HC Deb 24 April 1855 vol 137 cc1739-42

said, that, in bringing forward the Motion of which he had given notice, he had no intention of making an attack on any official, but merely wished to bring before the country the principles of conduct adopted in certain offices. The expenses of the Charity Commission were very great; the last Return showed an expenditure of 78,000l. They had, indeed, examined 238 charities, and no doubt a large benefit had accrued to the public, and considerable funds had been rescued from misappropriation, He thought the Commission, instead of any one else, ought to have the appointment of their own secretary and counsel. It appeared that Mr. Hine had been at once secretary to the Commission and solicitor to the Attorney General, and on his resignation Mr. Fearon was appointed to fill the two offices. As secretary he might advise the Commission to institute a suit, which he would conduct as solicitor. If the Return was granted, the House would see in what manner the suits in this office were conducted. He held in his hand a letter from Mr. Hume, written a short time before his death, in reference to the Hospital of St. Cross, The veteran reformer expressed his opinion that what had occurred was owing to the neglect of the parties conducting the suit, and declared his intention, if again able to enter the House, to move for a Committee to investigate what he believed was a fraud on one hand, and gross neglect on the other. If the Return was granted, they would find the solicitor acting in his professional capacity for both plaintiffs and defendants, and the standing counsel holding a brief first on one side and then on the other. The Commission, therefore, ought to have the appointment of these officers, and it was so provided for by the 38 Geo. III., c. 91. A large amount was now derived by the officers from fees. He thought it would be better for the country to alter the system altogether, and pay them liberal salaries instead. He knew nothing personally of Mr. Fearon, and it was from no feeling of hostility towards him that he brought forward his Motion. He made the Motion solely with a view to elicit information as to what had really been done by the Commission, and as to the manner in which that expenditure had been incurred. He thought there was just reason for complaint as to the amount of fees paid to counsel in many cases.


seconded the Motion.

Motion made, and Question proposed— That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, that She will be graciously pleased to give directions that there be laid before this House, Copies of Treasury or other Order appointing Robert Wray, esquire, Standing Counsel to the Attorney General in Equity Crown matters, or the date when and by whom and under what circumstances he was appointed.


said, that he did not like to oppose Motions for Returns, but really the Returns asked for by the present Motion was so unprecedented, and would be so voluminous, that he should not feel that be was doing his duty to the House unless he afforded them some information, so as to enable them to see what was asked for. He was sure that the hon. Member who had brought forward this Motion had done so with the utmost innocence and simplicity, and with out having the slightest idea of what he (the Attorney General) believed was the case—that he was made neither more nor less than the puppet of a discontented solicitor, who had applied to other Members of the House to bring forward the same Motion, but had failed in the attempt. The Motion of the hon. Member included twenty-two returns, the greater part of which were already on the shelves of the House, while others could only be produced at a cost wholly disproportioned to the value of the information which they would afford. With regard to the first portion of the Returns moved for, it was sufficient to say there were no such orders as those referred to. The counsel in question, who acted as the juniors of the Attorney General in charity matters, were appointed by him. The same reply might be made in the case of the solicitors, who were also appointed by the Attorney General, as it was right and fit they should be, seeing that he was responsible for the manner in which they conducted the business in which they were engaged. With regard to the next Returns, he must inform the House that they were the first of a series of covert attacks on Mr. Fearon, than whom a more valuable officer never conducted the business of a public department in this or any other country. No doubt, a number of ex-officio informations had been filed by the Attorney General without the previous recommendation of the Charity Commissioners; but that was sufficiently accounted for by the fact that there were no Charity Commissioners in existence from 1839, while there were numerous cases in which it was necessary to file informations, and in which they were accordingly filed at the instigation of parties interested in the charities. In the Motion for the other Returns which followed, he could detect the same animus he had already pointed out; while if the information required by others were furnished, it would be exceedingly voluminous and altogether useless, especially as the very information had, in many cases, been already furnished to the House. If the hon. Gentleman thought there was anything wrong in the proceedings of the Attorney General, he ought not to ask for useless and expensive returns, but to move for a Select Committee.


said, he deprecated the printing of such a mass of trash as the returns moved for by the hon. Member for Southwark.


said, after what had fallen from the hon. and learned Attorney General he would not press his Motion.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.