HC Deb 22 July 1857 vol 147 cc216-20

Order for Second Reading read.


, in moving the second reading of this Bill said, its principal object was to diminish the expense of appointing new trustees for charities which derived their revenues from land, and also to afford trustees of such charities a cheap mode of obtaining incorporation. It appeared from the Report of the Charity Commissioners that at the time their inquiries were instituted there were between £5,000,000 and £6,000,000 invested for charitable purposes in public stocks: upwards of £1,000,000 was invested in different forms of mortgage; revenues amounting to £80,000 a year were derived from rent-charges; and there were about 440,000 acres of land belonging to these charities, producing at the time the Report was presented an annual rental of £900,000 but which now probably yielded more than £1,000,000 a year. This large quantity of land was, however, divided into almost infinitesimal fragments, and was distributed among from 25,000 to 30,000 charities, whose average rental did not amount to more than £40, the revenue of many hundreds not exceeding 40s.New trustees could only be appointed by deed, which involved a cost of about £10, and the consequence was that when such appointments took place these minute charities were subjected to great loss. As a necessary result of this state of things, trustees were appointed very irregularly, and sometimes not at all, and consequently in many cases the charities lapsed. Any one who looked over the list of charities would see that a great number had lapsed; but besides those charities which were known to have lapsed, there were many which were never heard of at all. There were many charities the donors of which were never known, and this was the first step to the lapse of a charity. The Bill he was submitting to the House had been framed with a view of remedying these evils. It proposed the appointment of a Registrar General of public Charities with an office in London, which it might probably be convenient to attach to the existing registrarship of births, deaths, and marriages. It also proposed that the existing trustees of public charities should have the opportunity of depositing their deeds with such registrar upon payment of a small fee, not exceeding £3, and that by registration and the payment of the fee, the trustees should be incorporated, thus securing the benefits of perpetual succession. It was further proposed that the fee for the registration of any new trustee should be 10s. The Bill might be objected to on the ground that it would involve a demand upon the public purse, but from calculations which had been made, he was satisfied that the registration office would be self-supporting. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxfordshire had reminded him that, by creating numerous groups of petty corporations they would destroy the individual responsibility of trustees. He acknowledged that the Bill as it stood was open to that objection, but if the House allowed it to go into Committee, he would propose a clause with the view of continuing the individual responsibility of trustees after incorporation. With these few remarks, be begged to move the second reading of the Bill.


seconded the Motion. There were a great many of these small charities in the county in which he resided, and he could speak from experience of the necessity of some such measure as that which had been moved by his hon. Friend.

Motion, made and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."


said, he objected to the Bill on the ground that it would create a new Government Board under the control of the Treasury, observing that such a proposal ought, in his opinion, to emanate directly from the Government. The hon. Gentleman who moved the second reading had asked the House to allow the Bill to go into Committee, in order that any objections might be considered at that stage, but he (Sir John Trollope) thought the sense of the House ought to be taken upon the second reading of a measure which involved a principle of so much importance. This Bill, he must observe, entirely ignored the existence of a large and expensive administrative department—the Charity Commissioners, who cost the country something like £16,000 a year. The hon. Gentleman, however, proposed to incorporate the trustees of these charities, and to establish a new and most expensive Board, consisting of a Registrar General, a Deputy Registrar, and a staff of clerks who must, of course, be provided with the necessary offices and fire-proof buildings. He (Sir John Trollope) thought the establishment of such a department was most objectionable. He thought very little credit could be taken for saving in respect of this measure, for it appeared to him that as fees would still be payable under the Bill, it was a mere question of balance. The constant enrolment of trustees would often give rise to ill-will, while the fees paid on the enrolment would be too small to have any great influence on the working of the Bill. The promoters of the Bill seemed to have overlooked the fact, that when trustees became incapacitated for acting, the representative of the survivor had the opportunity of creating a new body of trustees by feoffment and enrolment in the Court of Chancery at a very trifling expense. He thought that Her Majesty's Government ought to say whether they approved of the creation of a new Board, though, as he considered, the number of Boards already in existence a great evil, and was, moreover, opposed to the patronage which would be created by the Bill: he should move that it be read a second time that day three months.

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


said, he thought the objection urged against this measure to which the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Hardcastle) who moved it, had referred, was one of great weight,—namely, that by incorporating these small trusts they would go far to destroy the responsibility of individual trustees, and to diminish their interest in the proper administration of the funds under their control. The hon. Gentleman proposed to bring forward in Committee an Amendment to meet this objection; but the principle of the Bill was the incorporation of trustees, and if the hon. Gentleman abandoned that principle he must be prepared to give up the whole Bill. He (Mr. Massey) thought that at this period of the Session, and considering the importance of the subjects yet to be discussed, the House ought not to be called upon to waste its time by considering the minutiœ of this Bill, in Committee. But passing over this objection he could see no necessity for the incorporation of these small trusts. His hon. Friend (Mr. Hard-castle) said his object was to prevent these trusts from expiring, and fancied he achieved that object by converting the trustees into corporations. The hon. Gentleman had, he supposed, heard the legal maxim that a corporation never died. That was true enough in theory, but there must be some practical provision for keeping up its perpetual succession. Now he (Mr. Massey) saw no provision in the Bill which would secure to the newly-constituted corporations that vitality which the hon. Gentleman wished to attach to them. Then again, the hon. Gentleman proposed, by the payment of a small fee of 10s. on the appointment of each new trustee, to raise a fund which he hoped would defray the cost of the machinery necessary for carrying out the objects of his Bill; but he (Mr. Massey) contended that such a system of petty fees would be altogether inadequate for that purpose, and that the result would be that the Consolidated Fund, already over burdened, would have eventually to bear the cost. He denied, too, that Parliament had been negligent of the interests of those charitable bodies. A few years ago this subject was deliberately discussed in I all its parts in that House, and the result was an Act of Parliament embodying the Charitable Trusts Commission. That Act had only been in operation a few years, but he was not aware that the expectations of those who framed it had been disappointed. The application of that Act was especially directed to those obscure and small trusts which had escaped public observation and run a risk of falling into desuetude, and very minute provisions were made for their government while it provided a very summary process by which a trustee might be discharged of his office. He would therefore ask if it was reasonable to substitute for the action of so simple, easy, and intelligible a system as that, a Government Board with such complicated machinery? He might also mention that a Bill had passed this House and had been referred to a Committee in another place, which partly dealt with the alleged grievance, and they might well wait till that Bill was disposed of. For the reasons he had stated he would support the Amendment of the hon. Baronet opposite (Sir John Trollope).

Question, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question," put, and negatived:—Words added:—Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to:—Bill put off for three months.