HC Deb 27 March 1854 vol 131 cc1349-52

Bill as amended, considered.


said, he objected to the principle on which this Bill was founded, and, therefore, had Amendments to propose with a view of altering its character. The effect of the Bill would be entirely to set aside a fundamental principle which had been recognised by the country for 200 years. The Bill, in the first place, proposed that a personal remuneration should be granted to the gentlemen who for the time being should constitute the joint-stock company that was to administer all the trusts in the kingdom; in the second place it was provided that they might make a profit out of their dealings with trusts; and, thirdly, it was proposed that a united liability of the most objectionable character should be created for the purpose of replacing any losses that might accrue from their dealings with trust funds. Now he humbly conceived that any measure of so important a character as that ought to have been introduced as a public measure, and not as a private one. The only effect of the Bill, if passed into law, would be to place in the hands of a certain number of gentlemen the uncontrolled influence attached to the possession of an amount of real and personal property almost incalculable. Why, at one time there might be many millions of money vested in the hands of those who would have the power by speculating in the funds of altering the position of the public securities to the most enormous extent. There was, indeed, to be a guarantee fund of 300,000l., but he regarded any such guarantee as entirely illusory and deceptive, for it might happen that the debts of the Company would swallow up nearly the whole of the fund before anything was available to make good the deficient trusts, and then there would remain nothing, not even individual responsibility of the Company, to fall back upon. He proposed, therefore, the omission of all the words in the preamble relative to the necessity of such powers being conferred.

Amendment proposed, in page 3, line 1, to leave out from the word "Parliament" to the end of the paragraph.

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Bill."


said, that neither he nor, he conceived, any other Members not in the immediate neighbourhood of the hon. and learned Gentleman, had heard a word of his speech. The hon. and learned Gentleman would have been more listened to if he had stated his objections at an earlier stage of the Bill, instead of first announcing them now, at a period when it might fairly be supposed no further objection could be taken to the principle of the measure. He must protest against an Amendment which would take away the whole pith and marrow of the Bill being proposed at so late a period. It could not for a moment be contended that sufficient opportunity had not been given to the opponents of the Bill to bring forward their objections in a more regular form, because the measure was no new one, but one that had been brought before Parliament last Session. The truth was, the only persons interested in opposing it were the attorneys. The Bill simply proposed that the South Sea Company, at the expressed desire of any party creating a trust, or with the consent of the cestuique trust, or in case the latter should be under disability, with the approbation of the Court of Chancery, should be enabled to transfer to itself the administration of such trust.


said, he quite agreed with the hon. Member for Lancaster (Mr. T. Greene) that it was extremely inconvenient that the House should be now cued upon for the first time to discuss a question which ought to have been disposed of at the second reading, or before the Committee. He believed, also, that the Amendment of the hon. and learned Gentleman went to destroy the whole pith and marrow of the Bill; but before proceeding further, it would be as well, perhaps, to be made acquainted with the views entertained by Her Majesty's Government.


said, he would remind the House that he had had an opportunity last year of stating the views which he held on this subject. He would repeat, however, that, according to his humble conception, the Bill was not open to the objections taken to it by the hon. and learned Member for Bridgwater (Mr. Follett). The object of the Bill was simply this, that there being a large sum of money in the hands of the South Sea Company for purposes no longer necessary, it was provided that powers should be granted to it to engage in new duties. His hon. and learned Friend, however, objected to the Bill as interfering with certain received principles, one of which was that a trustee should derive no benefit from the execution of a trust. Now, if persons found it much more convenient to pay a moderate specified fee to a corporation than involve themselves in all the troubles consequent on trusteeships, he could conceive no sufficient reason why they might not do so, or why testators should be prevented from specifically giving up to such a body the execution of trusts, on the understanding that a certain payment was to be made for discharging such a duty. With regard to the irresponsibility of the Company, he believed that nothing of the kind could be said to exist; but that, on the contrary, a much more complete security would be offered by the Company than that usually held for the performance of trusts. And as for speculations in trusts, every means had been taken to prevent ill consequences flowing from such a circumstance, by the provisions contained ordering the inspection and exposure of accounts. Besides which there would be a guarantee fund of 300,000l., with an inspector to be appointed by the Treasury; and, lastly, a revising power lodged with the Court of Chancery. It appeared to him, therefore, that the question was one which might be most fairly dealt with by the House, and he considered the objections of the hon. and learned Member opposite were quite untenable.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


said, he believed gift the effect of the Bill would be to allow persons who had been guilty of a breach of trust to denude themselves of the character of trustees. He would, therefore, move a proviso, that no person hereafter appointed to any trusteeship should be allowed to hand over his trust unless specially authorised to do so.

Amendment proposed, to leave out from the words "vested in," in page 8, line 10, to the word "them," in line 11.

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Bill."


said, this was very much the same Amendment as the last. The opposers of the Bill, it should be remembered, were not the public, but the attorneys; and such an opposition was the strongest argument that could be used in its favour. He (Mr. Bouverie) had no doubt if the Bill should pass into a law, that in the course of a few years it would be found to have been extremely beneficial to the administration of trust property.


said, he could assure the House it was very much misled in dealing with this question through the agency of a private Bill. It was a subject which required the gravest consideration, and ought to have been introduced to the House as a Government measure.


said, that the Bill was introduced as a private Bill, merely in accordance with the rules of that House, as it was a measure which conferred powers upon a number of private individuals. If the hon. Member for Cirencester (Mr. Mullings) would but look back to the details of the Bill, he would see that provisions were already contained in it that the assent of the party in whose favour the trust was to be executed, if capable of giving it, or, if not, of the Court of Chancery, was first to be obtained before any transference of trusteeship could take place.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn;—

Amendments made; Bill to be read 3°.

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