if he adopted the suggestion of the right hon. Member for Midhurst (Mr. Walpole).


said, he was willing to modify his Amendment, so as to render only one of the three Commissioners eligible to a seat in that House; but he thought it should be remembered that, although he had originally proposed that all three should be eligible, it was not likely that more than one Commissioner would be actually elected.


said, that one of the greatest decisions ever given in the memory of man upon a question of a charity had been recently delivered. In that case, a large charity, yielding upwards of 9,000l. a year, and which had existed for seven centuries, had been shown to have been perverted from its original purpose, and the conduct of the trustees elicited the strongest comments from the Master of the Rolls. If there had been a Commissioner in that House responsible for such matters, he (Mr. Carter) considered that such a state of things could never have continued so long. He should support the Amendment. He was satisfied that reports made once a year were not sufficient to bring the abuses in the administration of charitable trusts under the eye of the public. The Under Secretary for the Home Department was so completely overdone with work that he could not be expected to undertake the duty of answering questions relating to the proceedings of the Charitable Trusts Commissioners; and he (Mr. Carter) thought it was highly injudicious to exclude from that House persons who could afford them the most ample information on the subject.


said, he considered that one of the Commissioners, at all events, might be allowed to sit in the House. He was most anxious to see all important Ministerial departments represented in that Assembly, for he believed that such representation afforded to the public the most effectual security for the careful and judicious management of public affairs.


said, he should oppose the Amendment, because, as the Charitable Trusts Commissioners were to a great extent Judges, he thought it would be most objectionable that persons exercising judicial functions should be liable to be questioned in Parliament on the subject of their decisions. He also objected to the Amendment, because, if it were adopted, a Commissioner who had to inquire into the administration of charities in a particular borough, which charities were made subservient to electioneering purposes, might himself become a candidate for that borough, and thus all confidence in the fairness of his proceedings would be destroyed.

Question put, "That the words 'paid Commissioners' stand part of the Bill."

The House divided:—Ayes 113; Noes 32: Majority 81.


proposed that the clause relating to exemptions should be so altered as to exclude the University of Durham from its operation. The Universities of Oxford and Cambridge were to be exempted; but then it was because the colleges and halls of those Universities had very recently been made the subject of inquiry, and would have to be considered in future legislation. No such reason, however, could apply to either Durham or London, and he therefore proposed to alter the clause, so as to render it subservient to the provisions of the Bill with the University of London.

Amendment proposed, in page 25, line 12, after the word "Oxford," to insert the word "and."


could not but think that it would have been much better if the noble Lord had left the Bill as it was.


said, the cases of the Durham and London Universities were very dissimilar, the former being regulated in accordance with the provisions of an Act of Parliament. He must say he very much regretted, after the undertaking which seemed to have been entered into, that Her Majesty's Government were now prepared to depart from their announced intention, and include Durham University under the working of the Bill, and the more so as it had passed through all its stages in the other House containing a clause of exemption.


said, he was of opinion that there ought to be no exemptions at all; but if Oxford and Cambridge were to be exempted, he thought London ought to be similarly favoured, and it was his intention to move an Amendment to that effect.


denied that there was any similarity between the position of Durham and Oxford and Cambridge Universities. The former by no means held equal rank as a corporate body with the two latter. And he felt sure that unless institutions like Durham and London came within the operation of this Act, that they could never be made the subject of a particular enactment, and therefore they would be removed beyond the pale of the law altogether. He therefore trusted that hon. Gentlemen would not oppose the insertion of the word proposed.


said, he could not at all comprehend the resons assigned for the proposal of the noble Lord; nor the very nice legal distinctions of the hon. and learned Solicitor General between the positions of the Universities of Durham and London and those of Oxford and Cambridge; for he believed that the University of London had quite as much bodily subsistence as either of the other two. Tine intention of the whole affair appeared to be to cast a stigma upon the University of London, which, it seemed to be forgotten, was an older institution than Durham.


said, he wished to see the exemptions extended to the University of London, which had shown itself fully entitled to every mark of respect and confidence.


could not understand why any distinctions were introduced. What was wanted was a general Act applicable to all the Universities, and one that would improve their condition.


said, he must contend for an exemption in favour of Durham, and could not understand how, after the compact which had been entered into with the hon. Member for Durham, the Government could come forward with such a proposal, Though he regarded the situation of Durham in a very different light from that of London University, as the latter had neither colleges nor halls, he would rather vote for the exclusion of the latter from the operation of the Bill than consent to the inclusion of Durham.

Question put, "That the word 'and' be there inserted."

The House divided:—Ayes 65; Noes 70: Majority 5.


then proposed an Amendment, providing that the Act should not extend to any school or college connected with the University of London. It was not that he wanted to exempt the University of London from the Act, but that he wished to put that University upon an equality with the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge, that he proposed this Amendment.

Amendment proposed— In page 25, line 12, after the word 'or,' to insert the words, 'to any college, school, or institute connected with the University of London, under the provisions of any charter thereof.'


said that, notwithstanding the last division, he must object to the exemption proposed. Whatever might be the reason for the vote to which the House had just come in respect to Durham, it seemed to him there might be mischief done if the House adopted the proposed Amendment. The colleges of Oxford and Cambridge, it was well known, were connected with those institutions; but the only way in which you could connect the colleges and schools in various places with the University of London was, that those schools requested that they might be permitted to send young men to that University, in order that they might pass examinations and obtain degrees. Now, there might be a charity school of which the University of London knew nothing, could not inquire about, had no control over and no other connexion with them than that of having been asked by it, "Will you allow persons to come from our school to be examined and take degrees at your University?" The University of London, with the permission of the Secretary of State, might admit that school to those privileges; but that circumstance did not in the least degree connect that school with the University. He did not, therefore, see any ground of exemption in the case of the University of London. The proposal appeared to him to be a mischievous one, and he must, therefore, oppose it.


said, these colleges or halls in connexion with the University of London were voluntary, and not charitable institutions, and he did not see why the London University should not be placed on the same footing as the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge under the Bill.


said, he should support the Amendment, for he had always considered the University of London to be on the same footing as the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge. On this point being brought before Lord Aberdeen, he reinstated the University of London in the clause, and he therefore protested against its being now rejected.


said, he was sorry to sec the manner in which this question was debated, for hon. Members who wished that every institution should be brought under the operation of the Bill, yet wished to exempt this one merely for the sake of a little wounded vanity. He thought it would have been desirable that all halls and colleges should be under the operation of the Bill; and to talk of exempting the University of London, which embraced all sorts of institutions which chose to affiliate themselves to it, would lead to many institutions so affiliating themselves in order to avail themselves of the exemption. Colleges and halls were exempted on account of their being corporations under peculiar charters, and schools and institutions supported by voluntary subscription were not included in the Bill at all. He objected to any endeavour to limit the operation of the Bill.


said, no doubt there were very good reasons for including within the scope of the Bill the schools and colleges connected with the Universities of Loudon and Durham; but he thought the reasons assigned for exempting those of Oxford and Cambridge equally applied to the other Universities. The Solicitor General seemed to consider that there was scarcely such a thing as the University of London. But a University was a mere fiction of law. London had as good a right to be deemed a University as Oxford or Cambridge. The whole difficulty in this case had arisen from an attempt to cast a stigma upon the University of London. Those who were connected with the London University ought not to stand by and see any Act of Parliament pass which applied to other Universities, and did not apply to it.


said, the hon. and learned Solicitor General had not answered the argument of the hon. Member for South Lancashire (Mr. Cheetham), that the question had been brought under the notice of Lord Aberdeen, and that the University of London had been restored to the clause. This was, in fact, a question with regard to the Dissenters' University—that University which alone was open to them.


said, he must disclaim any intention of giving offence to the Dissenters, for he was one of those who was anxious for the foundation of the University of London, and assisted in its progress, and, therefore, he did not wish to cast any stigma upon it; but he had argued that a Commission had issued to inquire into the case of Oxford and Cambridge, and they were become the subjects of legislation, but no such steps had been taken with regard to the University of London, and so far it had been favoured.


said, he thought there was a fallacy in the reasoning of those who, like himself, were friends to the University of London; for, if the authority of the Commissioners under this Bill was to operate beneficially, he did not see why they should wish exemptions like those of Oxford and Cambridge to be carried further.


said the principle of religious equality would be violated if there was this difference of exemption. If Oxford and Cambridge were national establishments, and not ecclesiastical corporations, the London University would never have existed; and, therefore, those who founded that institution claimed to be placed in the same position as Oxford and Cambridge, and they felt that this was an instance of placing it in an inferior and degrading position. He agreed that the operation of the Bill was beneficial, and that there should be no exemptions whatever; but when the alternative was between diminishing the usefulness of the Bill, and violating a great principle and casting a stigma on an institution, he would adopt the latter, although regretting that the operation of the Bill should be curtailed.

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

The House divided:—Ayes 64; Noes 79: Majority 15.

Bill passed.