§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ (12.28.) MR. RATHBONE (Carnarvonshire)
Mr. Speaker, the provisions of the Bill now before the House are very simple, and intended to meet two admitted blots in the Charitable Trusts Bill, in consequence of which large funds, intended for charitable uses, are constantly being wasted, or diverted from public objects. Both Parties, when in power, have tried to remedy this evil, but unfortunately the measures which would have done this, were of so extensive a nature that though Lord Cairns in 1879, and Lord Selborne in 1881, introduced measures to deal with the question on the. lines of the present Bill, and although a Committee in 1884, presided over by the Member for Bradford (Mr. Lefevre), and composed, of course, of Members from both sides of the House, reported unanimously in favour of the Amendments proposed in the present Bill, time has never been found to carry out the considerable measures of reform which were recommended; and this unfortunate and discreditable waste of money continues constantly to present scandals, which are a cruel injustice to the poor, who are thus defrauded, and I venture to think is not conducive to confidence in the promptitude and efficiency of our legislation. The promoters of this Bill have no personal grievance against the present system, but the Debate on the Vote on the Ecclesiastical Commission, in May, 1889, impressed upon them the necessity of putting a stop promptly to what is really a public scandal. It will be seen that they belong to both sides of the House. The only two Members on the Conservative side of the House who 356 sat on the Commission of 1884 warmly supported the Bill. Its principles have had the approval of three Lord Chancellors, including the present one, and it is warmly supported by all the Liberal Members of the Committee of 1884, including the Chairman of the Committee, whose unwearied patience and thorough investigation of the whole subject, and the moderation of his Report, which carried I believe, the unanimous support of the Committee with him, will, I trust, bear fruit some time in a complete revision of the subject. But in the meantime he most cordially supports the removal of this, the most pressing evil calling for remedy. The Committee of 1884 were unanimous in reporting that—There is no ground for maintaining the limit in the Act of 1800 in respect to charities with an income of over £50 per annum, but a further step should be taken for transferring to Commissioners the powers exercised by the High Court of Justice for the control and reform of mischievous or wasted Charities.For ample proof of such waste and misappropriation, I would refer the House to the evidence in the Report of 1884, summed up in Question 626 to 635, 641 to 655, 642 to 650; also Question 182 to 194, and 348 to 478. You will find one case where the income was £900 a year, £595 of which was spent in supervising the expenditure of £369. In the case of a charity of £10,000 a year, only £1,700 was utilised for charity, the whole of the remainder being spent on management. To deal with such cases, the Commissioners have to go to the expense of setting the Attorney General in motion, and bringing an action in the Court of Chancery, with all the attendant expenses. There is a case of a man who had £10,000 a year, who contended he was a proper recipient of the charity of a Trust, because he was poor compared with his brother, who had £20,000 a year. The hon. Member for Penrith (Mr. Lowther),who represents the Commission in the House, will be able to tell you that these scandals are still coming before them monthly, and that they have no power to prevent them. And is it not the height of absurdity that before you can, without an expensive Chancery suit, impoverishing the charity, interfere with men who 357 are wasting, or even misappropriating charitable funds, you must ask the sanction of the very men who are neglecting their duty, or misapplying or even paying themselves for mismanaging Charitable Funds. You might as well require the policeman to ask permission from the thief, or other breaker of the law, before he interfered to prevent his continuing his misconduct. Clause 3 of the Bill is merely to remedy an oversight, in consequence of which, as the law now stands, if a charity has been obliged to get Parliamentary sanction for some change of Trust or some other matter, even though the Trustees themselves and those who thus benefit by the Trust, the Government and the Commissioners all combine to wish some needed improvement, it is impossible to do it without an Act of Parliament, and its inevitable, and, therefore, often prohibitory expense and delay. This matter needs no argument, and I am sure the House will see that the abuses ought to be remedied. I am very sorry that I have been able to lay before the House so imperfectly this question, particularly as I will be followed by the Mover of the Amendment who is a practical speaker, and who will be able to put his case with greater ability before the House than I have been able to put mine, but the scandal and abuses are so clear that I cannot but hope that the House will assent to the removal of these blots from the management of our charities. I have great pleasure in moving the Second Reading of the Bill.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. Rathbone.)
§ *(12.45.) Sir A. ROLLIT (Islington, S.)
Mr. Speaker, I beg to move the Amendment for the rejection of the Bill. The hon Member said the Bill was simple and short. That description is not inconsistent with the character I am going to give it, that of being the most sweeping, comprehensive, and general proposal, and one much too inclusive for the purpose of achieving the objects which it has in view. I should not for a moment think of defending any of those scandals or abuses to which the hon. Member has referred, and, where they 358 exist, I quite agree that it is desirable to save to the poor the means of help which have been given them. In the present state of the law, it is true there may be some difficulties in that direction, but they are not so great as have been described by the hon. Member. The present Bill contains remedies which will be effective I do not doubt for a moment, but they carry with them objections which I think will be shared by hon. Members after the discussion on the subject. Though I quite grant that the Mover of the Amendment is actuated by high sentiments, still I feel that the present Bill would, in the end, instead of having a beneficial, have the contrary effect upon the charities of the country. It is towards that point my observations will be directed. To appreciate the full effect of the Bill, it is necessary to trace the growth of the powers of the Commission. In 1853 the efforts of the Charity Commissioners were directed to the reform of obsolete charities, to adopt them to modern ideas, and to remove what was called the "dead hand"—the surviving influence of the pious founder, whose charities were frequently crippled by restrictive provisions long out of date. I grant the Charity Commissioners, in dealing with these restrictive provisions, have done a useful work, and have rendered the charities beneficial to the poor recipients with corresponding advantage to the country. But ever since the formation of the Commission in 1853, its object has been very greatly to extend its powers. The Commission has not only a good opinion of itself, justified generally speaking, but it is strongly of opinion that every one else, even those who live in the locality where the charity is administered, are impotent to effect the good for the recipients that can be achieved by the Commission itself. The Commission was originally limited to charities, the gross income of each of which was less than £30 a year; afterwards the power was extended to charities with incomes of not less than £50 a year. Since then, several attempts have been made to further extend its powers. The hon. Member for Carnarvonshire was quite right when he said Bills were introduced in 1881 and 1883.
§ * SIR A. ROLLIT
There may have been even more than two Bills. The hon. Member referred to the chorus of approval with which those measures were introduced. He never referred to the Debates in the other House, or I think he might have added that they were subjected to criticisms by Lord Salisbury and other noble Lords—criticisms which, it appears to me, might very well be applied to the present Bill, which, though in one sense more limited, is in others very much more inclusive than the Bills to which I have referred. There are, moreover, remedies for the abuses which exist, and remedies which have been applied. There is the remedy of gaining the consent of the Trustees. Although that consent may have been refused in some cases, I. believe I am correct in saying that many charities have been modified with the concurrence of those who have taken part in their local administration. And if there have been exceptional instances to the contrary, I am in favour of providing some remedy of a less drastic character than that proposed by the Bill. There is also a right of access to the High Court for the purpose of constructing schemes, when they are in accordance with the general intention of the founder, though adapted to modern requirements. Again, if the doctrine of cy prés is not applicable in any particular case, then Parliament may be resorted to, and under the direction of Parliament schemes have been modernised and made more beneficial. Now, Sir, the Trusts which would not be benefited by the Bill, but the contrary, are the larger Trusts in our towns— Municipal Trusts which are administered in our great towns, and which at present attract the active interest and co-operation of a class of men, the value of whose work is inestimable, and who would be deterred from taking further part by a measure which would transfer all the power from them to the Charity Commissioners, rendering themselves comparative nonentities in the administration of those charities. What does this short and simple measure do? By the 2nd clause it enables the Charity Commissioners to make orders under Section 2 of the Act of 1860, in the case of all charities, 360Upon the application of the Attorney General,. or of any person or persons referred to in the said section two as authorised to apply to the Board for orders, in the same manner as they have power to make orders under the said section two in case of charity, the gross annual income of which does not exceed fifty pounds.So, by a few simple words you have the extension of the jurisdiction of the Charity Commissioners to all incomes of over £50. By the removal of that restriction the most inclusive and unlimited jurisdiction is given to the Commission. Section 3 of the Bill is—Any provisions relating to a charity contained in any Act of Parliament establishing a scheme approved and certified by the Board under Section 54 and the following sections of the Charitable Trusts Act. 1853, or in any Act of Parliament other than a public general Act, may be from time to time amended or altered by a scheme of the High Court of Justice, or of the Board in the exercise of its ordinary jurisdiction, as effectually as if the trust created by, and the provisions contained in, such Act had been established by the founder in the case of a charity having a founder.I have seldom read a more comprehensive section than this, and I contend that the effect of this measure, if passed, would be to give absolute control over the destiny of any charity, from the largest of our hospitals to the smallest of our village foundations, with the exception of the cases in which half of the funds are subscribed voluntarily, and of religious institutions. With those limited exceptions, the result of this measure would be to give the sole and exclusive control to the Charity Commissioners. The Commissioners would be able to divert any particular fund or the general funds of a charity; they would be able to form schemes without any reference to the wishes of the locality; they would be able to re-make the wills of founders; and they might alter any private Act of Parliament relating to such charities. All this might be done, not as in the past in Parliament, and subject to discussion in this House; not under the check of any public Debate whatever; but in the room of the Charity Commissioners, where there can be only a very limited audience, and where, under the provisions of the measure, there need be no Conference at all. If this Bill passed, in future it would only be a matter of courtesy if the Commissioners received 361 the Local Trustees. We have heard of the dead hand, the influence of which has passed away in many cases. But by this Bill the Local Trustees are put on one side by a living hand, and the whole of this important work, which is essentially of a local character, is to be put into the hands of a Public Department without any material check upon it. We have heard something of the action of Local Charity Trustees. There are in our large towns numbers of men who will be interfered with by this Bill—men who make sacrifices of their time, and incur much trouble in the administration of Local Charities for the benefit of the poor, who highly appreciate their services. I feel quite sure that the Bill, if passed, would restrict the interest they take in the work, and I am convinced the House will gravely consider before it disturbs a local administration of these charities which has hitherto been successful, and which has not, indeed, been specifically impeached, except in one instance, by the Mover of the Bill. I am aware that in general terms the hon. Member did incorporate other instances. but I think he only alluded to one specifically. On the other hand, I know of a great many instances of a contrary character which would be covered by this Bill in a way which would be otherwise than beneficial. I say that the Local Charity Trustees, as a rule, have done that which has been to the advantage of the charities. Many times they have had differences with the Charity Commission — sometimes chronic differences which have lasted for years, but I would add to the opinion I have already expressed, that when these differences have taken place, generally speaking in the case of the larger charities, the Local Trustees have been in the right, and the view of the Charity Commissioners has been open to serious and successful challenge. Cases can be mentioned in which the Local Trustees have taken exception, and rightfully so, to the action and inaction of the Charity Commission. In the first place, it is alleged, and I think with some truth, that there are few Departments in which there are so many delays which are prejudicial to the interests of local charities. Very often we hear of these interests being neglected, and it 362 would not be hard to prove that the difficulty has been in London rather than in the locality, and that it has been almost impossible to secure a definite course of action on the part of the Commissioners. Great delay takes place with regard to the transfer of property, and the investment of funds. It required years to induce the Charity Commission to consent to the investigation of charity funds in Corporation Stock—one of the best and safest forms of investment and one generally associated with the locality in which the charity exists. Well, I will give two instances where I think the action and inaction of the Charity Commission has been open to criticism, and where the Local Trustees have been right. The first of these is the case of the Grammar School at Hull. I am quite aware that this would not be materially affected by the Bill, but, on the other hand, the Bill would give additional and unrestricted powers to the Charity Commissioners, and, if in the course of their administration of a local charity, they have taken an unwise course in opposition to the wishes of Local Trustees that affords a strong reason against arming the Commissioners with these unrestricted powers. So far back as 1879 the Grammar School, an old and historic building, having become dilapidated, application was made for power to realise the property, with a view to the erection of a new building. Not until 1882 was an order made for the sale if the property, and when it was made the order contained directions—or, at any rate, specified the object—for the erection of a new building to replace the old one. The old school was sold, and plans for the new building approved by the Charity Commissioners. In 1882 the new site, also, was inspected and approved, but will it be believed that though the funds were transferred to the Official Trustee, they have been lying idle ever since, and the land has been let instead of the school being erected. The ground of the refusal to act, notwithstanding continual protests, is that there is no endowment provided for the school, but this point was only raised after the sale of the old property and the purchase of a new site. There was no material endowment of 363 the old school. Notwithstanding the disadvantage of the school being held in a building unfitted for the purpose, the attendance increased by hundreds, and its work was most successful. True, now, owing to a large bequest to another school, the urgency is not so great, except for the scholars in the Grammar School, but the fact remains that although there was but a small endowment, the Commissioners had in their hands the funds produced by the sale of the old school, yet nothing was done towards the erection of the new school, and this affords a notable instance of the wise action of Local Trustees being baulked by the inaction of the Commissioners, and by their resistance to a very reasonable request. Another instance is afforded from the same town. Some years ago it was proposed to sell some small almshouses and devote the proceeds to educational purposes. I, as one of the Trustees, and in my interest for the cause of education, concurred in the proposal. However, local sentiment was evoked, and strong local feeling expressed against the transfer of charitable funds to educational purposes, and ultimately the Commissioners were over-ruled and the transfer did not take place. The result has been that a splendid institution has been erected in Hull, which is doing admirable work. I give that as another instance in which the action of the Local Trustees was right, and the action of the Charity Commissioners wrong, although at the time I concurred in it, of which I repented, while they have not. I am only too glad that the charitable funds have not been diverted to educational purposes, but have been retained so beneficently for the purposes of the poor. The feeling against the unrestricted power of the Charity Commissioners is particularly strong in Hull. The Local Trustees consist of 20 of the leading men of the town, and the Trust is identified with the Corporation. At a recent meeting of these Trustees the proposals in this Bill were unanimously condemned as against the interest of the recipients of the charities. Both the Trustees and the Corporation have petitioned against the Bill. Hull has had considerable experience in these matters, and the attitude of the gentlemen to whom I have alluded forms a 364 strong ground for believing that our Municipalities do not think that the Bill will improve the administration of local charities. The criticism of the Charity Commissioners is most noticeable in cases of educational charities, which are entirely placed under their control, and, therefore, I protest most earnestly against the control of all the local charities being handed over to them. There can be no doubt that 'the Local Trustees are better qualified by a knowledge of the local requirements of a district to manage its local charities. The Charity Commissioners, on the other hand, wish to centralise the control of all the charities in their own hands. The tendency of the present day, however, is in favour of decentralisation instead of centralisation. Even in a progressive country like Germany, State action has the effect of neutralising private interest and private enterprise, and lessening that personal sympathy which ought to exist in the administration of Charitable Trusts; it also has the effect of creating a feeling that the State ought to do all those things that are now done by private individuals. Nothing would be more regrettable than that such a state of affairs should spring up in this country. It is impossible to over-estimate the value to the recipients of charity of personal sympathy, such as that of Local Trustees who are many of them men who devote the whole of their time to the improvement of the condition of the poorer classes. If I thought the public interest would be served by this Bill I should vote for it; but it is because I feel that the effect of such a measure would be to greatly restrict donations and bequests for charitable purposes that I am under an obligation to do what I can to defeat the Bill, which, though, short and simple, is in all its characteristics far too inclusive in dealing with all the great charities of the country. The recommendations of the Committee of 1884 are systematically ignored in this Bill. That Committee recommended that the appeal to the High Court should be retained, but there is no qualification in this Bill which retains that appeal. The Report of the Committee of 1884 further recommended that where a change that is sought to be 365 made is greater than the Court would sanction under the cy prés doctrine, the scheme should be laid before Parliament and a Standing Committee formed for the purpose of supervising and considering such eases. In this measure there is no provision whatever for Parliamentary supervision. On the contrary, from the wording of Clause 3 such work may be done by the Commissioners in the exercise of their ordinary jurisdiction. There was a further recommendation in the Report of 1884 that provision should be made for the more direct recognition of the wishes of the locality. There are no such words in the Bill before the House, although that seems to me to be an absolutely essential check upon the action of the Commissioners. The Report of 1884 goes further and recommends that the initiative in the matter of such schemes should be in the hands of Municipal Corporations,and—anticipating the Act of 1888—of County Authorities. The very essence of the restrictions recommended in the Report of 1884 is the interest of the localities; but this Bill confers powers on the Commissioners without consideration for the interests of the localities. The House should, I think, pause very much before giving effect to this measure, which does so much which is highly objectionable. It provides powers of a most inclusive character, it provides for centralisation, it ignores local feeling and co-operation and local interest and sympathy, and it does not provide the local and Parliamentary checks which are so strongly recommended by the Parliamentary Committee of 1884. Such a Bill ought not to be passed by the House, and I feel I have no alternative but to move its rejection.
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months."—(Sir Albert Rollit.)
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ *(1.25.) MR. SAMUEL HOARE (Norwich)
In rising to second the Amendment I should like first to say that I fully appreciate the reasons which have actuated hon. Members who 366 have introduced this Bill. I agree with the hon. Member for Carnarvonshire that delay in the introduction of needful reforms is dangerous, and that it is no use locking the stable door when the horse is stolen; but my view is that we should not lock the stable door until the horse is supplied within the stable with everything he requires to enable him to live a comfortable and healthy life. My feeling is that if we lock the door by this Bill we shall only give rise to irritation and difficulties and weaken, rather than strengthen, the work of the Charity Commission. I feel that I must support my hon. Friend, and ask the House to support him too, in voting against the Second Reading of the Bill. I would ask the House to do this in its own interest, in the interest of the Charity Commissioners, in the interest of the Local Trustees, and last, though by no means least, in the interest of many thousands of poor people who are deeply interested in the question, and who have great difficulty at the present time in expressing any opinion on these matters which are of vital importance to themselves. I think the House should oppose this Bill in its own interest, because, as my hon. Friend has said, it practically ignores the recommendations of two important Committees, and in the interest of the Charity Commissioners, because it ignores their wishes as expressed in their last Report. The Bill gives greater powers to the Commissioners, and does not provide for representative bodies having a voice in the consideration of schemes in their own parishes: and, further, it does not give the Commissioners any wider powers for meeting the wishes of those most interested in the administration of the Charities. Lastly, it does not lay down a principle under which a new scheme can be discussed. There is only one kind of scheme on which the House has an opportunity of expressing its disagreement, and that is a scheme under the Endowed Schools Act. A great number of schemes have emanated from the Charity Commissioners in such a way that it is very difficult for the people interested in them to express their disapproval of any part of them. There are, I know, provisions fur opposition to schemes to be brought forward; but the opposition has to take 367 place before a Court, and it cannot be undertaken until the people have proved their right to appear. It is very desirable that there should be some change so that anybody interested in a scheme, and who wishes to express disapproval of it, can do so without cost to himself, and without having to call in the law to assist him. I realise that the Charity Commissioners are very careful before framing a scheme to take the opinion of the people in the locality; but I am trying to prove that when a scheme is issued it is very difficult indeed to bring any opposition to it before the Order is finally settled. I know there are other ways in which charity schemes are issued. I am aware that the Attorney General has power to issue a scheme, with which the Charity Commissioners have nothing whatever to do; and then there is one other kind of scheme which comes before the House, a scheme framed by Act of Parliament, which can only be altered by another Act of Parliament. The Commissioners say there is considerable hardship and inconvenience from this cause, and they hope there will be legislation on the subject. I regret provision is not made in this Bill to cover this point. But, at the same time, I base my opposition to the Bill mainly on the ground that the recommendations of the two Committees who went carefully into the system of the Charity Commissioners have not been adopted in the Bill. My hon. Friend has alluded to the 1884 Report; but he did not read that clause in which the Committee say—It is of the greatest importance that full public inquiry should be held before any scheme is eventually assented to.My hon. Friend alluded to the fact that the Committee recommended that Municipal and Representative County Authorities formed the best bodies to initiate charity schemes. There is no allusion in the Bill to that point. All those of us who in our own localities have seen the difficulties that have arisen from there not having been sufficient public inquiry before a scheme has been settled, must realise that it is of the utmost importance that, before giving further powers to the Commissioners, there should be provision made to enable the poorest people affected by the scheme to express their views upon 368 it without cost to themselves. There is another point worthy of consideration. The Committee on the Endowed Schools Act, who reported in 1887, recommended that greater publicity in respect to schemes under the Act should be given during the initial and subsequent stages; and that it was desirable that the wishes of the locality should be more consulted, and that in their administration the Governing Body should be left more unfettered. There is a feeling in many districts that while the Commissioners have endeavoured to do all in their power to formulate fair schemes, the poor people have had no opportunity of expressing their wishes, or if they have had that opportunity, it has involved great cost. As both of the Committees to which I have referred have recommended that charity schemes should be submitted to the representative bodies in the districts affected, I cannot agree to any extension of the power of the Commissioners, unless provision is made for that. The Commissioners have, no doubt, endeavoured to get the local opinion, but there is no distinct arrangement by which they are to do it. Indeed, I think it will be found they are only to use their discretion as to the publicity they may deem necessary. I know of a scheme which was only advertised twice in one local paper, and put up on the door of the Town Hall and the parish church. That, I am sure the House will agree, was hardly sufficient publicity to give to an important scheme. I am especially anxious that Local Representative Bodies should have every scheme affecting their districts come before them. I am aware the hon. Member for Penrith (Mr. J. W. Lowther) will say that any Municipal Corporation or County Council who wish to see a scheme is at liberty to pass a Resolution asking for the scheme; but I think it would be very much better that Representative Bodies should receive such schemes as a matter of course, and that the schemes should lie on the table of the Local Council for a certain period before it can come into force. The large constituency I represent has been fortunate in having many charities, which I have had several times to bring before the notice of the House, and I thank the Commissioners for the attention they 369 have always given to the wants and requirements of our city. But, at the same time, I feel they are bound too tightly by the present law; that if they are to meet the wishes of the localities it will be necessary that the House, when it gives them wider powers to deal with charities, should give them further powers, so that they are not necessarily to be tied down or fettered by decisions of the Court. I scarcely like to touch on the legal question; but I understand, from answers given in the House, that it is held by the Judges impossible for the Commissioners in any way to relax the provision that people in receipt of pauper relief should receive no benefit from a charity, on the ground that it would be relieving the rates. In our city a great number of citizens are greatly dissatisfied with one scheme, about which I asked a question to day, because they believe that when it was framed they did not have sufficient opportunity of expressing their opinion against it. They would have liked to raise the question whether the rule as to relief could not have been relaxed. That is a question with which the House ought to deal. I know the case of a man who has brought up a family for years, in the midst of great difficulties, without going on the rates, but who, owing to an accident, was hound to call in the parish doctor. In consequence of that he is debarred from receiving any benefit from the charity, as things stand at present. This man has a very good character and is a credit to the place: but he cannot benefit from the charity, whilst persons of indifferent character are entitled to receive dole. The Commissioners should have power, when the citizens wish it, to relax the rule. There is another reason for my opposition—if the Bill is passed it will be a retrograde measure. Of late years we have been doing everything to give the people in localities a voice in the management of their own affairs, the control of enormous funds, and even of Imperial funds; yet on the question of charities, money left to a special locality, we propose to give the Commissioners sole charge. I desire that we should be consistent in the matter. Let us carry out the principle of letting the people manage their own affairs to the 370 end. We certainly should not give the Commissioners further powers unless we provide that the people of the locality shall have a voice in the matter. It is no use framing schemes in which the people have no confidence. Whilst we have Local Representative Bodies, why should they be distrusted in such matters? Holding these views, I shall support the J Amendment this the Bill be read a second time on this day six mouths, and I hope the House will not undo the great good which has been done by the passing of the Local Government Bill.
§ *(1.50.) MR. SHAW LEFEVRE (Bradford, Central)
Myhon. Friend the Member for Carnarvonshire (Mr. Rathbone) rightly said this measure consists of two clauses taken from the Bill I had the honour to introduce in the years 1883 and 1884 on behalf of the then Government, and which in 188+ was sent to an important Committee, which unanimously recommended its provisions. My hon. Friend has done very wisely in confining the Bill to the two clauses, and in not entering into the more contentious matter contained in the original Bill. By so confining his measure, I think he will receive the almost unanimous support of the House. The hon. Member for Islington (Sir A. Rollit) has said the Bill is due to the ambition of the Charity Commissioners, and to the desire of that Body to centralise and increase their powers. That is certainly not the case. The Bill is due to the fact that successive Commissions and Committees, from 1835 onwards, have all been strongly in favour of giving the extended powers to the Charity Commissioners which the Bill proposes, for the purpose of putting an end to the serious scandals which exist. In 1835 there was a Committee of the House of Commons, on which Sir Robert Peel and Lord John Russell served, and which recommended that the very provisions before the House should be adopted; and the same provisions were included in the Bills of 1853 and 1860, and also in the Bills which were introduced by Lord Cairns and Lord Selborne in the other House, and in the Bill of 1884. The hon. Member for Islington went on to say that no cause for the Bill has been shown. If hon. 371 Members will refer to the Report of the Committee of 1884 they will find innumerable cases of the grossest maladministration of charities and of abuse quoted by Sir Henry Longley and other gentlemen. Let me mention one case— that of Tewkesbury. There were a number of Bodies of Trustees in Tewkesbury with a total income of £1,300 a year. £700 of this sum was devoted to doles of money to the poor, though everyone knows that doles of money only do mischief to the class of people to whom they are given. In 1879, at the instance of the Chairman of the Board of Guardians and others, an inquiry was held by the Charity Commissioners, which resulted in the framing of a scheme for amalgamating the various Bodies of Trustees. The Trustees of two of the charities refused to give their consent, and they have continued to distribute money to the infinite mischief of the poor of the town. Then there is the case of Brown's Hospital at Stamford, which has an income of £1,200 a year. Only 12 almspeople are maintained; but there is a warder with a salary of £375 a year, and another official, a confrater, with a salary of £200 a year. A few years ago, in consequence of the depression of agriculture, the income of the charity fell off, and the Trustees found themselves unable to maintain even their 12 alms people. The Charity Commissioners interfered, and urged the Trustees to reduce the expenses of management, and to do away with one or other of the expensive officers. But the Trustees declined to act on the advice of the Charity Commissioners, and actually, at the very moment that the rents were not sufficient to maintain the alms people, they appointed a new confrater at a salary £200 a year. At present such charities cannot be reformed except with the consent of the majority of the Trustees. The Committee of 1884, on which there were many important Members of the House, unanimously came to the conclusion that the evils ought to be redressed in the manner proposed by the Bill. The hon. Member for Islington has pointed out some objections to the Bill in matters of detail, and has said that the measure itself will not even carry out the views of the Committee of 1884. I think I shall be able to show that the 372 hon. Member is wrong in all the three cases he referred to. His first objection was that there would be no appeal to the Court of Chancery under the Bill. I think he is altogether wrong. It is quite true there is no clause in the measure conferring an appeal, but an appeal exists under the present law, and as it is not repealed by the Bill it will continue to be in force. If that is not so, it is a difficulty which can easily be remedied. The hon. Member next stated that although the Bill sanctions changes in a proposed scheme there is no provision to require any change to be laid before Parliament. I think my hon. Friend is wrong also in that respect. The Bill gives the Charity Commissioners no power whatever to frame schemes diverting the funds of a charity to any greater extent than is now permitted under the cy prés doctrine of the Courts of Laws. There was a clause to that effect in the Bill of 1884, and it was provided that in such cases the schemes sanctioned by the Charity Commissioners should be laid before Parliament. But the present Bill gives no such power, and therefore it does not seem necessary to require that the schemes sanctioned by the Charity Commissioners should come before Parliament. Thirdly, my hon. Friend said that there is no provision in the Bill requiring the Charity Commissioners to consult the Local Authorities. Now I, myself, hold that it is of the greatest importance that there should be a consultation with the Local Authorities, and I entirely agree with everything my hon. Friend said on that point. Especially since the constitution of County Councils I think it is most desirable that they should be consulted in cases of this kind; but I am bound to say that action has already been taken upon the recommendation of the Committee of 1884; and I am assured by the Charity Commissioners that in all cases the circumstances are laid before the Local Authorities and their views obtained. If my hon. Friend desires to go a little further, and to make it obligatory by statute that all the circumstances should be laid before the Local Authorities I have no objection, and I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Carnarvonshire (Mr. Rathbone) would not object to such an amend- 373 ment of the Bill if it is considered necessary. My hon. Friend the Member for Islington based a large part of his objections upon the Bill, on what he said was the growing dissatisfaction of the public with the schemes of the Charity Commissioners, so far as they have hitherto gone. Now, I think that the state of this House does not bear out that contention. Compared with what the feeling was five, 10, or 15 years ago, I cannot but think that there is a growing feeling of content and confidence in the schemes and general administration of the Charity Commissioners which is very different from what it was in former days. There has been a growing satisfaction with the conclusions of the Commissioners: and although there may be individual cases in which the Charity Commissioners have come in conflict with particular bodies of Trustees, and even with the public opinion of a locality, yet, on the whole, the administration of the important work confided to them, and the framing of schemes under the Endowed Schools Act and the Charitable Trusts Act, has given satisfaction and contentment to the public. Allow mo to remind the House that in respect of two very large classes of charities the law, within the last two years, has conceded to the Commissioners powers as wide, if not wider, than those proposed by this Bill. The whole of the charities known as endowed schools have been specially treated under the Endowed Schools Act, and the Charity Commissioners have received powers greater than those which are proposed to be conferred upon them by this Bill. There is another group of charities which have been specially dealt with by Parliament. I refer to such charities as that known as the City of London Parochial Charity, which has an income of between £50,000 and £60,000 a year. Under that Act the Commissioners have power to frame schemes for dealing with this charity and even to divert the proceeds from the people of London for whose benefit they were originally intended by the founders, as well as to make enormous changes in the management and distribution of the charities. Under this Act the Charity Commissioners have framed a scheme, which is now before 374 Parliament, of a very wide and extensive character. If, then, the Charity Commissioners can be entrusted with the administration of schemes of such an important nature I cannot understand why they should not be also empowered to deal with other charities as proposed by this Bill. Having given great attention to the subject and having been a member of the Committee before whom Sir Henry Longley was examined and cross-examined at greater length than probably any other public officer was examined before, and having considered every objection that can be urged against the present measure, I venture to think that it is one that ought to commend itself to the House, and which, if carried into law, will be efficacious in putting an end to the grave abuse and mismanagement of these charities which have been witnessed in the past and will result in these charitable endowments being really devoted to the purposes for which they were intended instead of being wasted and misapplied.
§ (2.30.) SIR J. KENNAWAY (Devon, Honiton)
I had the honour of serving six years ago upon the Select Committee to whom this question was referred, and I fully concurred in the Report which that Committee presented. I therefore felt that I could not refuse the request of my hon. Friend the Member for Carnarvonshire that I should come forward on the present occasion in support of his Bill which embodies one of the principal recommendations of the Committee. It seems to me that the case which has been adduced in regard to it is clear, that the existing law calls for further amendment, and that some such provision as is embodied in the Bill should be passed in order to enable so serious a matter to be dealt with. The measure is one of a very simple character extending only to the action already taken by Parliament, and I do not think it is likely to arouse any very serious objection. I was much astonished to hear the description of the Bill which was given by my hon. Friend the Member for South Islington, and the fearful consequences which may result from its adoption. He described it as a retrograde measure of centralisa- 375 tion. He drew a picture of the Charity Commissioners having power to entirely ignore the wishes of the founders and to make changes in their bequests without regard to the opinions of the Local Authorities or any other person whatever. He spoke of Trustees being appointed by the Charity Commissioners entirely contrary to the wishes of the district; of their being persons simply appointed for the purpose of carrying out a geographical system of centralised Local Government. I confess that if I had anticipated such consequences, I should have been one of the last to support the Bill. It is very clear from the evidence before the Committee of Sir Henry Longley, that in the larger charities, as well as in the smaller ones, the Commissioners must be guided by what is called the cy prés doctrine. No doubt the Commissioners would be bound under this Bill, as they already are, if they thought a scheme ought to be departed from, to come to Parliament and ask for power to alter it. But it is altogether contrary to the experience of the past to suggest that if the Commissioners are entrusted with large powers they will be induced to ignore the will of the founder and to prescribe objectionable conditions. It is complained that the Bill only deals with a small part of the subject; but it must be borne in mind that larger measures have been introduced, and that it has been found practically impossible to carry them. It has, therefore, been thought better to take one step at a time, and to bring forward a simple Bill to enlarge the powers of the Charity Commissioners. I cannot conceive, should the necessity arise, that there can be any difficulty in introducing clauses into the Bill to carry out the recommendations of the Committee of 1884. The evidence of Sir Henry Longley was to the effect that the Charity Commissioners would always regard the assistance of Local Bodies as of the highest importance to them. But the House will remember that at the time the Committee sat, although the constitution of a good representative Local Authority had been much talked of, it did not seem to be likely to be created. Circumstances are different now; by the action of Her Majesty's Government, a representative Local Government has been constituted, 376 and I have no doubt that the Commissioners would now regard with the highest satisfaction the assistance they would derive from the new Local Bodies both in suggesting the details of schemes and also in supplying the names of local men who would be inclined to act as Trustees. Therefore, I believe that the idea of the Local Authorities being over-ridden by any action from Whitehall is purely imaginary. I altogether disagree with the view which has been expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Norwich (Mr. Hoare), that the administration of the Charity Commissioners is becoming unpopular and requires to be held in check. Having served on the Committee, I think I am entitled to say that the complaints against their administration of the local charities were very few, although they had at that time made between 8,000 and 9,000 orders and carried into law something like 1,000 schemes. Those schemes were not dealt with because they wished to interfere unnecessarily with local matters, but almost all of them were brought before them at the instance of the Trustees themselves. I trust that the Bill will pass without opposition after the assurances which have been given by the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) and the assurance which I am also ready to give on behalf of the Committee which sat in 1884, that we should be quite ready to see the other recommendations of that Committee embodied in the measure.
§ *(2.40.) MR. LENG (Dundee)
I intend to support the Second Reading of the Bill, but I should not have risen to address the House except for one of the cases to which reference has been made. I went down to Hull a fortnight ago to attend a meeting of the old boys of the Hull Grammar School, and I found that there existed a strong feeling in connection with the scheme for the town that the Charity Trustees had not been properly treated by the Charity Commissioners; that, as a matter of fact, they had been used as puppets; that they had been misled, and that, to a certain extent, a breach of faith had been committed in the way in which the Commissioners had dealt with the scheme. The Com- 377 missioners themselves sanctioned the sale of the old school. They sent down an Assistant Commissioner or Inspector to survey the site of the new school; they approved the plans of the new school; they issued a formal order setting this forth, and they further insisted that the surplus of the money left over from the sale of the old school should be handed over to the Official Trustees. It was only after all this had been done that they intimated they would not allow the building of the new school to be proceeded with unless an endowment were provided for it. I put a question to the hon. Member for Penrith (Mr. J. W. Lowther) upon this subject the other day, and the answer which I received is not regarded by the Charity Trustees or those interested in the Hull Grammar School as satisfactory. The hon. Member alluded to the fact of there being a competition with the existing Grammar School as one reason why the Commissioners should be cautious how they acted; but the fact is, that notwithstanding that competition during the comparatively short time the present head master of the Hull Grammar School has had the management of the school, the number of scholars has increased from 39 to 190, and there is every prospect of a much larger increase if a proper building is provided. The hon. Gentleman further mentioned a bequest by the late Dr. Hymer of the sum of £50,000 for another school, but that could not have had any influence upon the decision of the Commissioners because the knowledge that such a bequest had been made came subsequent to their decision not to allow the scheme to be proceeded with. While I intend to support the Second Reading of the Bill, I must say that I think the Charity Commissioners, in their dealings with Local Bodies, should in all respects act with good faith and not in a manner to cause Local Trustees to lose a proper sense of self-respect and to feel themselves degraded. In the particular instance I have referred to they feel that advantage was taken of them. Their proceedings were approved and sanctioned at every stage until the money was sent to London, and then they were told, "We have approved of your plans, but we have now got the money and 378 will not allow you to go on." The public feeling is rather in favour of decentralisation than of centralisation; and if the Local Authorities find they are improperly treated, there will be such a strong feeling aroused against the Charity Commissioners as will demand a sweeping decrease of their power. I would, therefore, recommend the Commissioners to act in future so as to carry with them the confidence of the Local Authorities rather than to induce the Local Authorities to feel that they are snubbed and treated with contempt and disrespect.
§ *(2.50.) MR. TOMLINSON (Preston)
This is a very short Bill, but its adoption would bring about an enormous extension of the powers of the Charity Commissioners. This extension is concerned with two things, which in their nature are separate and distinct, namely, cases in which the Trustees are alone in fault and those in which the objects of the Trust are obsolete. Several instances have been mentioned in justification of the Bill, in which it is alleged that Charitable Trusts have been abused. In many of those cases the chief defects arose from the want of an efficient body of Trustees. And if a satisfactory set of Trustees could have been formed there would have been little difficulty in settling the application of the Charity. In such cases what seems to be wanted is a more limited power of dealing with the constitution of the Trusts, so as to leave the actual administration in the hands of a properly constituted body of Trustees. Reference has been made to the case of Stamford, where there has been a gross misapplication of the funds of a charity; but it appears to me that the existing law ought to be strong enough to deal with so strong a case as is described, and, if not, there is nothing to show that the charity funds could not, in the hands of a re-constituted body of Trustees, be applied to the purposes for which they were intended. It appears to me that the present Bill will frequently go beyond the necessities of the case, and I do not think it ought to be accepted without some further guarantees than the measure now contains, that the limitations proposed by the Committee of 1884 to be 379 applied to an extension of the powers of the Charity Commissioners will be adopted. That Committee had regard to the danger of an alteration in the destination of the Trust Fund. Hitherto, cases have constantly occurred where the original destination of the Trust Fund has been entirely altered and something very like confiscation has resulted, especially in the case of Trusts which are known as doles. Funds bequeathed for doles have often been appropriated to a class of persons who were certainly not intended to receive them by the founder.
§ (3.0.) MAJOR RASCH (Essex, S.E.)
As representing an agricultural Division in which the average rate of wages among the people is 12s. a week, and 6d. a considerable question, I, on behalf of my constituents, oppose the Second Reading of the Bill. Many are the communications I have received from labouring men expressing the strongest antagonism to the action of the Charity Commission, to whom they attribute the waste or diversion of endowments intended for the benefit of the labouring classes, but devoted to objects with which that class have no concern, or to which their interests are diametrically opposed. There are certain villages in Essex where the popular feeling is so strong that if a Charity Commissioner appeared there I should not like to have to answer for his safety. Last Session I put a notice of Motion on the Paper in reference to a reduction of the Vote for the salaries of the Commissioners in regard to a most flagrant case of maladministration in Essex, where the charity was so disposed of by the Commissioners that the labourers for whom it was designed got absolutely nothing out of it; a certain amount was set apart for building, a certain amount for books, a certain amount for the schoolmistress, and between these various stools the labourers came to the ground. There was also another case in a village a few miles from where I live, where the labourers were left out of the benefit of the fund of which they should, under the Trust, have been the beneficiaries. I would suggest to the House if the Charity Commissioners so act in the green leaf, how will they act in the dry? If they 380 can do these things with their comparatively limited powers, what are they likely to do with much larger powers at their disposal? I hope the House will not put this extra straw on the back of the overladen agricultural labourer. So far am I from wishing to give these Commissioners an enlarged field of action that I should like to see the disendowment of the office at Whitehall.
§ (3.5.) MR. COLMAN (Norwich)
I shall support the Amendment before the House. There are proposals in the Bill with which most of us would agree thoroughly. I hold the view that there are many charities that need a considerable amount of overhauling, and that the funds might be turned to much better uses than those to which they are now devoted. But the question is, are we prepared to give these increased powers to the Charity Commission? and to this I, as one who has had experience of the Commissioners, say I am not prepared to give these powers unless coupled with safeguards such as I do not find in the clauses of this Bill. My hon. Colleague in the representation of Norwich has referred to some discussion—or dispute, perhaps, it should rather be called—which my constituents have had with the Commissioners, and he said the Commissioners had no doubt performed their duty with ability and with honesty. I will not dispute that statement, but I wish the Commissioners would give some indication of an appreciation of the probability that Trustees and Public Bodies may also have some amount—I will not say of ability—but, at any rate, of common sense and honesty in the administration of funds placed at their disposal. It has been said by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) that a good deal of mischief is done by the distribution of doles to the poor, and I frankly admit that to be so; but I am bound to say that the rule the Charity Commissioners now proceed to lay down, and which they say they are compelled to lay down, although that may be a matter of dispute, as to the receipt of Poor Law relief disqualifying the recipient from the receipt of charity, is as injurious as the distribution of money. I am 381 brought to the conclusion that matters of this kind should be left to the discretion of the Trustees. But our complaint is that the Commissioners will permit no local discretion; they lay down a hard and fast line. maintain that we who are on the spot, and well acquainted, can form and exercise a better judgment on matters of detail relating to a Trust than can these Commissioners sitting' in London. I feel that there is a good deal that is desirable in the Bill, and I wish that the promoters had laid down directions to the Commissioners to leave more to the discretion of Trustees. In my experience the men who occupy the position of Trustees are most capable men, who discharge the duties entrusted to them with impartiality and ability. They might well be allowed more discretion than the Commissioners are disposed to grant, and I feel that I should not be justified in supporting a proposal to confer these increased powers on the Commissioners.
(3.12.) MR. J. W. LOWTHER (Cumberland, Penrith)
The discussion has travelled over a great deal of ground; and as the Charity Commissioners, whom I have the honour to represent in this House, have been severely attacked upon numerous points, I am afraid I shall have to occupy the time of the House for some little space in replying; in detail to the various attacks made on the administration of the Commission. First, perhaps, I had better take the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for South Islington (Sir A. Rollit). His chief ground of complaint against the Commissioners, and upon which he based his argument against the extension of their powers, was that they did not put in force the powers 'which they have; his complaint is that they have omitted to do the things they ought to have done, not that they have done the things they ought not to have done. I confess that does not seem to me a very valid argument against extending the powers of the Commission. The hon. Member also made one or two slight slips in which, perhaps, he will allow me to correct him. First, he said the Commission had an ambition towards centralisation, and that from time to time we 382 brought in Bills to extend our own powers. Now that is absolutely inaccurate. The Commissioners have never brought in a Bill of their own. Governments of the day have, from time to time, brought in Bills—Members of the Party opposite have done so—to extend the scope of the Commission, but the Commissioners themselves have never taken the initiative in such matters. The hon. Member said that the original jurisdiction was limited to charities of £30, and then it was raised to £50, and that now it was sought to withdraw the limitation altogether. In that he was also inaccurate. The limitation of £30 was a limitation placed upon the County Court, and if my hon Friend will refer to the 32nd section of the Charitable Trusts Act of 1853, he will find that the limitation is upon the action of the County Court, not on the jurisdiction of the Charity Commissioners at all. In the Act of 1860 the jurisdiction of the Commission was limited to charities of incomes of £50. Remarks have been made as to how that limitation got into the Act, and I think, as being pertinent to that, I might quote the evidence of Mr. Lowe (Lord Sherbrooke), who introduced that Act, and who gave evidence before the Schools Inquiry Commission. He said—There are several matters which ought to he extended, because they were concessions made greatly against my Bill of 1860. In the first place Section 4 provides that the Charity Commission shall have no jurisdiction over any charity whatever, except by consent, which has above £50 a year. I would repeal that clause. The jurisdiction of the Charity Commission, after all, is not a contentious jurisdiction; it is not in the nature of a trial or a law-suit, hut an administrative and ancillary jurisdiction, and is worked mainly on that footing.That is the only light I can throw on the limitation of £50. Hon. Members have criticised the Commission in various ways, and it is right to point out to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford that, as no doubt he is well aware, criticisms were brought to a head upon the introduction of the Bill of 1883. The Bill of 1883 proposed to extend the powers of the Charily Commission, and was referred to a Select Committee of which the right hon. Gentleman was Chairman. That Committee inquired at 383 great length, at enormous length, into the whole administration of the Commission, and the complaints which were made against the action of the Commission were brought before that Committee and thoroughly sifted. The taking of evidence lasted through one if not more than one Session, and in the final Report, agreed upon, I think, almost unanimously, the action of the Commission was completely vindicated. I think I need only read one paragraph from the Report to prove that—Your Committee, after reviewing the conduct and policy of the Charity Commission in the administration of the powers already conferred upon them by 'The Charitable Trusts Act,' and having investigated matters in complaint, are of opinion that the. Commissioners have exercised their powers with discretion and sound policy and in a way to cause no greater friction than might have been expected from an administrative body exercising very ample powers of a judicial character, in which they were brought into conflict with a great variety of local bodies with divergent interests and views.Then, in the last paragraph, they say—We think it right to say that the evidence laid before us, so far as it goes, shows that the charges made against the Commissioners of hostility to labourers and of a disposition to support Trustees in not letting land, or in demanding unreasonable terms, appear to have been made under a misapprehension of the intention and actions of the Commissioners.Well, up to that time the charges were fully inquired into; and, in relation to those charges, the conduct of the Commissioners was, I submit, amply, fully vindicated. And now the question comes, has anything occurred since 1884 on which to base fresh charges against the Commissioners? I think my hon. Friend the Member for South Islington pointed to the fact that there have been constant Debates in the House, growing more and more constant in relation to schemes framed by the Endowed Schools' Branch of the Commission. Granting this has been the case, what has been the verdict of the House on these various occasions? I believe since 1884 there has been only one case in which the action of the Charity Commissioners has not been supported by Parliament—there may be two cases—I have only in mind the case of West Lavington. With one exception, or at most two, the action and the schemes of the Commission have been supported by Parliament, and in the great 384 majority of cases where discussions have occurred here, or in another place, these educational schemes have received the emphatic sanction of Parliament. Therefore, so far as this objection of the hon. Member goes, I think we can plead the approval of Parliament of the policy we have been carrying out in this respect. I might also remind the House that it is only exceptional cases that come before the House at all, and that a great many of the schemes framed under the Endowed Schools Act, when they go to the Education Department, receive the assent of that Department, and do not come upon the Table of this House at all; they are approved in the neighbourhood and approved by the Education Department, and go through, as a matter of course. It is only in a very few exceptional cases that the schemes of the Charity Commission come under the ken of this House at all, and so far the work of the Commission is successfully done. Then, my hon. Friend the Member for South Islington has condemned the idea of the absolute control of all charities coming into the hands of the Charity Commission. Why, when Trustees agree, or where a majority of Trustees agree now to make application to the Charity Commission, the "absolute control," to quote my hon. Friend's words of all charities is in the hands of the Commissioners at the present moment. Let me further point out this, that when the majority of Trustees do not agree to appeal to the Charity Commission, the Court of Chancery has absolute control. But the reason why hon. Members have introduced this Bill is, that it has been shown that enormous costs are, from time to time, incurred in framing schemes by the Court of Chancery for carrying out the ordinary administrative law of Chancery, which could be carried through at very slight expense, almost nominal expense if the Trustees would come to the Charity Commission. Then I think those who have opposed this Bill have fallen into the error of supposing that the Commissioners would have unrestricted power to deal with all charities in any way they please No such thing could possibly occur. The Charity Commission is practically a branch of the Court of Chancery. It is bound by the 385 decision of the Court just as much as a County Court, or Court of first instance, is bound by the decision of the Court of Appeal or of the House of Lords. We are bound to follow the decision of the Court, we are bound to follow the ordinary law, and we are bound also to follow the cy prés doctrine, which my hon. Friend knows well we cannot go beyond, even if we wished to do so. Therefore, to assume that it would be possible under the enlarged powers of the Bill to go beyond the cy pré doctrine, is to assume an utter impossibility; we should be bound still to follow that doctrine, and could not divert charities from one to a totally different and inconsistent purpose. Then, again—the point has been made clear, but I am not quite sure whether my hon. Friend is convinced—he took exception to the Bill because it contains no provision permitting an appeal from the Charity Commission to the Court of Chancery. I think such a provision is unnecessary, for this appeal exists now from every act of the Commissioners. If the Commissioners make some act, or do something contrary to the law, or which is beyond their statutory powers, a full appeal exists at the present time to the Court of Chancery. I say—it is matter rather of construction by lawyers than for discussion in this House—that this appeal will equally exist under any other Act, unless by that Act it is specially excluded, and, as in this Bill it is not specially excluded, I submit the (lower of appeal still remains, whether the powers of the Commission are enlarged or not. Then my hon. Friend, as did also the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Leng), turned to a special case, that of the Grammar School at Hull. That case, curiously enough, is not dealt with at all under the "Charitable Trusts Act," but under the Endowed Schools Branch of the Charity Commission, and is, therefore, hardly a case in point, hardly germane to the argument just now, which is as to extending the Charitable Trusts powers of the Commission. The facts in regard to the Grammar School at Hull, so far as I can gather them, are these—the Charity Commissioners were led to believe that a large endowment in Hull might be made available for educational purposes, and. upon that under- 386 standing, the Commissioners agreed with the Trustees to go forward with the proposed alteration of the Grammar School, and, with this understanding, agreed to the purchase of a site, and approved the plans submitted to them. It then turned out that the Charity Commissioners had been—I will not say misled —had been induced to take a wrong estimate of the amount of opposition which was likely to be raised in the town of Hull, and they found that the opposition was very great to their taking this particular endowment, and using it in this particular way. Thereupon the Commissioners said they were unable to allow the Trustees to go forward with their scheme, because they did not believe a school, the endowment of which was going to be entirely sunk in bricks and mortar, could be started with the probability of success. My hon. Friend has pointed to the very wise action of the Local Trustees, but it turned out, on investigation of accounts, that the Trustees of this Charity had spent no less than £600 out of capital in keeping the school going, and I say if my hon. Friend had wanted to bring a case to convince the House of the desirability of a Central Department of some sort, having an eye to the management of the corpus, he could not have found a better one.
§ *SIR ALBFRT ROLLIT
I am sorry to interrupt my hon. Friend, but I think he should have added that this sum was spent to provide temporary premises, without which the school could not possibly be conducted.
MR. J. W. LOWTHER
That may be good ground for the complaint of delay; but I do not think it answers what I have said, that the Charity Commission were led to believe that the endowment might be employed for advancing the interest of the Grammar School, that it was not until the order was made that opposition sprang up, and they were obliged to drop the matter. My hon. 387 Friend treats the matter as if the Charity Commission were animated with a desire to deprive the inhabitants of Hull of the benefit of the Grammar School; but nothing can be farther from the actual facts of the case. If the Commissioners can see their way to start the school with any chance of success with an endowment, I am sure they will be only too glad to advance the matter as rapidly as possible; but when they come to consider that there already exist very considerable educational appointments in Hull, and that, as the hon. Member said, quite recently no less than £50,000 under a bequest became available for educational advancement similar to that provided by the Grammar School, then I say it would be a very unwise proceeding to allow this Grammar School to be re-organised on a large scale, and tying up the whole of the endowment in site and building. I am sorry to have detained the House so long over a minor matter; but as two hon. Members had dwelt upon it, I was obliged to go into this. The chief burden of my hon. Friend's remarks were strongly against centralisation. His arguments might, 40 years ago, have been used with force against the Charitable Trusts Bill of 1853; but the House has accepted the central control, and it has been found to work beneficially, saving thousands and thousands of pounds which otherwise would have been wasted and lost. Then my hon. Friend complained of the administrative control exercised by the Commission; but let me point out that Trustees go on administering the schemes; it is only the corpus of the property which we are specially concerned to preserve. My hon. Friend the Member for Norwich has objected to the Bill on various grounds, the chief of which was that the action of the Charity Commissioners was not sufficiently made known to the poor in the several districts affected. I quite agree that that is a matter of great importance; but I will put it to him, in what way can we bring home to the poor the knowledge that these matters are going; forward? To advertise in every newspaper circulating in the town or county affected would cost an enormous lot of money, and would in many instances swallow up a great part of the funds of the charity. I have already 388 stated that if a County Council will pass a resolution once for all that they wish to have copies of all schemes applicable to their district the Commissioners will be prepared to accede to that resolution. At the present time the Commissioners forward to every Municipal Council a copy of every scheme which in any way affects the town represented by that body; and this circumstance, in addition to what I have said about the County Councils, goes far to meet the objection of the hon. Member. I hold, too, it would be very much to the advantage of the Charity Commissioners to have a Local Body to deal with. At present it is rather difficult to gauge public feeling. We have, I may say, adopted some of the recommendations made by the Committee of 1884, one of which was that where the Commission were dealing with a charity within the limits of a Municipal Corporation notice should be given to that Corporation of any scheme affecting the charity, and that, if thought desirable, a public inquiry should be held before any scheme is finally settled. That course has been pursued since 1884. In regard to another point raised by the hon. Gentleman, I may observe that it has-been laid down by the Courts of Law that, as a rule, persons in receipt of parochial relief are not entitled to the benefit of a charity intended for the poor. This rule is well-established, although it has sometimes been followed with reluctance. A great many people follow the law with reluctance; but nothing can be clearer than that that is the law, and the Commissioners would transgress their powers if they went outside that well-established rule of law. It may be that they are among the people who have followed this particular law with reluctance; but certainly we could not undertake to over-rule such high authorities as Lord Eldon and the late Master of the Rolls. My hon. Friend looks forward to the day when Local Bodies are going to have a good deal more to do with the charities than they possess at present, and when they will perhaps take over the powers of the Charity Commissioners. Then, why not make those powers complete now? My hon. Friend the Member for Preston raised some points with regard to this Bill which deserve notice. He says that many of these 389 matters could be easily dealt with if the Body of Trustees were re-constituted. That is the great difficulty the Commissioners have, for unless the majority of the Trustees make application we cannot re-constitute them. In fact, that is one of the points with regard to which the greatest reluctance is shown, because the Trustees are not prepared to have the representative element introduced into their body. This House has, from time to time, laid it down that it is desirable to introduce the representative element on the Governing Body of Trustees; but many of the Trustees greatly object to it, and will not make the application which is necessary before we can re-constitute them. Then the hon. Member asked me about the 3rd clause of the Bill, and said power would be given to the Commissioners to over-rule Acts of Parliament. The object of the clause is simply to save Trustees the enormous expense and the great delay in getting a private Bill passed. It is now necessary to get a private Act of Parliament passed even for trivial matters of administration; and the Bill simply asks that we shall have the same power to deal with charities constituted under an Act of Parliament as we have for dealing with charities constituted by schemes of the Court of Chancery or of the Charity Commissioners themselves. The hon. Member for South Essex is very anxious to disestablish and disendow the Commissioners, because he says they propounded a scheme for the administration of a charity in Essex by which the funds were grossly mismanaged. The truth is that that particular scheme was not framed by the Charity Commissioners at all, but by the Court of Chancery. Reference has been made to scandals in charity administration which are calling loudly to be set right, and comments have been made as if every charity over £50 is badly administered, and every charity under that limit is well administered. A great many of the large charities are admirably administered, but there are some charities with large incomes that are very badly administered; and it is in order to bring these within the jurisdiction of the Charity Commissioners that the hon. Member for Carnarvonshire has promoted the present Bill. There are three 390 points in regard to which the powers of the Commissioners will be enlarged. In the first place, there is the appointment of Trustees. At present, when these appointments are made by the Charity Commissioners, the cost is about 10s. for the stamp and a few shillings for advertising; but if application is made to the Court of Chancery to make the appointment the cost is very heavy indeed. I can give illustrations to prove that In the case of one charity, with an income of £85 a year, it cost exactly £32 to get new Trustees appointed; and the cost in the case of another charity, with an income of £420, was £75. Then, as to the endowment of St. Luke's, Middlesex, the amount of which is £530. In order to get an apportionment between the eleemosynary and educational parts of the charity, and to get new Trustees appointed, application was made to the Court at an expense of £475; yet this would have been done by the Charity Commissioners for a nominal sum. The appointment of Trustees is made by the Charity Commissioners after public notice and after receiving objections; but the Court makes the appointments without public notice and without receiving objections. Another most important point is that of vesting the funds in an Official Trustee. The hon. Member for Dundee seems to have a curious view of the duties of the Official Trustee, and he referred to the Charity Commissioners as chuckling and rubbing their hands over the fact of getting the money into their possession. But vesting the money with an Official Trustee means simply that the money is invested in his name, and he has nothing to do with its administration. The administration of the fund remains in the hands of the Trustees of the charity. Cases are numerous in which charities have been completely lost in consequence of not being invested in the name of some permanent Official Trustee. The Bank of England, for instance, knows nothing of the existence of the Trust; it only knows of the existence of the fund and the name of the man to whom the money is to be paid. The man dies; what is everybody's business is nobody's business; no one looks after the matter, and the consequence is that time after time charities lapse and every trace of 391 them is lost. When the funds are invested in the name of an Official Trustee such things cannot happen. The greater part of the administration of the Charity Commissioners relates to the framing of schemes, and the cost when the scheme is made by them is very different from what it is when application is made to the Court of Chancery. Sylvester's Charity has an income of £800 a year. The Charity Commissioners asked the Trustees to make application to them for a scheme, but the Trustees refused. The Charity Commissioners certified the case to the Attorney General, who took it into the Court of Chancery. A scheme was made by the Court exactly in accordance with the views of the Charity Commissioners; it cost the charity £883, but might have been had for a mere trifle from the Charity Commissioners. It cannot be denied that the action of the Charity Commissioners has, on the whole, been beneficial and has saved large sums of money. If beneficial in the case of small charities, why deny to large charities the benefits of that action? Bills of this kind have been before the House from time to time, and in no case, as far as my memory serves me, have they been rejected, although they have been dropped from want of time. This House has not denied the principle that the aid of the Charity Commissioners should be given to large charities as well as small.
§ (3.55.) MR. JESSE COLLINGS (Birmingham, Bordesley)
As far as I am concerned, there is no attack intended to be made upon the Charity Commissioners by the proposal to reject this Bill. The question is, whether a system which deprives the poor and defenceless of the privileges and benefits which they have for ages enjoyed shall be not only maintained, but enlarged? Members of this House have to defend a class of people who are not only unable to defend themselves, but who have been deprived of benefits without knowing it until the mischief is done. I appeal to those who know the condition of the poor whether the time has not come for this House to provide greater securities, and to see that where the form of the benefits is changed the 392 benefits themselves shall be secured to those for whom the givers of the benefits intended them. Those who know the results of the administration of the Charity Commissioners must be aware that the poorest and most helpless, and those least able to speak for themselves, have been the sufferers. It is not by piecemeal legislation that we ought to deal with such enormous sums of money. The Government, if they will undertake to provide a complete measure, will be doing good service. If it is in the power of Trustees to come to the Charity Commissioners as advisers and helpers there will be hundreds of applications; but the Charity Commissioners insist that the Trustees shall abolish themselves and hand over to them the whole of the Trust property to do what they please with it. The policy of the Charity Commissioners has been a complete barrier in hundreds of cases where the Trustees would gladly reform themselves; but they are not willing to hand over the funds of the charity to the Commissioners, who might deal with it in a manner which the locality did not desire or approve. Then it is said that they could not go beyond the cy prés doctrine, but it is their view of what is within their powers which is hard on the poorer classes. It is true that there is an appeal to the Court of Chancery, but that is of no use to the poor man. We have been told that the Trustees appointed by the Charity Commissioners have full power of administration, on which point the hon. Member gave the House to understand that everything was put into the hands of the local Trustees to be carried out for the good of the neighbourhood; but what is the fact? As one who has been connected with the administration of one of the largest Foundations under the Charity Commissioners in my own neighbourhood, I can say it is true that we had the power to sweep the doorsteps or to decide upon some small matter connected with furniture, and scarcely that; but beyond this there was absolutely no power for us to do anything at all without the consent of two or three gentlemen sitting at Whitehall. It is humiliating to think that the local representatives of a city containing some 500,000 inhabitants should have to place themselves in communication with 393 the Charity Commissioners about the smallest things they consider necessary in the management of the institution with which they were connected. The expense we have been put to, and the absurd positions in which we have been placed, would appear absolutely ridiculous to the House if I were to go into anything like detail. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford has brought for ward a case or two in favour of the Charity Commissioners. Well, I may state that I was myself examined for three days before the Commissioners, and I believe that on that occasion the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle was in the chair.
§ MR. J. COLLINGS
On that occasion I gave evidence of cases of hardship, and I may add that I was under examination for some three or four days, during which time there was practically nothing in the testimony given beyond proof of such cases. I may add that that evidence has never been disputed. My right hon. Friend the Member for Bradford has taken credit for the Report in which that Committee absolved the Charity Commissioners from any charges as to the administration of the Allotments Act. If the right hon. Gentleman will look at the paragraph preceding the one to which he refers he will see that the Committee were at that time just at the end of their labours. Believing that they had not sufficient time to examine the allotments question thoroughly, they deferred reporting upon that until the next Session, and the Committee generally were of opinion that that point was so far settled; but there was another meeting at which only five members of the Committee were present, and on that occasion a paragraph was agreed to; and against that paragraph the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle then entered his protest. It was, in point of fact, a Report in itself, and that Report white washes the Charity Com-missioners as to their action on the 394 subject referred to. It is for that paragraph that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford takes credit; and I do not think that what was then done was a very creditable proceeding considering that the Committee generally had been led to believe that the matter was not to be reported on until the next Session. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne voted against that paragraph, as hon. Members will see if they refer to the Report. My right hon. Friend the Member for Bradford has stated that no cases of abuse were reported; but I think I shall be able to show, on the contrary, that there were many such cases. He also stated that doles of money given to the poor had a very damaging and pauperising effect. On that point I do not say that reforms are not wanting in the administration of those charities, and I only wish the Government would undertake to deal with the entire question in order to secure the necessary reforms. I would only ask one condition, which would be backed by every constituency in the Kingdom. It is that no system should be introduced that would interfere with, except in the sense of securing, the rights of the poorer class. This is practically the issue upon which we are now going to vote. My right hon. Friend the Member for Bradford has said that the Committee of 1884 were unanimously of opinion that the evils reported on should be redressed in the manner proposed by this Bill. I do not think that that is quite a fair statement of the fact, because the Committee in question has reported that those evils should be redressed by half a dozen provisions of a very important character. This Bill proposes to deal with one of those provisions which is in itself a most mischievous one. but which might be tolerated if surrounded by the safeguards suggested in the Committee's recommendations. We, however, are now asked to adopt the mischievous provision, and to leave out all the safeguards, without which, I venture to affirm, the Committee would not have made a unanimous proposal. My right hon. Friend the Member for Bradford says the Bill does not give greater powers to the Charity Commissioners than they now possess. That is quite true. But you 395 wish to extend the powers the Commissioners exercise in regard to all the charities, in the face of the experience we have already had of the way in which they deal with charities of £50 and less. That is a very important proposition. The fact is that in the body called the Charity Commissioners—very estimable men in the discharge of their duties, but whose bad traditions have not been quite got rid of yet—there is one member who is all for endowed schools. I believe that under any circumstances, private or public, in which wealth might come to him, his first instinct would be to found an endowed school. For my own part, I am not against middle-class endowed schools; but I am decidedly against carving these schools out of the heritage of the poor.
§ MR. J. COLLINGS
Yes; but the things are so mixed that it is hardly possible to separate the two; for when we come to the 37th clause of the Endowed Schools Bill, which is a Charitable Trust Clause, it is impossible to avoid doing what almost every speaker has done, namely, mix up the two things and connect them with the Charity Commission. The hon. Member wanted to know what examples could be adduced of the way in which the poor were hardly dealt with. For my own part, I could keep this House, as I kept the Committee upstairs, for three days while detailing such cases; but I will spare the House that infliction, and will only touch a ease or two. Take the case of a parish in Warwickshire, where, by an order of the Court of Chancery, the parish had possessed for 25 years a fund devoted to medical attendance for poor women in confinement, and for the supply of baby-linen; and here I would say, let no one minimise the importance of the supply of nurses and the necessary comforts to these poor people at such times. Then there were provisions for the supply of clothing, and free education, and for almshouses, and other things, all tending to show how the necessities of the poor were regarded. Well, what did the Commissioners do in that case? In the year 1879 they took 396 £15,000 from those poor people and spent it in the extension of an old grammar school. That, no doubt, was a very good thing in itself; but it certainly was not needed to the extent of the sum provided. However, I have not a word to say against it, except that the poor had this amount taken away from their charities, and applied to the purposes of middle class education. But as if this were not enough, there is a second scheme now hanging fire, for which I hope the Charity Commissioners will blush, and which I trust the House will never allow to pass, and that is, a scheme under which they propose to take another £17,000 for the purposes of a high school; so that should this proposal be carried the poor will be deprived of no less a sum than £32,000 in promotion of a scheme for the benefit of the children of the well-to-do class. Doubtless, high schools, both for boys and girls, are good things in themselves; but to carve them out of charities intended for the poor is a thing which I think we ought not to do, or even to admit the possibility of. It is said that they give a quid pro quo in the shape of scholarships, and such like advantages, to the poorer classes. I reply that that is no benefit at all; and on this point I would quote the remarks of a gentleman whose name is well known to most of us, the Rev. Canon Evans, for many years Head Master of the High School of Birmingham, and a great anthority on this subject. This witness, when asked before the Committee whether these scholarships were of the use they were supposed to be to the poor children, said—I have observed they are generally carried off by the children of rather well-to- do parents, that the charity funds are taken away from the poor, and that the educational advantages given in return are illusory. The poor feel that a very great wrong has been done to them.The witness proceeded to give instances in illustration of his statement. I might quote many cases showing that what Mr. Evans here states is perfectly true. I am sorry to have detained the House so long, but the question is to me one of the deepest interest. The powers the Charity Commissioners already possess are, I think, sufficient to carry up on until the Government can frame some 397 comprehensive scheme for dealing with whatever difficulties exist. Every scheme ought to be laid on the Table of this House or before a Standing Committee of the House, similar to that which deals with the Inclosure Bills, and that Committee should examine the various schemes in order to see that the interests of all parties are fairly dealt with. Prior to the Act of Mr. Lowe, now Lord Sherbrooke, I think these schemes were laid upon the Table, and it was he who introduced the £50 limit, it being felt that some limit was required in order to save the rights of the poor. The House must not think that this is a small matter; because according to the Report of 1876 there were about 36,000 charities dealing with a sum amounting to upwards of £2,250,000 sterling. Of this sum there was just upon £200,000 for the medical charities, to which I attach great importance, and £646,000 for the free education of the poor. If you talk of free education to the Charity Commissioners it is like showing the proverbial red rag to the bull, because they have the idea that the Legislature, ever since 1870, has imposed the condition that they must not assist free education. They arc dealing with enormous sums of money, and there is upwards of £1,000,000 sterling, which belongs to the poor in the shape of doles of money, alms-houses, articles of food and clothing, and so on, some of which ought to be kept sacred to the uses of the poor. What I wish now to suggest, is that we would rather have this Bill withdrawn, and that Her Majesty's Government should undertake to introduce a Bill of their own dealing with the entire question. If the Bid be not withdrawn under these circumstances, I trust the House will refuse its assent to the Second Reading. My right hon. Friend the Member for Bradford brought in a. Bill far more important than this, although it contained a clause similar to the main provision of the present Bill; but the House felt that there was great danger of injustice in passing this measure, and for that reason it was sent to a Select Committee, which was the means of proving the existence of the dreaded evil. I am happy to inform the House that this is the last point I shall refer to. 398 What I want the Government to do in the interests of the poorer classes—for I respectfully suggest that that is the point at issue—is to determine that if we are to adopt one of the recommendations of the Committee we should adopt them all. We want the appointment of a Standing Committee of the House of Commons, as recommended by the Select Committee, to consider the different schemes; and here I am speaking of all schemes, and not merely those which are opposed, because I have known many schemes that have gone through Parliament without the poor people who have been affected by them knowing anything at all about their acceptance. We also want a provision under which the County Councils shall not only be made acquainted with the schemes which are proposed, but shall have the introduction of the schemes themselves; because we say that they are the authorities who can best understand the wants of the different localities. In regard to this point, the Select Committee is only following the strong recommendations of the Schools Inquiry Commission, which went most thoroughly into the matter, and which so valued the suggestion that the Local Authority should initiate schemes that they positively proposed to found Provincial Councils for the purpose. They say that some Provincial Authority should have power to acquire houses to be approved by the Sanitary Authority, to propose schemes for the creation of Trusts in regard to endowed schools, to sanction the expenditure of money on schools, to have charge of the sites and removals of schools, to sanction, vary, or consolidate the conditions, to hear appeals, to bring before the Charity Commissioners endowments for purposes other than education, and, if necessary, to propose schemes for their variation. Such were the recommendations in the Report of the Schools Inquiry Commission which was endorsed by the Select Committee on Charity Trusts. Therefore, I say, these are matters that should be dealt with in a general Bill. We have all the necessary machinery ready to our hands, and I think the action of the County Councils sufficiently shows a state of public spirit in regard to public matters that could not be found in any other 399 country in the world. What, then, could we do better than entrust those bodies with the administration of all these schemes? With great deference to the Charity Commissioners, I contend that they cannot be expected to manage these matters so well as those who reside in, and are well acquainted with, the different localities. Let us take a case in which there is a proposal to divert the money belonging to a particular Trust from one use to another. The Charity Commissioners, in all probability, have never, during the whole course of their lives, set foot in the parish whose interests are affected; and it stands to reason that the representatives of the district are those who should initiate the scheme, and who, in so doing, would best study the wants of the poorer classes. When hon. Members say that doles to the poor are not proper things I should like them to go into our villages and see the God-forsaken look about some of them, and then tell us that a charity of even £50 a year is not likely to add to their comforts much more than if it were taken away and given to what is called a middle-class school. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford has said that these advantages have the effect of pauperising the poor. It is often said that if you give a poor man anything you pauperise him; but, on the other hand, if, in a wealthy town like Birmingham, a rich manufacturer gets £50 worth of education for his son out of a charity which does not always belong to him in exchange for a payment of £8 a year, that is not pauperising. It is only where the poor are benefited by a charity that pauperisation comes in ! I am glad to find that of late there has been a reform in regard to the preparation of schemes by the Charity Commissioners, and that it is now becoming the practice to send those schemes down to the Local Authorities, in order that they may be enabled to express their views with regard to them. I myself recollect a case in which a notice was sent to a Town Council some time ago, and that notice was posted up on the Town Hall, and an advertisement inserted in the newspapers. We saw that it was proposed to put the management of a Trust in the hands of the Birmingham Town Council; 400 but as it only went to the extent of electing managers rated at £60 a year, and as we had very high class working men in the Council, I myself moved that it be kicked out of the Council Chamber, and that was done. Who manages the Trust now I do not know, and, for my part, I feel no concern in the matter. I have now put before the House the arguments that occur to me why this Bill should be withdrawn; and I would appeal to my hon. Friend behind me to adopt that course, on the understanding that Her Majesty's Government will bring in a Bill dealing not only with his proposal, but also with, all the safeguards for the interests of the poor which were recommended by the Select Committee and had the sanction of the largest Inquiry Commission that ever investigated the subject. This, I venture to say, would be a complete answer to those who are, or who fancy themselves to be, injured by the action of the Charity Commissioners; while it would have the effect of relieving the Commissioners themselves from work which they are not best fitted to do, and of giving them more time and opportunity for discharging the important functions they can perform better, perhaps, than any other body.
§ *(4.30.) THE SECRETARY TO THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD (Mr. LONG,) Wilts, Devizes
My hon. Friend who has just sat down has spoken upon the subject with all the intensity and warmth that the views to which he has frequently given expression entitle him to make use of in a Debate of this kind. We know he holds very strongly the views he has put before us to-day; and all I would ask him to believe is that those of us who are unable to endorse the statements he makes as to the Charity Commissioners, still desire equally with him that there should be a proper application of moneys left for the benefit of the poor. I do not think my hon. Friend has been quite justified in the description he has given of the issue before the House. He said the issue was that of justice on the one hand, and hardship of administration on the other. I would venture very respectfully to point out that the issue is 401 rather between enabling the Charity Commissioners to deal with the charities, the funds of which are now being wasted on the one hand, and, on the other, delaying our decisions, with the result of allowing the present state of things to continue. My hon. Friend alluded to the finding of the Committee on Charitable Trusts respecting the question of allotments, and took exception to the fact that the paragraph at the conclusion of our Report was inserted at the last meeting when only five members were present. That is the case. But I should like to tell the House who the Members present were. If they had been exclusively gentlemen sitting on this side of the House, or gentlemen whose views were supposed to be opposed to the principle of allotments, I think that what my hon. Friend says would have had greater weight. The Members were:—The hon. Member for Aberdeen (Mr Bryce), Sir T. D. Ac-land, who is well-known in this House as a friend of the great labouring cause and of the interests of the labourers; Mr. Davy, and my friend, Mr. Pell, who was formerly in this House, and who will not be accused of being an ultra Tory, or being opposed to the interests of the labourers. The opposition to the Resolution of the Committee was not formidable in numbers; but was, undoubtedly, formidable in quality and degree, because it consisted of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle (Mr. J. Morley). However, I think the names of the four gentlemen who voted for the paragraph are such as to justify the House in believing that it fairly represented the views of those who belong to the more advanced section of opinion on this subject. I would respectfully submit to my hon. Friend the Member for Norwich (Mr. S. Hoare), and the hon. Member for Bordesley (Mr. Collings), that the arguments they have advanced might be more suitably used in Committee than on the Second Reading of the Bill. I would remind the House that the Charity Commissioners were put on their trial before the Committee, who went exhaustively into the whole question, and the Commissioners came out absolutely with flying colours. The Committee reported that while undoubtedly there had been cases 402 in which the Commissioners had erred, yet, in the main, their action had been wise and discreet, and that there had not been any greater friction than might necessarily have been expected considering the large, important, and difficult questions they had to deal with. I do not think the hon. Member for Bordesley (Mr. Collings) can produce evidence of the hardship to which he has referred. He had abundant opportunities before the Committee, whose conclusions certainly do not justify any hostile condemnation of the Charily Commissioners, either on the ground of injustice to the poor or hardship to the labourers. The hon. Member asked that the Bill should be withdrawn, and that the Government should bring in another measure dealing with the whole question. Really, Sir, in view of the enormous amount of business now before the House, I think he must have been making a little joke.
§ *MR. LONG
Well, it would surely be better to take advantage of this opportunity of dealing with the question than to postpone all action for another year. It has been suggested that these schemes should be referred to the District Councils. I confess that, for my own part, I do not think it would be judicious to refer them to the District Councils. It is quite conceivable, and indeed almost probable, that there would be cases of charities affecting the inhabitants of several adjoining parishes; and it is also probable that in many cases these parishes would not be in the area of the same District Councils, and you might have the interests of the various Councils conflicting. Hon. Members know also that these questions of charities arouse an immense amount of feeling, so much so that it might be difficult to get a calm and deliberate judgment if those who had to settle them were themselves interested in them. There is, however, I think, a great deal to be said for the suggestion that the County Councils should have a voice in this matter. I would suggest that nothing has been said either by the Mover of the Second Reading or the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) which would deter the House 403 from introducing into the Bill such alterations as would give the County Councils statutory powers similar to those voluntarily given by the Charity Commissioners now. The Government are anxious to obtain the assistance of the Commissioners all over the country in dealing with these questions. The Charity Commissioners have informed the County Councils that if they would pass a general resolution expressing their desire that these schemes should be referred to them the Commissioners would agree to refer them to them. If hon. Members think it would be desirable that this should be made a statutory power, instead of being left to the discretion of the Charity Commissioners, the time for inserting such a provision in the Bill would be when the measure reaches the Committee stage. I, myself, should be glad to see such a provision adopted; and I think that, instead of wrecking the Bill at this stage, it would be far better to pass the Second Reading to-day, and put our heads together in Committee to see if we cannot make it a measure which will meet the wishes of all those who have the same object in view. Though I cannot endorse all that fell from my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Essex (Major Rasch), as to the feeling of the labourers on this question, I know there is frequently strong feeling in the country districts as to the action of the Charity Commissioners. I do not agree with my hon. and gallant Friend that there would be any danger to the lives of the Commissioners if they went down to make inquiries. They might hear some home truths; but, at all events in Wiltshire, their lives and limbs would be safe. I think it is only due to the Charity Commissioners to say that, whether we approve of all they have done or not, we must admit that considering the vastness of the work they have had to do they have done it well, and that they have acted on the whole justly and fairly. So far as the Government are concerned, we shall be prepared to welcome such an alteration with regard to the County Councils as has been indicated by one or two hon. Members.
§ (4.17.) MR. GROTRIAN (Hull, East)
The speech to which we have just listened no doubt disarms, to a 404 certain extent, a great deal of the criticism to which the Bill has been subjected. The question to my mind is, however, whether, when the Bill reaches Committee, we can so alter it as to meet some of the great objections which have been urged against it. I am afraid that in Committee it will not be held to be in order to carry out some of the Select Committees' recommendations. The Committee expressed the opinion that Municipal and Representative County Authorities are the best authorities to initiate schemes under which endowed charities of a district may be acquired; but that it should be left to the Charity Commission to see that the schemes are in proper form and in accordance with the law, and the exercise of a general control over the provisions contained in them. That is what I should like to see carried out in this Bill. The initiation of schemes, to my mind, should be left to the Representative Bodies, and not to the Charity Commissioners. It has been stated to-day that this Bill has no reference to, and can have no effect upon, schools which are dealt with under the Endowed Schools Act; but, in my experience, somehow these questions do seem to be mixed up. A case has been referred to once or twice which took place in Hull—a scheme for the endowment of a Grammar School for the promotion of middle-class education. It was in that case attempted to divert the funds from the Ferris' Charity, and though I wish well to the Hull Grammar School, I am exceedingly glad that the scheme was not carried out, as it would have been a distinct departure from the objects and wishes of the Founder, and an injury to the poor and needy of Hull. The question in my mind is the course I shall take on the Bill. I am anxious to see the main principle carried out; but I am in doubt whether, if this Bill is passed, an opportunity will not be lost of passing a better one for carrying out the recommendations of the Committees. In my vote I shall be much influenced by what the Representative of the Government says on the two points I have raised.
§ *(4.54.) MR. HENEAGE (Great Grimsby)
I feel very strongly, with my hon. Friend the Member for the Bordes- 405 ley Division, that this is not a complete measure, and that it is difficult to vote for it in its present shape. Still, I am not prepared to vote against a Bill which is based, so far as it goes, on an excellent principle. It is said that Amendments extending its scope in the direction indicated will be out of order in Committee. I am not prepared to accept that view; but this difficulty, if it exists at all, can be met by an Instruction to the Committee, and I trust that Her Majesty's Government will undertake to move such an Instruction, if necessary, and that they will also agree to send the Bill to the Standing Committee on Law.
§ *(4.56.) MR. P. S. POWELL (Wigan)
Perhaps even at this late hour the House will allow me to say a word or two on this question, seeing that I had the honour of being a Member of the Committee of 1887. It was my intention earlier in the day to have voted against the Bill; but as I have heard speeches containing attacks on the Commissioners, a body for whom I entertain the highest respect, which I believe to be unjust, in vindication of that body I shall vote for the Bill. It was said before the Committee of 1887 that the poor were excluded from the benefit of the charities. An inquiry was made into that subject daring two years, and the result was the justification of the action of the Commissioners. The evidence showed that out of 2,989 scholarships formed under the schemes 1,145 were gained by scholars at elementary schools, and it was proved that the proportion of the children of the working classes who were obtaining them was increasing. The Committee reported that the Commissioners desired to do justice to the class for whom the charity was originally intended. The Bill is certainly incomplete, as it does not contain clauses carrying out the recommendations of the Committees of 1884 and 1887; but I see no reason why, at a later stage, that should not be rectified. I believe the Bill contains the elements of wise and useful legislation, and have great pleasure in supporting it.
§ *(4.58.) THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir R. WEBSTER,) Isle of Wight
I must protest against the suggestion of the hon. Member for the Bordesley Division, that 406 the issue before the House is whether property intended for the poor is to be diverted to the rich. If I thought that that was directly or indirectly the issue I should certainly vote against the Second Reading, for I yield to none in my desire to maintain for the poor the endowments originally made in their interest. During the past five years I have endeavoured in every scheme that has come before me to preserve the benefits to the poor. The hon. Member for the Bordesley Division also very unnecesarily referred to a case at Sutton Colefield, in Warwickshire, in which it was alleged that a large sum of money—£15,000 a year—had been diverted. The hon. Gentleman ought to have also stated that the case was inquired into by the Committee, which found that the action of the Charity Commissioners had been in accordance with the original endowment, and not contrary to it. The Report said that the original gift contemplated the benefit of all classes of the inhabitants, and that, while the scheme of the Charity Commissioners proposed a limited measure of endowment for the purposes of higher education, the larger part of the endowment was appropriated for the benefit of the poor. That case, however, has nothing to do with the subject of this Bill, and appears to have been introduced merely for the purpose of influencing the mind of the House in regard to the Charity Commissioners. Will the House believe that this Sutton Colefield scheme was under the Endowed Schools Act and had been on the Table of the House 40 days before it came into force? If anybody is responsible for that scheme, therefore, it is the House of Commons quite as much as the Charity Commissioners. Is it fair, I would ask, in connection with this Bill, to bring forward a case which would not be affected by this Bill, but is subject to the very safeguards which the hon. Member for Bordesley (Mr. Collings) desires should be imported into this measure. I am informed that the Hull case was also under the Endowed Schools Act in the same way. Unless it can be shown that this Bill, directly or indirectly, touches the powers of the Commissioners under the Endowed Schools Acts, I submit that the arguments founded in any case of this kind are nihil ad rem in con- 407 nection with the issue before us. The hon. Member for Bordesley said it was unjust to divert money intended for doles. I must remind the House that this question is settled by Section 30 of the Endowed Schools Act. The House has determined, in its wisdom, that charities which are wholly or partially applied to doles in money or kind may be appropriated for other purposes. During the last live years I have had some 10 or 15 cases of that kind before me, and such cases have gone before the Courts. I state, without hesitation, that the extension of the dole system, where the amount of the income of the charity has largely increased, is an unmixed evil. I do not for a moment suggest that it is not a prudent and proper thing to have power to grant money to persons in distress during the winter, or in bad times, and in none of the schemes that have come before me have I omitted to give such power, but I could give the House instances in which the money originally left has largely increased from £200 or £300 to £1,000 or £1,200. It surely will not be contended that it would be wise to apply these largely increased sums in the form of doles.
§ MR. COLLINGS
I distinctly stated that I did not defend doles, but I argued that if the House considers some other form of charity was better the money should then go to the same class as that for which the doles were meant.
§ *SIR R. WEBSTER
I am extremely glad to hear that from the hon. Member, but, as a matter of fact, I do not think he went so far as that in his speech. It has been suggested that the action of the Charity Commissioners has been to withdraw charities from those for whom they were meant, to transfer them to other persons. I do not pretend to say there has never been such a case, but certainly no such case has come under my knowledge. I cannot help thinking that what is in the mind of the hon. Member for Bordesley is that there have been cases under the Endowed Schools Act where this has been done. This, however, is a matter with which we are not concerned to-day, as this measure does not touch the Endowed Schools Act. If 408 it had been possible to show that the money left for medical aid, for nursing, and so on, had been taken away from the poor and given to the rich it would be a most important case to deal with. I do not believe any such case exists, and, if it does, the action complained of must have been taken a very long time ago. Perhaps the House will understand that this matter of nursing the poor and assisting them in times of sickness is always prominently before those who have the administration of these schemes. I wish the House to understand that, in all the schemes that come before me where the cy prés doctrine is applied, we always look first after the people who are intended to receive the benefit, and when we find the income has largely increased we endeavour to devote some portion of the amount to the original object of the founder of the Charity, and devote the remainder to kindred charities, the benefits of which will go to the same class of persons. It is not just to suggest that the persons who have to deal with these matters are not actuated by the same philanthropic motives as the hon. Member. Beyond removing the limit of £50, which I think will be generally regarded as an arbitrary limit, the Bill does not extend the powers of the Commissioners. In my opinion, the power of appeal will be preserved under the Bill as it stands, but if the hon. Member for Islington will bring forward a clause in Committee with the object of making this certain, I shall be happy to consider it. It is because we desire to protect charities that we think that the removal of the £50 limit would be an advantage, and not because we think it would enable the Charity Commissioners to carry out any improper schemes. Speaking for myself—because this is not a Government matter—I have not the smallest objection to other safeguards being inserted in the Bill for the control of the Local Authorities, provided that they are guarded by proper clauses. I cannot conceive that it could possibly be out of order to bring up under this Bill the very same proposals as were mentioned in the Report of the Committee as being desirable. The hon. Member for Bordesley thinks it would be an extremely wrong thing that the Charity Commissioners, or the High Court, should 409 be able to alter the schemes which are controlled by Act of Parliament. It is by no means clear that the Court of Chancery has not got this power at the present time. I have had before me, during the last year or two, a couple of cases in which charities, which would be charities in the ordinary sense of the word, differed from other charities simply in the fact that the purposes to which the funds could be applied were contained within the four corners of private Acts of Parliament instead of being written out in a deed. They were clearly cases for the application of the cy prés doctrine, but the difficulty suggested was that if we tried to apply the cy prés doctrine, we touched an Act of Parliament. If it is desirable to alter the mode of the application of a a charity which is 300 years old, given by a will, why should it not be possible to apply the same principle to an Act of Parliament of the same age? I hope hon. Members will not think it in any way disrespectful of me if I do not deal with some of the other points raised. I cannot but think that the Debate has ranged over a wider field than it should have done, because hon. Members have not considered what are the real limitations of the Bill. Perhaps it will be possible in Committee to insert Amendments which will practically meet all objections which constitute anything like a serious opposition to this Bill, and I hope and trust it will not be said that, in supporting the Second Reading, we are desirous that a single penny should be diverted from the poor people for whose benefit it has been left.
§ MR. RATHBONE
We should be quite willing in Committee to accept Amendments giving County Councils and Town Councils statutory powers.
§ *SIR A. ROLLIT
The Debate has had the practical advantage of causing suggestions to be made by the Attorney General, especially in relation to my point as to Municipal initiative in pursuance of the Report of 1884, which will have the result we all have in view. Under these circumstances, I beg to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.410
§ Original Motion put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read a second time, and committed for Tuesday next.