HC Deb 18 May 1886 vol 305 cc1385-405
SIR JOHN SWINBURNE (Staffordshire, Lichfield)

At this early hour of the morning I must ask the House to grant me their indulgence for a few minutes that I may bring before them a question of some importance. I say a question of some importance, because some Members of the House may not be aware that the Charities and Endowed Schools of Great Britain, taken as a whole, have an income sufficient to defray the expenses of the entire education of the country. I particularly wish to draw the attention of the House for a moment to the Charities in the City of Lichfield. I have here a Blue Book—a Report of the Charity Commissioners of some 64 years ago. At that time there were 61 Charities in the City of Lichfield, and since then the circumstances connected with the Charities have very little altered. Only the other day Lowe's Charity, one of the richest of these Charities, came before the Commissioners for a new scheme; and the Charity Commissioners, in their wisdom, introduced a scheme which I, as the Representative of the Lichfield Division of Staffordshire, at the urgent request of the working classes of Lichfield, resisted, because it did not provide for the election by the ratepayers of that city of a certain number of representative Governors. I asked Her Majesty's Commissioners to go so far as to grant that one-half of the Governors or Trustees, or whatever they are called, should be elected directly by the ratepayers, who are interested in this Charity. The Charity Commissioners declined to accede to my request. They proposed that of the 12 Trustees seven—the majority—should be co-optative, thus continuing the rotten system of self-election, a system which is certainly not fit for this century; and that the other five, whom the Commissioners were pleased to call representative Trustees, should be elected by the Town Council. Now, I put it to hon. Mmbers of this House whether the Town Councils of small places like Lichfield are not differently constituted to the Town Councils of large places like Birmingham, Manchester, and Liverpool? The Town Councils of small places are composed practically of the same people who manage the Charities, or, at any rate, of the friends of the Trustees or Governors of the Charities existing in the towns. What is the consequence? Why, that you have one clique electing another, and a continuance of abuses. I will turn for a moment to some of these abuses, which are reported in the Blue Book to which I have already referred. On page 398 it is shown that the Trustees of the Conduit Lands, one of the richest Charities in England, spent, in five years, £103 upon dinners and other expenses of meetings of the Trustees. The Trustees of the Charities of the Biddulphs distribute amongst the poor of the City of Lichfield £5 yearly upon Good Friday and Christmas Eve, by equal portions; But the money is distributed in a public-house, and by the landlord of that public-house. One £40 is missing. This is a Parliamentary Report, and therefore the language is Parliamentary in the extreme. The Commissioners euphoniously say— We can discover no further trace of the £40 given by the elder Simon Biddulph for loans. We next come to Hinton's Charity. For three years no payments were made to the poor, and three parcels of land are reported as lost. I suppose the land was merged in the adjoining property; at all events, it was lost to the Charity. Then we come to Mousley's Charity. The Funds passed into the hands of the Town Clerk and the Corporation, and the interest paid was at the rate of £3 6s. 8d. per cent without security. In the case of Elias Ashmole's Charity, no distribution of funds took place for 13 years; and in another case—Luke Robinson's Charity—the funds were only given to one pet parish, when they should have been distributed all over the City. In the case of Caldwell's Gift, the property—namely £40—has disappeared. In the case of Minor's Gift, 10s. was to be paid yearly for a sermon to be yearly preached on St. Thomas's Day in St. Mary's Church, Lichfield; but the money is not now paid. In respect to Marshall's Charity, the one acre and a-half of arable land lying in Boley, near Filham's Ditch, the rent of which was to be distributed amongst the poor of Lichfield, "is now unknown." Then we come to Simpson's Charity. The money is generally given away about the month of March, so many charities being dispensed at Christmas that it has been thought advisable to distribute this at a later period. Why the money should not be distributed at Christmas, when, as a rule, distress is greater than at any other time of the year, I cannot understand. I have had considerable correspondence with the Charity Commissioners in regard to Lowe's Charity, and I presented to the Commissioners a large Petition signed by 309 of the poor inhabitants and working men of the City of Lichfield in favour of the future Governors being elected by the ratepayers. But the Commissioners declined to accede to my request. The Charity needs reform. The accounts have been audited by the Trustees themselves; and it was found that, while there was great distress in the City during the winter just past, there was no less a sum than £443 in the hands of the Clerk to the Trustees, who is very closely connected with the office of a solicitor. The money was really at the disposal of the partner of one of the Trustees, and no interest was paid upon it. Now, what the people of the City of Lichfield claim is, that they shall have the power in the future of electing their own Representatives, or, at least, a majority of them. That is the principle which I wish the House to affirm upon this occasion. It is no new principle, because some eight years ago it was adopted in the case of an endowed school in the parish of Stamfordham, Northumberland. I have considerable property in that parish, and I took an interest in the school. When I began to interest myself in the Institution there were only three boys in it. I need not say there had been Chancery suits, because I do not know any Charity in England—I can only speak for England—in the records of which you will not find one or two Chancery suits—in fact, a large portion of most Charities has been eaten up by expensive litigations. After three years' labour in going from office to office, I was able to get up a scheme for the school at Stamfordham, and in that scheme the Charity Commissioners urged very strongly that one-half of the Trustees should be appointed by the Vestry. After very considerable remonstrance on my part I got that part of the scheme altered, and I succeeded in getting half the Trustees elected directly by the ratepayers. Moreover, the eight co-optative Governors were only to be elected for seven years. What has been the consequence? They did me the honour to elect me as Chairman; but I declined the honour, because I thought it would be better that the people should manage the school of their own village by the best men they could get in the immediate neighbourhood. A new school-house has been built, the average attendance is now between 60 and 70 instead of three, and all the original co-optative members have ceased to exist, I am sorry to say, some by death, and some, like myself, by retirement. How have they supplied the places of these co-optative members? Why, the elected members have caused their own elected members to become co-optative members, so that practically the whole management of the school is in the hands of the ratepayers. The co-optative members are only elected for seven years; there is no jobbery; there is a good school; the people take an interest in the property, and there is no reason to complain in any way of the management of the school. Now, Sir, I ask the House to do something to popularize the Charities in the City of Lichfield. There were originally 61 Charities in the City; but some of them have become absorbed or merged in other property, and the money has been made away with. Long leases have been granted in some cases, though I must give the Charity Commissioners credit for having now done away with the lease-for-lives' system. Mark me, although the whole of the City of Lichfield is interspersed with little plots of land belonging to Charities, I have not been able to find one plot let in allotments to the working people. The property is let generally at high rent, very frequently to connections of the Trustees. At this hour of the morning I will not detain the House longer. I only wish to take this opportunity of thanking the Charity Commissioners for the courtesy they exhibited in their correspondence. The direct issue is that the Commissioners are determined, as I believe, to adhere, in the case of Lowe's Charity, to that old and rotten system of co-optative Trustees and Governors electing themselves in the future, and of not allowing any direct representative to come from the ratepayers. The question is whether the ratepayers, for whose benefit this Charity has been left, shall have the charge of its management. Do you think for one moment that the money of many of these Charities would have been lost if the ratepayers had had the power of electing their own Trustees to watch the property? I beg to move— That, in the opinion of this House, every Scheme of the Charity Commissioners ought to provide for the majority of the Trustees or Managers being directly elected by the ratepayers in the locality to which the Charity extends.

DR. FOSTER (Chester)

Mr. Speaker, I beg to second the Motion. I myself have had, during the last two or three years, a good deal of experience of the dissatisfaction that exists, especially in the rural districts, with the mode in which the Trustees of these Charities do their work. Only to-day I put to the right hon. Gentleman (Sir Lyon Playfair) a Question bearing on the same subject as the principle involved in this Motion. In Inkberrow, in the county of Worcester, we have a difficulty of this kind in regard to the Charities, on which I had hoped to get some information from the right hon. Gentleman. During the last three or four years the belief of the agricultural labourers of the county has been that the Trustees of these Charities have done their utmost to prevent the Allotments Extension Act being put into force; and their constant appeal has been not that these Charities should be taken wholly out of the hands of the present Trustees, but that the people should have some voice in the management of the Charities. That, I think, is a reasonable request, with which this House ought to have strong sympathy. If we are to place the agricultural labourers and people in general in a right position in reference to these Charities, we ought to give them some power in the management of the Charities. This question affects many towns besides Lichfield. In Birmingham we have a very rich endowment—the Grammar School. The practice of the Town Council appointing a certain number of the Trustees has been in force some years, and works well. It may not work so well in smaller towns, such as Lichfield; but the question I wish more especially to press on the attention of the House is not a question which refers to towns, but one which refers to rural districts. During the late Election it was my lot to speak in more than one county constituency in which the Trustees of Charities were taking an active part in the electoral campaign. I know that in more than one case the agricultural population were told that if they did not vote in a certain way the Christmas doles they were in the habit of receiving might not be forthcoming. This kind of intimidation is unworthy of anyone occupying the position of a public Trustee, and is a mean advantage to take of the agricultural labourers. But the agricultural population are awakening now to the knowledge that these Charities are their own property, and that they are only held in trust by these Trustees appointed by the Charity Commissioners. They feel strongly on this matter. When I have attended meetings in favour of an extension of the allotment system, I have found their minds imbued with so strong a suspicion of the way in which these Charities are managed, that one of the greatest difficulties is to get them to believe that these Trusts are ever managed honestly and well. Many Charities are managed honestly and well; but the agricultural mind is imbued with a very strong suspicion as to the management. Can we wonder at it, when there are many instances in which whole Charities have disappeared; other instances in which the money has been misapplied; and other instances in which Charity lands existed a few years ago, but have now become absorbed by some mysterious process, and are no longer a benefit to the labouring poor? The suspicion of which I have spoken rankles in the minds of the people; and I believe it would be wise on the part of this House to pass some Resolution such as this. The election of a certain number of representative men would restore the confidence of the population in the rural districts in the management of these Charity Trusts.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That, in the opinion of this House, every Scheme of the Charity Commissioners ought to provide for the majority of the Trustees or Managers being directly elected by the ratepayers in the locality to which the Charity extends."—(Sir John Swinburne.)


I was not aware of this Motion coming on to-night, or I should have obtained information from the Charity Commissioners. I am one of the Commissioners, but my duties prevent me attending the meetings of the Commission. I must point out to the hon. Baronet that his object will not at all be obtained by this Resolution; his object is to defeat Lowe's Charity Scheme; but his Motion will not act on Lowe's Charity at all. The Motion is couched in such large terms that I am sure he is thinking of other Charities besides Lowe's. "In the opinion of this House every Scheme of the Charity Commissioners" ought to be framed in the way he suggests. That will refer to education schemes, and to many educational schemes such a provision is quite unsuitable. The desire is to get men of technical knowledge—men of particular knowledge—elected upon schemes for education. I do not think, therefore, for education, at all events, the Resolution the hon. Baronet proposes will, in the slightest degree, effect the purpose he has in view. If the hon. Baronet will allow the debate to be adjourned I will take care to find out all about Lowe's Charity, and see how far his views can be met. I can assure him that this Motion itself will not, in the least, meet this particular case.

CAPTAIN VERNEY (Bucks, N., Buckingham)

I hope the hon. Member will not allow this debate to be adjourned. There is no matter upon which the agricultural population feel more keenly than upon this question; and I may say that it is one which is regarded as of the utmost importance in the constituency which I have the honour to represent. It is thought that these Charities should be managed by those whom they are intended to benefit, and should not be dealt with in the interest of the landowners. I can quote an instance in which a Charity has been left to a certain school in a parish; and the parson, who is the landowner of the whole of the parish, is one of the Trustees of the Charity. The Charity is £100 a-year, and practically you are paying that £100 a-year into the parson's pocket. If this money had not been left there would have been school rates or something else of that sort to be paid; and, the parson being the landowner of the whole parish, he would have had to pay it. You might as well give him the Charity to put in his own pocket. In point of fact, I think it is a swindle upon the poor people of the parish that these educational endowments should be dealt with so as to benefit the landowner. I think that this is a matter which ought to be pushed to a division, and we shall then see who are the men who are ready to stand by the labourers and who have their interests at heart.


I have had good opportunities for many years past of examining the schemes of the Charity Commissioners; and it seems to me as though they were anxious to give power to anybody and everybody rather than those best suited to exercise it. Some of their schemes are of the most fantastic character; and the management of them has been left in the hands of those who are least interested in undertaking them. Another thing which I have noticed in connection with these schemes is that the Trustee Boards have, in many cases, been so constituted that a large majority of the Trustees belong to one particular Party, or to one particular religious denomination; and I am obliged to say that that particular political Party has been the Conservative Party, and the religious denomination has been the Church of England. For my part, I am in favour of trusting to the representative principle in this matter. I think it would be very much better to trust the people than to place power in the hands of those who have no real interest in the administration of the Charities, and who are certainly not the best qualified to administer them. I would remind the House that in the Act which deals with these questions in Scotland there is a clause the principle of which is identical with the principle for which my hon. Friend the Member for Lichfield (Sir John Swinburne) is contending to-night. That clause renders it essential that a portion of the Trustees who are to be appointed under the Act shall be appointed by the Borough Boards of Scotland. I hope also that the time is soon coming when we shall have something like decentralization in regard to the Charity Commissioners, and when power will be given to the Local Authorities to construct these schemes, instead of their being entrusted to a body of men in London. I consider that with all their wisdom, and with all their good intentions, the Charity Commissioners must be unable to frame schemes which are good for all the particular places interested. I hope that we shall soon give a larger measure of power to Local Authorities; and in respect of these Charities I hope it will lead to this—that instead of the reformation of the Charities being the tardy process it is at present, we shall be able carefully, and in good time, to reconstruct the whole of the charitable schemes of the country, and to do it in such a way as to meet the wants of the people to a far greater extent than they had been met during the last 50 years.

MR. BUCHANAN (Edinburgh, W.)

I hope that the hon. Member will press this question to a division. As my hon. Friend has stated, it is not a new question in this House, and it is not a new question in one part of the Kingdom. We know a good deal about it in Scotland; and I would point out that this Motion which the hon. Baronet has put upon the Paper contains the very identical principle which we contended for on behalf of Scotland in the last Parliament. We contended, when the Scotch Act was before the House, for a clause which should take the form of the Motion now put forward by the hon. Baronet, and that clause was put into the Bill; but when the measure went up to "another place" it was considerably altered, and eventually passed in a much weaker form. Therefore, I think that in future, whenever this question is brought forward, it will be considered of the greatest importance that this principle should be once more affirmed, and that on this occasion the bulk of the independent Members will support the hon. Baronet in a division upon the matter.

MR. F. S. POWELL (Wigan)

I do not know how far hon. Members are aware that there is a Committee sitting upstairs engaged in investigating the whole of this subject; but it appears to me that it would be a bad precedent to establish to appoint a Committee one day, and then, almost directly after having done so, to pass a Resolution in this House practically deciding the whole question. I am of opinion, also, that this matter cannot be properly discussed at this hour. It is now a quarter past 1 o'clock in the morning, and I do not think that so important a question as this can be satisfactorily dealt with at such an hour, and in the absence of so many Members. I venture to say, moreover, that if the hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite (Captain Verney) had a seat on the Committee upstairs he would not have made use of the observations he did in regard to the Commissioners. I do not believe that anybody who knows anything about these cases can describe them as being "fantastic schemes." I have known something of these schemes from the commencement of the Committee, and I venture to say that the term "fantastic" is the very worst that can be applied to them. They have ever shown an increasing desire to have regard to local requirements, and an anxiety to give effect to the wants and desires of every district interested. The system proposed in this Motion will be an entirely novel system in this country—a system which has never yet been brought into operation, and which, if it is brought into operation, will not be founded on the Report of any Committee or Commission, will not be supported by evidence of any kind, but will be a complete revolution in our educational system carried by an unexpected vote in this House at half-past 1 o'clock in the morning. I do not believe that there was ever a Committee of this House which was stronger or better attended than the Committee which is inquiring into this matter; and I do not think that the House will be acting in that judicial spirit, and with that desire to act fairly, which is looked forward to in all our Parliamentary proceedings, if it consents to pass this Motion. For my part, I believe that the action of the Charity Commission was justified by the Report of the Committee which sat last year. I confess that I have heard from some friends of mine that there are some grounds of complaint in regard to some of these Charities in reference to allotments; but I believe that the fault in those cases does not lie with the Commissioners, but with the people living in the districts concerned. I am sure, however, that more weight ought to be attached to the Report of last year's Committee, which was made after careful investigation, than to the opinions of hon. Members who, however sincere, have not had the same practical acquaintance with the facts of the case. What we have to do is to have regard to the present administration of the Charities, and not to what took place in 1832. At present the Charity Commissioners cannot deal with any Charity unless they are moved to do so, and the question of whether their powers ought to be enlarged has often been spoken of. It has been said that their powers ought to be enlarged; but that matter is not before the House at the present moment. It is a different question, and, therefore, I will not now go into it. What I would urge upon the hon. Baronet opposite (Sir John Swinburne) is this—that, having regard to the fact that these matters are being inquired into upstairs, a Motion so large and sweeping in its character as this ought not to be pressed at this hour of the morning.


I would point out to the hon. Baronet (Sir John Swinburne) who has moved this Resolution that there are a great many Members who are interested in this question absent on this occasion; indeed, I may say that very few of those now in the House ever expected so important a matter as this, which does involve very serious considerations, to come on at such a late hour. Now, what are the facts of the case? It has been the custom in all the schemes in connection with Endowed Charities to provide in different ways for the election of Trustees. In some cases the Trustees are elected by the Governing Bodies, while others are sometimes appointed by special persons having an interest in the Trust. The proposal of my hon. Friend is this—that in every case of a Trust, and whether or not for any particular purpose, the majority of the Trustees shall be chosen by election by the ratepayers. That is to say, that there shall be an election taken part in by the whole body of the electors of the district interested in the case of every Trust. The rule has been hitherto, and I believe it has been applied to the majority of Trusts, that a proportion of the Trustees shall be elected by the Local Authorities, and that has always been supposed to raise the local question; but my hon. Friend proposes to do away with this altogether. Well, that is a strong proposition to lay down as an absolute rule, and to ask the House to adopt it at 1 o'clock in the morning; and, therefore, I will appeal to the hon. Baronet not to press his Motion at this hour in the morning. Surely so large a proposal as this ought not to be adopted at half-past 1 o'clock in the morning. There is a stronger reason—namely, that this very question has been referred to a Select Committee upstairs, which is sitting at this moment. That Committee is inquiring into these Endowed Charities, and the question we are now discussing, I am told, is under the consideration of the Committee. The hon. Baronet actually proposes that we should take a division on a subject which is referred, as I say, to a Select Committee—a very strong Committee—sitting upstairs He would say to that Committee—"We will take the matter of these Trusts out of your hands, notwithstanding that we have referred it to you, and we will lay down such-and-such a doctrine." I venture to say that that would be a proceeding unexampled in the history of our dealings in these matters. Let me remind the hon. Gentleman of the question underlying this. Take a majority of, say, seven Trustees who would be elected by popular election. In order to keep up that number, most probably it would be necessary for an election to take place every year, because you may take it for granted that, having seven gentlemen filling these offices, one vacancy will occur, on an average, every 12 months. And does the hon. Member reflect upon what the cost of these elections is? We have had a Return showing the expense to the ratepayers of local elections carried on in the ordinary way, and from that Return it would be safe to say that in a small town the expense would be £200 or £300. Every 1d. of that would come out of the funds of the Charity. I do trust the hon. Baronet will not press his Motion to a division, but will postpone it in order to allow time for consultation with those interested.

SIR R. ASSHETON CROSS (Lancashire, S.W., Newton)

After what has just fallen from the right hon. Gentleman, I should like to say that there is no doubt the passing of a Resolution of this kind after a full debate would have great weight with the country, but that a Resolution of the House, whichever way it might go, passed without debate would have no effect, practically, either in the country or elsewhere. I am not going to follow hon. Gentlemen in the argument as to whether the proposition before us is right or wrong; but I would say that, at this time of night, in the middle of such a debate as we are engaged in, and looking at the state of the Benches, it is impossible for the House to come to a Resolution which would have any effect. Therefore, with all sincerity, I would say to the hon. Baronet who has brought the question forward that he should introduce it at a time when it could be fairly discussed, in a full House—for it is a subject that deserves discussion, and which I am sure will receive it. I cannot omit to refer to the other circumstance, that this very question is being considered upstairs at this moment. For this House to pass a Resolution on the subject whilst the Committee is sitting, and before it has reported, would be looked upon by everyone who is familiar with the Forms of the House as a most extraordinary thing, and as coming to a conclusion without sufficient knowledge and information. Of course, on this matter I am only expressing my own opinion, and not that of right hon. Gentlemen opposite. [Sir JOHN SWINBURNE dissented.] The hon. Baronet shakes his head, but I think I have a right to put this proposition before the House. I believe it is one that will be accepted by the country.

MR. KENRICK (Birmingham, N.)

I do not concur in what the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary said, that Town Councils are not to be trusted with the conduct of these schools. Town Councils are the elected representatives of the people, and as elected representatives I believe they are, at any rate in most cases, the most competent authorities to entrust with the management of the schools. I speak on this subject with some knowledge of one school—the Grammar School in Birmingham—to which the Town Council appoints eight representatives out of a total number of 21. The result of the addition of representative Governors on that Board has been to infuse considerable energy into the management with the best results. I simply rose to support the Motion as a declaration in favour of the representative principle. I believe that to be the sound principle on which all these Charities and public Institutions are to be carried on; and it is looking on the Resolution in that light that I venture to recommend it to the support of the House. I should like to say that this is not a Bill. The Government at this time are asking us to vote on a question of supreme importance, and they will take the vote not as committing the House to all the particulars of the measure, but simply as a declaration of principle. That being the case on a matter of great Constitutional importance, surely on a minor matter such as this we need not quarrel too much as to the terms of the Resolution. It would be distinctly understood in the country, as in the House, simply as the affirmation of a principle; and that principle I take to be a sound one, and one it is the duty of the House to recognize, and put in force on every occasion when the opportunity arises.


In reply to hon. Members, I would say that the Motion has been on the Orders of the Day for six weeks, and that, therefore, it cannot possibly have taken Her Majesty's Government by surprise. This evening, when the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister asked the House to give way for the Irish debate, I distinctly rose in my place, and requested the Government to give me all the facilities they could for this Motion of mine to come on at an early hour. I think that will be in the recollection of the House. Then I have been asked to postpone this Motion, because there is a Committee sitting upon the subject upstairs—because there is an inquiry going on. Why, Sir, there has been an inquiry going on about these things for 64 years, having commenced in 1822. I take a practical view of these matters. I have a practical knowledge of them, acquired by eight years' experience, having had under my own eye an Endowed School managed by a majority of Trustees or Governors—call them what you like—elected by the ratepayers directly. We have heard from the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary something about the enormous expense of these elections. He says they cost hundreds of pounds. Well, in the case to which I refer, the elections take place once every one or two years, and they cost the Trustees nothing. They hold their meetings in the school-house. I agree with my hon. Friend on my right the Member for North Birmingham (Mr. Kenrick) that in such places as Manchester, Birmingham, and Liverpool, Town Councils are excellent Institutions for the nomination of Governors in such Municipalities; but when you get to small towns and villages—and even the residence of a Bishop does not necessarily render a town a very large or important place—the case is different. I want to put myself right. The Committee sitting upstairs has been mentioned more than once. I have been in constant communication with the Chief Charity Commissioner upstairs, and I have begged him to postpone the carrying out of the Lowe's Charity Scheme, seeing that we are at issue as to the system of election to be adopted. I desire the Trustees to be elected by the ratepayers. This Gentleman declines to agree to my proposal; he carries his point and his scheme. The House may not be aware of the fact, nor was I until within the last few days; but it is not necessary for the scheme of a Charity to be placed upon the Table of this House. If it is an Endowed School the scheme has to lie upon the Table of the House 30 days; but that is not the case with other Charities. What happens in this case? Let us look on it from a practical point of view. Lowe's Scheme has only been passed 14 days or three weeks; the Charity Commissioners are already, under this new scheme, selling a piece of land in the middle of the town, where a garden is wanted for allotments, against the wish of the working classes. They have written to me to say that they have had the land valued. I do not know whether it is proposed to sell it at its full value, or at less than its value; but the land is being sold against the wish of the working classes for whom the Charity was left. What I want in this matter is Home Rule; that Charity property shall be watched from day to day by those to whom it belongs. The Trustees and Governors in this case are to be elected for life. In the case of the Charity with which I became connected eight years ago, and which has been working so admirably, the Trustees are only elected for seven years. Under these circumstances, I feel compelled to divide the House.


I desire to put before the House a consideration which may weigh with it in the decision it may give. The Motion of the hon. Baronet appears to be based upon the idea that all points that can come within the jurisdiction of the Charity Commissioners must be in their character essentially local. ["No, no!"] Well, I will read the Resolution, or that part of it which is essential. The hon. Baronet asks us to affirm that in the opinion of this House— Every Scheme of the Charity Commissioners ought to provide for the majority of the Trustees or Managers being directly elected by the ratepayers in the locality to which the Charity extends. Take the case of the Institution for the benefit of the Orphans of Seamen. That is not a local Charity. It is a Charity for the benefit of a class, and I apprehend that the Resolution proposed for the acceptance of the House in that case would be altogether out of place. That is by no means a rare state of things, nor is it rare to find cases where Charities have a strong local element, and, at the same time, also a strong non-local character. It would be absurd to insist upon a majority of the Trustees of a Charity being local, because that Charity may have local characteristics. Take a case like Sherborne School. Suppose the Commissioners are going to form a scheme for that school, and the majority of the Trustees are to be withdrawn from the narrow radius of Sherborne and the vicinity. The school is a public school, open to all Her Majesty's subjects who like to send their children there. ["Divide!"] Hon. Gentlemen say "Divide!" Are they not beginning to see that the Resolution proposed to the House is one which they cannot pass without agreeing to that which is not sense? The Resolution is one which should not be acted upon, and which the hon. Baronet would be the last man in the world to wish to have acted upon. The hon. Member opposite has mentioned that he has had great experience as to the Endowed Schools Department of the Charity Commissioners' work, and has found considerable fault with the Charity Commissioners. A Committee is sitting upstairs to inquire into complaints made against the administration of the Charity Commissioners with respect to Endowed Schools; and I would put it to the hon. Gentleman that he would be doing better by coming up to that Committee to substantiate the complaints he has made, than by merely standing up in this House and making a wide and general and vague case. ["Oh, oh!"] He certainly said there were a great many cases, but he did not give us any particulars. It would be better, I say, to go to the Committee upstairs, than to indulge in general declamation against the Charity Commissioners.

MR. ILLINGWORTH (Bradford, W.)

I quite agree with the object the hon. Baronet has in view, and when the right time comes, and we are able to deal practically with the question, I will go with him with all my heart. Many Members in the House know that I have fought the question on the lines the hon. Gentleman proposes; but there is some regard to be paid to the fact that there is a Committee now sitting upstairs to inquire into the matter. I, too, am a Member of that Committee. It is submitted that it would be impossible for a general Resolution of this kind to cover many of the schemes which would be effected by it if it were passed—that it would be inappropriate to many of them. But the weightiest point is that we have not in the districts where these Charities exist Representative Bodies into whose hands the management of these matters could be committed. The hon. Gentleman has just called attention to a Charity in a district where the annual election of Trustees would cost £300. It is all very well to say that elections ought to be conducted more economically; but, as a matter of fact, wherever they do take place we know that they are very expensive. I think this point will be met by the decision of the Committee; but, whatever their decision may be, I think that by waiting for that decision we shall be much better able to deal with this question as a whole.

MR. JAMES STUART (Shoreditch, Hoxton)

While I agree entirely with the principle that is involved in this Resolution, I rise to support the view that has been taken by my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford (Mr. Illingworth). I, for one, agree with my hon. Friend in pressing the view that we should not vote for this Resolution at this time. I hope the time is not far distant when we shall have a system of local government in this country under which the Charities of the country can be put. Charities would then be dealt with locally. But I think that, under the circumstances described by my hon. Friend, it would be, on the whole, a mistake for us to vote for this Resolution at this time. It seems to me I shall best consult the views of those who are divided in opinion on this matter by moving the adjournment of the debate.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Mr. James Stuart.)


I would make one more appeal to the hon. Baronet not to put the Government in the position of opposing the principle of the Motion that is brought forward. Speaking for myself entirely—though, perhaps, I might say the same thing on behalf of the Government also—I may say there are two or three schemes I have had to deal with myself to which it would be impossible to apply this Motion.

DR. CAMERON (Glasgow, College)

As a point, of Order, I would draw attention to the fact that the Question before the House is the adjournment of the debate.


The hon. Member is not in Order in discussing the Main Question. The Question is the adjournment of the debate.


As one not opposed to the spirit of the Resolution, I ask the hon. Baronet for myself—as a private Member—not to press the Resolution to a division.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 59; Noes 73: Majority 14.—(Div. List, No. 97.)

Original Question again proposed.

MR. COURTNEY (Cornwall, Bodmin)


MR. T. M. HEALY (Londonderry, S.)

I rise to a point of Order. I wish to ask you, Sir, whether, as you had already put the Question that "the Ayes have it," the hon. Gentleman has a right to continue the debate? Is it competent for any hon. Gentleman to speak on the general question after the Question has been put?


If I had completed putting the Question, and had declared that the Ayes or the Noes had it, it would be too late for any hon. Member to continue the debate upon the general question. But all that I had said was—"Those who are of that opinion say 'aye,' and those who are of the contrary opinion say 'no;'" and it was not then too late for the hon. Member to interpose.


At this late hour I do not propose to detain the House. I rise simply for the purpose of appealing to the hon. Baronet, in view of the fact that he has just obtained a majority on the Motion for Adjournment, which is a very significant intimation of the feeling of the House, he should consent now to withdraw the Motion, and not press it to a division. The hon. Baronet is aware that a Select Committee is now sitting upstairs which is engaged in the consideration of the whole matter. He wishes to lay down in his Resolution a principle as to which I will say nothing—that the majority of the Trustees or Managers of every Charity should be elected by ratepayers locally interested in the scheme. But there are Charities in regard to which that principle could not be adhered to. There are Charities concerned with particular localities; other Charities concerning particular classes of persons. Take the case of a Charity like Christ's Hospital. If the proposal of the hon. Baronet were accepted, any scheme drawn up for the regulation of Christ's Hospital would require that the majority of the Trustees or Managers of the Hospital should be elected by the ratepayers of Christ Church, Newgate. A more preposterous conclusion could not be arrived at. In some cases these Charities concern particular localities, in others particular professions, in others different kinds of education, and in others different families. If the hon. Baronet desires to grapple with the whole subject he must draw up a much wider Resolution. But the more important point is that we already have a Select Committee upstairs considering the whole matter; and I certainly think that to pass a Resolution of this sort at 10 minutes to 2 o'clock in the morning upon a question which has already been referred to a Committee selected from your own Body, with instructions to report to the House upon it, is most inexpedient. I trust that the hon. Baronet will be satisfied with the victory he has just gained upon the Motion for Adjournment of the House, which, no doubt, is highly significant, and cannot be lost sight of; and that he will now be prepared to study the dignity of the House and the position which it already occupies in regard to the question. In my opinion, he may lose much, and can gain nothing, by persisting with the Resolution.

MR. CONYBEARE (Cornwall, Camborne)

I do not attach much value to the argument of the hon. Member as to the dignity of the House. The hon. Member is very fond of referring to the dignity of the House. Only the other day he informed us that it would be contrary to the dignity of the House not to consent to the confiscation of a common on Hayling Island; and now he tells us that it is against the dignity of the House that we should stand up for the rights of the poor. I strongly support this Resolution; and I would ask my hon. Friend the Member for the Lichfield Division of Staffordshire (Sir John Swinburne) not to give way. I do so for this reason—that if we pass the Resolution we shall strengthen the hands of the Committee sitting upstairs. Although my experience of this House has not been very long, I know very well, from what has taken place in former Parliaments, that the passing of an abstract Resolution such as this very often produces a most salutary moral effect. I am perfectly certain that the Committee now sitting upstairs would be stirred up by it to do its duty, especially if the Resolution is passed by a majority equal to that which just refused to allow the debate to be adjourned. I do not think the case of Christ's Hospital was a very good one for the Chairman of Committees to cite; because everyone knows that, if ever there was a case in which the poor have been robbed of their rights, it is that of Christ's Hospital. The course which has been pursued by the Trustees in reference to Christ's Hospital has certainty not been such as to entitle them to the confidence of the public. We have heard of instances in which noble Lords have been pitch forked into the Charity Commission in order to find comfortable berths for them, and without the slightest regard for their fitness to discharge the duties. It is most desirable, I think, that there should be the utmost publicity in regard to these schemes; but at the present moment, under the present system, it is impossible to find out what is going on. That being the condition under which these schemes are concocted, I can well understand why objections should be raised to them, and serious complaints made on the part of the localities which are interested in them.

Original Question put.

Resolved, That, in the opinion of this House, every Scheme of the Charity Commissioners ought to provide for the majority of the Trustees or Managers being directly elected by the ratepayers in the locality to which the Charity extends.