HC Deb 23 August 1887 vol 319 cc1673-6

Order for Second Reading read.


, in moving that the Bill be now read second time, said: This is a Bill to promote economy, and, at the same time, to increase the efficiency of the working of the Charity Commission. The first part of the Bill proposes to appoint Inspectors, who shall also be Assistant Commissioners. Under the existing Act of Parliament Inspectors can only exercise certain functions; and in view of the more economical working and better administration of the Act, it is wise that persons should be appointed who can perform the duties of Assistant Commissioners. There are also some minor alterations. The Bill is not one likely to give rise to any opposition, and I therefore hope the House will read it a second time without delay.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. Attorney General.)


The observations of the hon. and learned Gentleman naturally lead the House to suppose that this is an exceedingly simple and harmless measure, and that practically it makes only a nominal change in the existing state of the law. But, besides the fact that it replaces the existing Inspectors by a system of Assistant Commissioners, it also leaves some of the Inspectors with admittedly considerably less work to do, though their pay is to remain precisely the same. [Sir RICHARD WEBSTER: Oh, no.] The hon. and learned Gentleman says he thinks not. Well, he will find in the Bill a provision to the effect that any official now trustee of a charitable fund shall not, after the passing of the Act and while he shall continue to hold the office of official Inspector, receive any less salary than he received as official trustee.


That provision only relates to a person holding the office of official trustee. It has nothing to do with the duties of Inspectors.


I will not discuss the matter at length, although I demur altogether to the statement of the hon. and learned Gentleman. But, besides that, the Bill also provides, in the clause which, the hon. and learned Gentleman referred to as only a minor matter, that power shall be taken to render regular that which possibly may have been irregular before the passing of this Act in regard to charity lands. Sir, this Bill is one which requires very careful consideration before the House can agree to read it a second time. At this hour of the night it is not likely to receive the scrutiny which it deserves, and therefore I beg to move that the debate be now adjourned.


I beg to second that.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."— (Mr. Arthur O'Connor.)

THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. W. H. SMITH) (Strand, Westminster)

I trust that the hon. Gentleman will not persevere with his Motion. This Bill has received very careful consideration from Gentlemen on both sides of the House. It proceeds not from us, but from the previous Government; it has been carefully considered by a Departmental Committee; it has also been considered by a Committee of this House; it is purely an administrative measure to promote the efficiency of the Commission, and it will also considerably reduce the charge of the Service. I trust that having regard to the fact that no new powers whatever are conferred by it, that the funds to be dealt with are thereby to be placed under more careful investigation, and that in all respects it is free from Party spirit, the Bill will meet with acceptance by the House.


The right hon. Gentleman tells us that this Bill invests the Charity Commissioner with no new powers. But, even if it is everything which it is represented to be, I think we have come to this—that we may fairly ask that no more practical Business shall be done. This may be a dog-in-the-manger attitude to assume; but I think it is creditable at this hour. The right hon. Gentleman is, I hold, unwise in persisting in proceeding with the Bill at this hour; and all I can say is that if the matter goes to a Division we must vote against the Bill over and over again, before we can agree that a Bill of this kind shall be rushed through the House at this hour.

MR. T. E. ELLIS (Merionethshire)

I hope that my hon. Friend (Mr. Arthur O'Connor) will allow this Bill to be read a second time. I have several times asked the Government Questions relating to charities, especially Welsh—and I have pointed out to the House on many occasions that the Welsh charities are in a scandalous condition, and that they are continually lapsing in consequence of there being no proper supervision. The Government have confessed that they are ready to take action in this matter, providing the Charity Commissioners have a sufficiently large staff to enable them to do so. Now, these matters cannot be arranged by local correspondence; local inquiries must be made before reliable information can be obtained from the trustees; and I, therefore, sincerely hope that the hon. Member will allow the House to proceed with the second reading of this Bill.

MR. C. S.PARKER (Perth)

I should like to say one word in support of the Bill. The Commissioners have done good work in connection with the endowed schools, and they impressed a Committee of this House very strongly with their efficiency in that depart- ment of their work. It was made apparent to us that the amalgamation of the offices of Inspector and Assistant Commissioner would lead to increased efficiency, without increasing the expense. I do hope, therefore, that hon. Members will be persuaded to allow the Bill to pass this stage. It will be open to them to discuss details in Committee.

MR. CONYBEARE (Cornwall, Camborne)

I am as averse as anyone to going on with Business called contentious at this hour of the night, and if I had my way we would never sit later than 2 o'clock. But I would respectfully ask my hon. Friends behind me not to press this Motion. The matter came before the House only a few nights ago, when I received certain assurances from the Government. To the best of my recollection, I certainly felt satisfied in my own mind that this measure should be allowed to proceed; and therefore, as far as I am concerned, I shall not oppose it.

DR. TANNER (Cork, Co. Mid)

I also appeal to my hon. Friends not to press this Motion, as the measure is one on which we are all substantially agreed. Sir, before you came into the Chair, I asked that Progress should be reported while certain items were under consideration in Committee, and I then gave as a reason that this Bill ought to be proceeded with. Accordingly, I think it is only fair on my part to carry out the view I then expressed, and I will press my hon. Friend (Mr. Arthur O'Connor) not to persevere with his Motion, but to allow the Bill to be read a second time.


I feel, Sir, that I am totally unable to resist the appeal of my hon. Friend the Member for Mid Cork, and I, therefore, ask leave to withdraw my Motion.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

Original Question put, and agreed to.

Bill read a second time, and committed for Thursday.