§ Order for Second Reading road.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
§ MR. GREGORY
, in moving that the Bill be read a second time that day six months, said, it dealt with certain charitable funds originally left to the parish of St. Giles without, Cripplegate, which was now divided into the parishes of St. Giles and St. Luke. At that division, in the early part of last century, these funds were appropriated in certain proportions between the two parishes, and in 1732 an Act was passed which confirmed the prescriptive right of the two parishes to their respective portions. The parish of St. Luke had, however, greatly increased in population, principally of the poorer classes; and this Bill proposed to abstract from St. Giles's parish a portion of those charities which it possessed both by prescriptive and Parliamentary title. He opposed this attempted interference with the rights of property.
Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months."—(Mr. Gregory.)
§ MR. W. M. TORRENS
said, that the donors of these charities in times past undoubtedly gave their money for the joint benefit of the two parishes, and the funds should be administered by the Charity Commissioners. He wished to show the House that the promoters of the Bill were acting with complete bona fides. The charities were given for a parish which had ceased to be populous, and one which had grown populous and poor. The richer parish was willing to treat the poorer one liberally, but they said their hands were tied, and the promoters now came to Parliament to have that shackle removed. The charities being for the joint benefit of the two parishes, it could not be said that the richer portion, which was thinly populated, should reap the benefit at the expense of their needier and more numerous neighbours, and he thought, therefore, that the distribution should 1079 be made according to the numbers and poverty of the applicants. He undertook to get rid of the 4th clause and of the proposed limitation on the power of the Charity Commissioners to deal with the subject. He agreed that the subject should be referred to them, and hoped the House would give the Bill a second reading, in order that, like all other local Bills, it might be referred to a Select Committee.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
said, his hon. Friend had put the case with considerable ability, but he wished the House to understand that this was not so simple a question as they had been asked to believe—namely, as to whether St. Luke's was entitled to a share of these charities. There was much more in it than that. The Bill proposed to prevent the carrying out of certain schemes of the Charity Commissioners, and the promoters of it characterized the way in which these Commissioners dealt with the matter as an abuse of the original intention of the donors. What the promoters wished to do was to apportion the distribution to the numerical strength of a part of the parish. Cripplegate, on the other hand, thought that the charity was no longer to be dealt with by distributing doles, but in a manner more in accordance with modern views. In his opinion, those who sustained the schemes of the Charity Commissioners and opposed this Bill had more reason on their side than the promoters. He would like to see the whole of the City charities reformed. He opposed the second reading of the Bill.
§ MR. ROEBUCK
said, he should advise the House in cases of this kind to allow the Bill to take its usual course. He felt that in a private and complicated matter of this kind the House was incompetent to deal thoroughly. For himself, notwithstanding the speeches that had been made, he confessed he did not understand the matter, and therefore he thought it far better that the Bill should go upstairs to a Committee, where it could be thoroughly dealt with.
§ LORD FRANCIS HERVEY
said, the House was not called upon to pronounce an opinion upon the merits or demerits of a system of doles. Neither was the House asked to interfere with the rights of property in any other way than that in which such rights had been dealt with 1080 scores of times in schemes of the Charity Commissioners, and under Parliamentary sanction. The only question was whether the Bill was so plainly bad and unreasonable as to make it necessary for the House, by rejecting it at this stage, to withdraw it from the consideration of the usual tribunal. The facts of the case were very simple, and the House was in a position to consider it upon its merits. The parish of St. Giles' had formerly consisted of two parts, a lordship and a liberty part. Charities were left some to the lordship, some to the liberty portion, and some again for the benefit of the undivided parish of St. Giles'. These last mentioned charities were the subject of the present Bill. In 1732, St. Giles' was divided into two parts, and at that time a plan of apportionment which had been agreed upon 30 or 40 years before was adopted by Parliament. Since then the circumstances of St. Luke's and St. Giles' had entirely changed. St. Giles' had become a great business centre, with a very small residential population and few poor. St. Luke's which was then a country district, given up to the plough and the crook, and the milk-maid had grown enormously, and had now a dense and destitute population. He hoped that his hon. Friend would withdraw his opposition to the Bill.
said, he was about to oppose the second reading of this Bill, because sending it upstairs meant a waste of the charity funds, part of which would really go into the hands of those who promoted it. Nothing else could accrue from carrying out the design of the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield (Mr. Roebuck). Besides, to interfere in the sense which the promoters advocated was to destroy a decision that had been come to in 1732, when a just settlement of the claims had been arrived at.
§ MR. RAIKES
said, he had listened to the speeches of hon. Gentlemen, but he confessed they did not touch the most objectionable clause in the Bill. Something had been said about the insufficiency of the proposition which proposed to transfer property from one hand to another on the alleged poverty of one part of the parish. There was some force in that objection; but that House had always been anxious to do what it could for those who were too 1081 poor to help themselves. The worst feature in the Bill was that in the 4th clause, which proposed to refer this matter either to private arbitration or to the Charity Commissioners; and he confessed that seemed to him an undesirable manner of dealing with money belonging to a parish. He understood, however, from the hon. Member who had charge of the Bill (Mr. Torrens) that the 4th clause was to be taken away, and that the management of these funds was to be handed over simply to the Charity Commissioners. Due regard would doubtless be had to the poverty and numbers of the recipients of these charities; but that should be left to the discretion of the Commissioners. He also understood that the hon. Member would withdraw the limit which the Bill proposed to put upon that discretion. This removed the main objection he had to the Bill. As to the argument that they were now asked to break a former Act of Parliament, that might be equally urged against any Bill dealing with matters which had formed the subject of previous legislation. The settlement of 1732 might have been adapted to the circumstances of the time in which it was made, and yet be wholly unsuited to the wants of 1877. When they had put the charge of the administration of charity funds in the hands of a recognized body, the House should not lay down rules for their guidance. Being entrusted with certain functions, they should be allowed to use their judgment, and trusted to do their duty properly. As the matter was to be referred to the Charity Commissioners, he thought it would be wrong to reject the Bill on the second reading.
§ MR. ISAAC
said, the charity had been administered, from its inception to the present time, in strict accordance with the intentions of the donors; but he did not object to the administration being transferred to the Charity Commissioners, believing that the Commissioners would continue to distribute the funds on the same principles; but he urged that the Bill should be withdrawn, and framed more in harmony with the declarations now made by the hon. Members for Chester and Finsbury (Mr. Raikes and Mr. Torrens).
§ SIR ANDREW LUSK
thought it would be simply monstrous to have the money of those charities administered 1082 as at present; it would be far better to have them managed more in accordance with modern ideas. The parish of St. Giles' was simply acting the part of a dog in the manger. He was told that they had already £3,000 in the bank, and did not know how to use it. He hoped the Bill would be sent before a Committee upstairs.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
rose to ask a question. He was surprised to find that they were discussing a Private Bill in regard to endowments. Generally speaking, endowments were provided for by schemes from the Charity Commissioners; but he was told that the reason why this Bill had been introduced was that an Act was passed in 1732, and unless there was a Bill to prevent the operation of that Act the scheme could not come into operation. As the Bill was first brought forward it would appear to decide what that scheme should be; and he wished to ask whether the alterations now made would simply take away the binding effect of the previous Act and send it to the Charity Commissioners to frame a scheme, thereby putting the charity in the same position as other charities.
§ MR. RAIKES
said, the Bill, as presented to the Committee, was simply to be a Bill to give power to the Charity Commissioners to do that which they could not do without such an Act. They could not carry out a general scheme unless the old Act was repealed.
Question, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question," put, and agreed to.
§ Main Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read a second time, and committed.