§ COMMITTEE. [Progress, 5th December.]
§ [FOURTEENTH NIGHT.]
§ Bill considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.) .
§ Clause 13 (Public property and charities.)
In page 10, line 25, to leave out from the words "ecclesiastical charity," to the end of the sub-section, and insert the words " and the Churchwardens of a rural parish are either alone or jointly with any other persons trustees thereof, the Parish Council may appoint one of the Councillors of the parish and the Incumbent of the parish may appoint one of the Churchwardens to be a trustee of the charity, and the persons so appointed shall be trustees in the place of the Churchwardens: Provided that nothing in this enactment shall affect the powers, duties, or liabilities of the Churchwardens in respect to ecclesiastical charities."— (Mr. Tomlinson.)
§ Question again proposed, "That the words ' this enactment shall apply' stand part of the Clause."
§ Debated resumed.
§ MR. J. GRANT LAWSON (York, N.R., Thirsk)
, continuing his speech commenced the previous night, said, the Committee would remember that in the course of yesterday those hon. Members who were mainly connected with the interests of the Church in this House had been offering terms of compromise to the Government, which were more and more ample. They had been steadily refused. The hon. Member for Preston had in this Amendment offered terms which would give a very extensive power to the ratepayers to control charities even when in the trusteeship of the Incumbent and Churchwardens. If they were to tamper with the administration of charities in 574 a way which he could not describe otherwise than as a breach of faith with the benevolent dead, the majority should be anxious to make it as little glaringly unjust as possible. They were told that the intention of the framers of the Bill was that the elective element should enter into the trusteeship of all charities not ecclesiastical. This Amendment was not inconsistent with that object. It dealt with two classes of cases— first, where the Churchwardens were alone trustees; and, secondly, where they were trustees jointly with other persons. In the former case, his hon. Friend proposed that one of the elective Churchwardens should be replaced by a person not elected but nominated by the Parish Council. In the other case, where the Churchwardens were trustees jointly with the Overseers, the effect of his hon. Friend's proposal would be that three out of five should be elected. He did not wish to see any class of charities treated with injustice, and it was to be hoped that the justice extended to other charities should also be extended to those of the Church of England. He was told that the majority of the House desired that all the trustees should be elected except the Incumbent of the parish. But these trusts were in many cases to be distributed in the Church after the service of the Church, and in many cases they were so distributed. All that his hon. Friend proposed was that the Incumbent of the parish, who could not be expected to distribute these doles himself in the Church, should be allowed to appoint one of the trustees to assist him in distributing the doles after the service. Otherwise it was possible that the person who was to assist the Incumbent might not be a member of the Church of England, and might not take part in the service. He maintained that the Amendment was a very fair compromise of the matter. It appeared to him not to be as large a one as they ought to have, but, at any rate, it gave them something; it gave them one man to act in sympathy with the Vicar. If the Amendment were accepted it would meet all such cases as those put forward by the hon. Member for Northampton. If the Incumbent and one of the Churchwardens appointed by him were associated with the popularly-appointed 575 trustees any distribution of doles for the purposes suggested by the hon. Member for Northampton would be prevented. He would like to know whether the charities, of which the hon. Member spoke with so much warmth and inaccuracy, were not really charities provided by the Vicar himself out of his own poorly-filled pocket? If the Government accepted the Amendment at this the eleventh hour they would do much to secure the flow of benevolence in the future, and to facilitate the steady progress of this measure.
§ MR. HANBURY (Preston)
said, that to a certain extent he agreed with this Amendment, because, undoubtedly, what his hon. Friend who had just sat down tad said was perfectly true—namely, that this clause interfered with the intention of testators, and would have the . effect of checking the flow of benevolence in the future, because he could not help thinking that a great many of these doles and other charities were intended by the founders to be directly connected with the Church. He regretted that a greater fight had not been made on his side of the House to maintain more thoroughly than had been done the connection between the Church and the State in every parish. He thought they had thrown away a great deal too readily that connection. They had allowed the Vestry to be left as an unpopular body elected on a high franchise as compared with the democratic assembly which was to regulate civil matters. The Amendment did to a certain extent establish some connection between the Church and certain civil matters in the parish, but he was not one of those who thought that the Church ought solely to deal with charities, and he wished his hon. Friend had chosen the Churchwarden elected by the laity as one of the trustees. They ought to make the defence of the Church popular, and he did not think they would do that if they took all the power from the laity and threw it into the hands of the clergy alone. It was a moot point how far a Vicar or Rector had a statutory right to appoint one of the Churchwardens.
§ MR. TOMLINSON (Preston)
said, that he had in moving his Amendment 576 put the choice by the Vicar of a Churchwarden as a matter of custom.
§ MR. HANBURY
said, the practice had been, undoubtedly, that the Vicar should choose one; but that was not so in all parishes, for in many parishes the laity elected both Churchwardens. He did not think it would be fair to the laity to say that that power should be taken away, and that the Vicar's Churchwarden should be alone one of the trustees. He wanted the Church to be represented; but why on earth the laity should be ousted, or why their Churchwarden should not be appointed instead of the Incumbent's, he could not understand. He would vote for any Amendment that would strengthen the rights of the Church, but this Amendment would weaken the position of the Church. He hoped his hon. Friend would substitute for "Incumbent" the word "Vestry," which he thought would be the wiser course.
§ SIR G. OSBORNE MORGAN (Denbighshire, E.)
, who was indistinctly heard, said, the fallacy in the arguments of hon. Members opposite was that property was given to the Vicar and Churchwardens because they represented the Church. But it had been pointed out that Churchwardens did not represent the Church; in many cases, and especially in Wales, they were Nonconformists. The property was given to the parson as the persona and Churchwardens because in old times they were the only persons who represented the parish as a sort of quasi-official trustees. To this day, in his country, the Church and the parish were denoted by the same word. The Church was the parish, the parish was the Church, and the Churchwardens and Incumbent, of course, represented the parish in a quasi-official capacity. He thought the Solicitor General had completely disposed of the argument that Nonconformist Bodies should be treated in the same way as the Church.
§ MR. J. G. TALBOT (Oxford University)
, who was indistinctly heard, said, the Amendment was intended to meet not only ancient history—in regard to which he would be prepared to meet the right hon. Baronet who had just spoken at a future time—but also quite recent cases. He was afraid the hon. Member 577 for Preston was one of those people who suffered from what he might call clerico phobia, but he thought the hon. Member need not trouble himself with undue terrors, for the Amendment would only give the unfortunate parson the right to nominate his own Churchwarden as one of the trustees of these charities, while the rest of the Body would be, he might almost say, aggressively appointed by the Parish Council. The President of the Local Government Board had made most conciliatory speeches and had throughout preserved a most conciliatory attitude, but, unfortunately, he did not sit upon the Treasury Bench alone. He was surrounded by others, and he was not quite sure that even at this moment the poison of the tempter was not being poured into his ear. There was an hon. Gentleman sitting at the end of the Treasury Bench (Mr. T. E. Ellis) who came from Wales, and if he talked too much to the right hon. Gentleman he knew what the result would be. In any case, he would have to exercise all the firmness he had to resist it. The President of the Local Government Board had over and over again declared his desire not to interfere with the interests of the Church, but these declarations were worth very little unless they were embodied in the words of an Act of Parliament. If the Amendment was rejected by the Government, the Opposition would be forced to the conclusion that in this very important matter the rights of the Church were not safeguarded. Indeed, it was obvious that charities which had been associated with the Church from time immemorial were to be sacrificed to satisfy the whim of certain supporters of the Government, who thought the Bill would be worth nothing unless it swept away the whole influence of the Church of England in such matters. The Bill, by the admission of the right hon. Gentleman himself, was a great experiment, which could not succeed unless it was framed in a spirit of conciliation for the opinions of all classes; and if their proposal was rejected Churchmen would have no course left except so far as they could to oppose each fresh addition to the burden which in this matter they were called upon to bear, He did not threaten obstruction, which would be altogether contrary to his own 578 practice; but the right hon. Gentleman must expect that if the intentions which he had expressed were not reasonably carried out, this important Bill would not pass with such facility as it otherwise would.
§ VISCOUNT WOLMER (Edinburgh, W.)
said, he had an Amendment on the Paper which, if this Amendment was negatived, he would not be able to move, and he therefore asked the permission of the Committee to be allowed to speak partly to the Amendment before the House and partly to his own Amendment. His proposal was to insert after "ecclesiastical charity" the words—And the Churchwardens, or some of them, are either alone or jointly with any other persons, the trustees of such charity, the Parish Council may appoint additional trustees not exceeding the number of such Churchwardens.The gist of that Amendment, he said, was addition instead of substitution, and the object was to put the Church in the same position as all other Religious Bodies, and not in a position of particular, peculiar, and unique disqualification. He admitted that there was a great deal to be said for the argument that many old charities were given in trust to the Incumbent and Churchwardens because they were the only public officials in the parish. But was there nothing to be said on the other side of the question? Was it absolutely denied that in the eyes of hundreds of thousands of Churchmen and Churchwomen the Churchwardens had not been civil officers, but ecclesiastical officers exactly corresponding to the stewards of the Wesleyan Communion? And unless it was proved that no charity had been bequeathed into the custody of the Churchwardens simply from a Church point of view, hon. Members who voted for the Bill as it stood avowed themselves ready to do that which was no less than an act of spoliation towards the Church. The Government, he understood, intended to prevent the religious administration of parochial trusts. That intention might be right or it might be wrong, but at any rate the Church ought to be in the same position as all other Religious Bodies with regard to it. Under the Bill, however, Churchmen alone were to be precluded from making their civil officers 579 the guardians of their trust. If the proposal of the Government passed it would never be in the power of Churchmen or Churchwomen in the future who desired to establish a trust under the care of the Church to appoint Churchwardens as the administrators of that trust. The hon. Member for Rugby said there would be no Churchwardens.
§ VISCOUNT WOLMER
said, Churchwardens were not abolished by this Bill; men would exist in every parish as Churchwardens, but under the proposal of the Government if Churchmen or Churchwomen made the Churchwardens the administrators of their bequests such a provision would be null and void, and the duty of administration would pass into the hands of the Parish Council. That was a preposterous injustice, and he hoped the Government would consider whether in their zeal for popular administration they were not adopting a course which would have the effect of robbing the poor of many bequests in the future. It was a monstrous injustice to put the Church in a different position to the members of other Religious Bodies. He appealed to them as men who, whatever their views of the Church, did not desire to do anything but justice, whether it was fair to treat in any sense as national endowments that had been left as Church parochial charities within the last few years? On the Second Reading of the Bill the President of the Local Government Board said that neither he nor the Government intended to use this Bill as an indirect attack upon the Church, and all they now asked was that the right hon. Gentleman should remain true to that promise, to interpret that promise so that the Church might not be treated differently to the Nonconformist Bodies; and he could not himself believe that when the Government came to consider the injustice they would be doing by making this difference between church and chapel, and the risk they were running of robbing the poor of their charities, that they would persist in their proposal. At any rate, he asked them most earnestly to consider their proposal. The difference in his Amendment and the 580 one they were now discussing was that his Amendment, so far as these charities were concerned, put the Church on exactly the same footing as the Nonconformist Bodies would be placed in by the Amendment which the right hon. Gentleman had upon the Paper. At the present moment the right hon. Gentleman proposed to sweep away the Churchwardens altogether, and to substitute nominated representatives of the Parish Council without regard to the date, age, or purpose of the particular charity. What he (Viscount Wolmer) proposed was that as in the case of Roman Catholic or Jewish or Wesleyan charities, so the members nominated by the Parish Council should not be in substitution of the Churchwardens, but in addition to them.
§ MR. GRIFFITH-BOSCAWEN (Kent, Tunbridge)
wished to call attention to one point which he thought had not sufficiently been brought out in this discussion. If the view of the Government were accepted an ecclesiastical charity would be judged not upon the character and religious intentions of the testator. They should be dealing with a large number of eleemosynary charities such as parish rooms and institutes. All these rooms were used for various public purposes, and not specifically vested for Church uses; but it was the obvious intention of the founders to give them to the Churchwardens as Church and not as secular officers. There was a great difference between eleemosynary charities and parish rooms. The former were meant to be administered for the poor of the parish; the parish room was distinctly meant to be a Church organisation. Was it fair or right that these recent creations for specifically Church objects should be handed over to a Board the majority of which might consist of Nonconformists? The reason they asked that either the Amendment of the Member for Preston or that of the noble Lord might be accepted was in order that they might have some guarantee that these distinctly Church institutions should be controlled by a Board of Trustees, the majority of whom should remain Churchmen. So far as the parish rooms went, he thought they ought to 581 have more. He did not think in case of parish rooms they ought to have any representative element. They were not meant for whole parishes, but for Church purposes in the parishes, and ought to remain entirely in the Church. But if the Government would not exempt them, as he feared they would not, they ought, at all events, to secure that the majority of the trustees should be Churchmen. On the general question he most heartily supported the noble Lord the Member for Edinburgh. They used to hear a great deal of religious equality. Where had that cry gone to now? The Government were creating a new religious inequality. They proposed to treat Church property and charities in a manner absolutely different from the treatment of Nonconformist property and charities. He was very glad to see there was that spirit of fairness on the other side that they did not propose only to interfere with Church charities, but that they also proposed some limited interference with Nonconformist charities. But why not mete out the same measure to both? Why swamp the Church charities and only add a small number to the representatives of the Nonconformist charities. He would leave both sets of charities in the hands of the existing trustees. He regarded both sets of charities as part of the church or chapel endowments to the poor. The hon. Member for Northampton asked why they should not relieve the clergy of this very unpleasant task of administering these doles. The answer was clear. The task might be an unpleasant one, but they were left to the clergy as part of the Church endowments to the poor, and if the clergy disliked the administration this House had no right to relieve them of it. He applied the same argument to Nonconformist charities, and he heartily supported the Amendment of the noble Lord the Member for Edinburgh.
§ MR. E. STANHOPE (Lincolnshire, Horncastle)
regarded the Amendment of his hon. Friend behind him as a most moderate proposal, and he might say the same of the alternative proposal of his noble Friend opposite, which, unfortunately, he would probably not be able to move. He thought the interests of the Church and the rights of the Church 582 entitled them to demand a great deal more than this. They were putting forward, therefore, a proposal now which was far within the demands they were entitled to put forward, and they put it forward as a compromise—he was afraid in vain—in the hope that there yet remained among some Members on the Treasury Bench that attachment to the Church which in past times they professed, but which they were now doing so little to show. His hon. Friend proposed to continue the existing practice. The existing practice in all or almost all the churches was that the clergyman appointed one Churchwarden and the parish appointed the other. They desired to perpetuate that system in the case where they were trustees of a charity. Let them take first a case which arose under this Amendment, where a charity was vested in a Vicar and Churchwardens. They claimed, in the first place, that that was a Church charity, and that the founder undoubtedly intended that it should be distributed through the agency of the Church, choose the Vicar and the Churchwardens, not because they were the only people in the parish, but because he desired that the alms should be distributed through the agency of the Church. He had had a most curious case sent to him in relation to this, which, he thought, might be interesting. This case had arisen so recently as 1890. A lady left a house and a large sum of money to the Vicar and Churchwardens for the benefit of the parish. She stipulated that one of the Trustees should be the Parish Warden, being anxious to secure some popular representation, and not to limit it to the Churchwarden appointed by the Vicar. In this case it was perfectly fair to continue these trusts in the Vicar and Churchwardens, because they had from the first been administered by the Churchwardens, and he maintained there was no right whatever in this House to take them away from the Church officers and entrust them to other persons. Would it be to the interest of the poor? He had a very interesting letter from a clergyman the other day, in which he said—I tell you honestly I long to be relieved from the duty of trustee; but as an ordinary member of the community, I say grievous harm will be done to the poor if this is taken away from us. … .We apply it to the satisfaction 583 of all denominations without the smallest assistance, and to take it away and give it to the Parish Council would be to inflict a grievous injury to the interests of the poor.If that was a strong case was it not much stronger when the charity was vested in the names of the Churchwardens and Overseers? It was here actually proposed by the Government that a trust of that description was not to be administered by any one representative whom the founder intended should administer it. They had taken away the Overseers and substituted for them persons appointed by the Parish Council, and they were now going to take away the Churchwardens and substitute for them persons appointed by the Parish Council. Therefore, these trusts which were established by the founders to be administered through Church officers were going to be altogether dissociated from the Church and put only under such persons as the Parish Council might think fit to appoint. That, he contended, was not dealing fairly with the Church. It was not even taking away the disabilities of other Religious Bodies. On the contrary, it was putting new disabilities upon the Church alone and placing it in a far worse condition than any other Religious Body. His noble Friend the Member for Edinburgh proposed to deal with this matter by addition instead of substitution. He heartily wished the noble Lord might bring that Amendment forward. It was, to his mind, founded on absolute fairness, and he did not see how it could, with any justice, be objected to. He was afraid, however, it would not be possible for the noble Lord to bring on this Amendment, and certainly, if the hon. Member for Preston went to a Division, he should support his Amendment.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Sir W. HARCOURT, Derby)
The right hon. Gentleman has expressed his surprise that anyone not adverse to the Church of England should support this Amendment; but the right hon. Gentleman will permit me to say that I do not think it is to the benefit of the Church of England or any other Church that claims to temporal power on the part of the Church should be put forward in the strong manner adopted on this occasion. The claim to temporal power of Churches 584 has never been favourable to the Churches that have advanced their claim either in this or any other country. This is a claim on the part of the spiritual power to exercise a predominant right in purely temporal affairs. ["No!"] I shall explain that to show that that is not an incorrect statement of the matter. So far as these trusts can be properly called ecclesiastical my right hon. Friend has declared his intention to exclude them from the operation of the Bill. As to the definition of what is or is not ecclesiastical, if there are any suggestions or arguments to be advanced that the definition is not sufficient, we are quite open to listen to any suggestion on the point; but at present let us take it that our intention is that, in matters which. are not purely spiritual or ecclesiastical, but which are secular and temporal, we decline altogether to admit the claim on the part , of the Church of England or any other Ecclesiastical Body whatever to have any voice or weight in the matter. That is the line on which we take our stand. The right hon. Gentleman says that we exclude everybody who has any connection with the Church. That is not an accurate statement.
§ MR. E. STANHOPE
I said that, in the case where the property was vested in the Churchwardens or Overseers, the Vicar was not in it.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
That is not a common case. [Mr. E. STANHOPE: Yes, it is.] I think the case is more common where the Incumbent is in it. Let us see in this Amendment what it is that is asked. The present system is that the Vestry appoint one Churchwarden and the parson appoints another, and I suppose—I do not know whether that is the theory—they are to fight one another. At all events, they are two separate interests. There ought not to be separate interests with reference to temporal matters, whatever be the case with reference to ecclesiastical matters, which will remain in the Vestry as they do now. They are not to interfere in temporal matters. Well, now you propose to take from the Vestry this popular element—their nomination of one Churchwarden—and transfer it to the 585 Parish Council. You take away the popular Churchwarden and transfer him to the Parish Council, but you leave the parson's Churchwarden and say he must not be disturbed. Why not? Why is the parson, in a matter purely temporal, to have any nominee upon these trusts? It is a claim utterly and entirely unjustifiable. The right hon. Gentleman says—"We regard the trusts as the property of the Church." I deny that altogether. So far as it is not ecclesiastical, but a temporal endowment, it is not the property of the Church. The right hon. Gentleman, I am bound to say, did not make that assertion, though some gentleman behind him did put forward the claim that even if it was not the property of the Church, but the property of the parish, there was some vested interest in the Church and in its representatives to administer that public property. Well, I deny that in toto. I deny that they have any more right to the administration than they have to the property. It is public property, and ought to be publicly administered. Where it is shown that the circumstances are such as to demonstrate that this was intended really to be a denominational foundation and gift, then he admitted it would come under the definition and conditions of an ecclesiastical foundation. But take the general case. What was it? We all know from the ancient history of our parishes that where a man wished to make a temporal foundation for the benefit of the whole community, there were no persona. The parson was the persona in the parish, and the Overseers and Churchwardens were the only trustees—the only persons existing in whom the trust could be vested. Therefore there is no presumption, even apart from particular elements in the case, that these temporal foundations for the good of the community were vested in the parson with a special designation for denominational purposes, and the presumption is, therefore, if it is a gift primâ facie of a temporal character and for the good of the whole community, these trustees were not denominational trustees in any sense of the word; that they had no claim whatever to the administration of the property any more than they had to the property itself. You do not deny that the trusteeship may be with ad- 586 vantage changed, but you say keep us the administration in the hands of the Church. Why? For what purpose do you want to use it. Why is this claim put forward that the Church are to administer these temporal endowments for the benefit of the whole community? I suppose because you think it will give the Church some exceptional advantage. I do not for a moment impute to the ecclesiastical personages who have the disposal of patronage of this kind that they deliberately, and for any motive that is to be condemned, employ these foundations for the advantage of their own religion. But if you give one particular denomination the disposition of these funds, human nature being what it is, the tendency would be to have feeling running in the direction of those who had the administration of the charity. That cannot be denied, and without casting any imputation at all upon the ecclesiastical personages, I should say what is contrary to my own experience if I averted that this patronage never was exercised in the direction of the interests—which they conscientiously believe they are serving— of their denomination. In my opinion,, that is an unfortunate position in which to place the Church—to claim for it that it should have any exclusive right or any predominant right to dispose of that which is the common property of all. There was a time in former generations when that was the doctrine which was held, and sincerely held. It is not held now, certainly not by the people who sit on this side of the House, and I do not believe by the majority who sit on the other side. Of this I am quite certain: that is not the view held by the majority of the people of this country. What they think is that in the case of public property, whether it be of this character or any other character, it is good for the community at large that it shall be administered by representatives of that community and not by agents or representatives of any particular denomination. These are the grounds upon which we proceed in this matter, and the Government cannot, therefore, accept this Amendment.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN (Birmingham, W.)
I rise chiefly to ask a question of my right hon. Friend the President 587 of the Local Government Board as to the meaning of the clause as it stands. He proposes that the Churchwardens shall be placed in the same position in which the Overseers will be placed by a previous portion of the section, and accordingly, reading the words applicable to the Overseers as applicable to the Churchwardens, the Parish Council will appoint such number of the Councillors of the parish not exceeding the number of the Churchwardens to be trustees " in their place." Now, Sir, what I want to ask my right hon. Friend is this: Supposing the Parish Council should be of opinion that the existing Churchwardens, or one of them, are or is the very best person for the place, would they have the power under these circumstances to appoint this Churchwarden? Would it be held in that case that they were appointing a Parish Councillor in place of the Churchwarden, though they only replaced the Churchwarden? I think such a case may occasionally arise, and if my right hon. Friend were to say that they would be precluded from appointing the Churchwarden in such a case, then he is very clearly restricting the liberty of the Parish Council. I cannot think that that can be his intention. As regards the Amendment which is before the Committee, my noble Friend the Member for West Edinburgh made, I think, a very strong argument against the whole proposal of the Government; he pointed out, in the first place—and I do not think that anybody has attempted, or will attempt, to contradict him—that in some cases the intention of the donor was to have ecclesiastical administration. That I quite agree with. In many cases that may not have been the case. The Churchwardens may only have been accepted because they happened to be there as permanent ex officio Guardians. But there must be some cases in which the donor had distinctly ecclesiastical intentions, and in this case, accordingly, the object and intention of the donor will be frustrated by the proposal of the Government, and I quite agree with my noble Friend that that will have to some extent the power of restricting charities in this direction. But I do not propose to argue that point any further, because, in the first place, I 588 do not think it arises upon the Amendment, and, in the second place, because I consider it is precluded by the statement of the intention of the Government. The Government have told us on what principle, or rather I should say on what principles—because the Chancellor of the Exchequer has just given us a totally new principle—the Government have told us on what principle they are proceeding, and I feel it would be quite useless under these circumstances to attempt to resist their decision. The principle which was laid down by my right hon. Friend the President of the Local Government Board was that it was desirable that there should be popular representation upon all these parochial non-ecclesiastical charities, and he went on to say that it was the intention of the Government in this matter to deal with absolute equality as between all the charities of a non-ecclesiastical character. That is the principle of my right hon. Friend the President of the Local Government Board. Now the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer comes down, and he tells us in general terms— he laid down an entirely new principle— it is the duty of the Government, he appears to tell us, to prevent the spiritual power from claiming any interference at all in these temporal charities. Well, Sir, if that is the duty of the Government, I think we must interpret it a little. We must read for "spiritual power" the Church of England, because it is clear that when the spiritual power is connected with a Roman Catholic organisation, or a Nonconformist organisation, then the intention, desire, and duty of the Government does not arise. I go on to say that if this second principle is really the principle upon which the Government intend to act, they have been very unhappy in the proposals they have made to the Committee. They are absolutely inconsistent. Who are, above all, the representatives of this spiritual power whose interference is to be resisted? Not the Churchwardens, who are laymen, and who in many cases are Nonconformists. The Vicar is the person who, above all others, represents the spiritual power, and with the Vicar the Government do not propose to interfere. Wherever a charity is left to a Vicar and Churchwarden, or where it is 589 left to the Vicar alone, in the first place they are going to abolish the Churchwarden and leave the Vicar, and in the second place they are not going to touch the Vicar at all.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
I leave that to my right hon. Friend, and I leave him to settle the question with his right hon. Colleague the President of the Local Government Board, who has declared as another principle—and this is the third principle—that the Government do not intend in this Bill to interfere in any way with the rights of the Church; and now here is the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who, after all, takes a very spasmodic part in these Debates— who comes down generally in order to say something absolutely contradictory to what has previously been said by his right hon. Colleague, and perfectly prepared once more to throw over the President of the Local Government Board. He proposes to deal with the Vicar as well as with the Churchwardens. All I have got to say is, we have got to deal with the Bill as it stands, and as it stands it is perfectly inconsistent with the great principle that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has laid down, because it does not deal with the spiritual power in the person of the Vicar. I go back to the real principle as laid down by the Minister in charge of the Bill—that is, that while the Government claim that there shall be popular representation upon these charities, they intend to deal equally by all persons and sects. I confess I do not follow the Amendment which is before the Committee in the name of the hon. Member for Preston, because it does not deal equally with all sects. He does propose to exclude one of the Churchwardens and to require the Parish Council to substitute somebody in his place. That is altogether a different principle from the principle which is adopted in the Bill with regard to other non-ecclesiastical charities. In the case of these other non-ecclesiastical charities the Government proceed by way of addition, and I admit there is a great deal to be said for them; and, at all events, I think 590 the Committee must be content to accept the principle, and to allow of this addition. But if this is to be the principle applicable to other charities, charities connected with other sects, then I think we ought to have the same principle applicable to the Church. That idea is carried out by the Amendment of my noble Friend the Member for West Edinburgh. It is quite true that if the Amendment of the hon. Member for Preston were either voted upon or negatived, then my noble Friend would not be able to propose his Amendment. But I think, if it commended itself to the Committee, then my noble Friend would be able to move his Amendment as an Amendment to the Amendment of the hon. Member for Preston, and in that way we could take a Division upon the Amendment of my noble Friend, which, I think, would better carry out the idea of equality which I understand the majority of those who are opposed to the proposal of the Government desire.
§ VISCOUNT WOLMER
said, it had been pointed out to him that the Question having been put that the words down to "enactment" stand part of the clause, he could not move an Amendment to that. He gave notice that if the Amendment of the hon. Member for Preston became the substantive Motion before the Committee, he should move to leave out all the words after the word "appoint," in line 23, for the purpose of inserting the words—additional trustees not exceeding the number of Churchwardens.He claimed that the Government were in honour bound to accept his Amendment, for if they did not the pledge given by the President of the Local Government Board on the Second Reading would not be fulfilled. That pledge was as follows:—We do not propose that the rector or any trustee properly appointed should be removed or dispossessed or interfered with in his trusteeship.[Mr. H. H. FOWLER: Read the next sentence.] He had not the context with him, but he believed that there was nothing in it to weaken the pledge that was given.
intimated that he was willing to withdraw his Amendment, 591 in order that the judgment of the Committee might be taken on the proposal of the noble Lord.
§ COMMANDER BETHELL (York, E. R., Holderness)
said, he understood from the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer that the Government were willing to consider specially cases where it was the intention of the testator to have his charity ecclesiastically administered.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
said, that the intention of the Government was that what was now ecclesiastical should remain ecclesiastical. What was temporal would come within the operation of the Bill; what was ecclesiastical would not. If the definitions at present in the Bill were insufficient to carry that intention out, the Government were quite ready to listen to any suggestion for the purpose of rendering them sufficient.
§ COMMANDER BETHELL
said, the right hon. Gentleman had not quite followed him. It had been shown that there were certain cases in which the testator intended a charity bequeathed for the benefit of the poor generally to be ecclesiastically administered. Were such cases to be excluded from the operation of the clauses under consideration?
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
replied that where the character of the foundation of a trust was such as to invest it with a distinctly ecclesiastical character, the trust would be excluded. The mere naming of the Incumbent and Churchwardens as trustees, however, was not to be taken as proving that the charity was ecclesiastical. They could not now discuss in detail what constituted an ecclesiastical trust. The question must be settled when the Definition Clause was reached.
§ COMMANDER BETHELL
My point was as to the question of a trust to be ecclesiastically administered. That is the point insisted upon, and as to which I ask for information.
§ SIR R. TEMPLE (Surrey, Kingston)
said, the explanations of the Chancellor of the Exchequer had not yet convinced them on his (the Opposition) side of the House. The right hon. Gentleman put into their mouths claims on behalf of the Church which they did not make—claims ecclesiastical, claims spiritual. All that they claimed for the Church was that she should be allowed to keep the bequests made to her and her officers. If property was bequeathed to the Incumbent and Churchwardens far the distribution of certain alms, that distribution belonged to them, and it would be most iniquitous on the part of the House of Commons to take it from them. They further stated that they did not admit that the funds could be better administered by anybody else. The historical view had been urged by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and they desired to say that on an opportunity more fitting than the present they should traverse that historical argument. What did it amount to? That a testator, when bequeathing property for distribution by Churchwardens, did so because he knew there was nobody else. They denied that. On the contrary, in the 19th century a testator could not possibly have been unaware that there were many other people to whom he might give the control of the bequest, and in the latter half of the last century there was almost as large a proportion as now of persons well known to every testator, and to whom, if he had so minded, he might have entrusted the charge of the bequest. They should be able to show when the proper time came that there had been no period since the Reformation in which the Church of England had not had opponents, and they said that in every case in which a testator bequeathed property to the Incumbent and Churchwardens he knew perfectly well that there were plenty of persons besides the Anglican Churchwardens to whom he might have bequeathed this charge. Therefore, the argument that the testator did this because he could do nothing else was entirely wrong. He could assure the Government they would not expedite the passing of this Bill if they pressed it through Committee, leaving a rankling sense of injustice among Members of this 593 House, for that would be leading to future trouble on the Report stage. He, therefore, earnestly hoped that for the sake of peace and the time of the House the Government would accept the Amendment.
§ SIR J. KENNAWAY (Devon, Honiton)
expressed the hope that it would be possible to get this matter cleared up at this stage. It was certainly most important to come to a decision on the matter. He would give an instance in his own constituency, which would show the great hardship which would be infleted if a clear intention as to administration were to be ignored or wiped out. A gift was made by a living donor to the Vicar and Churchwardens of £30 a year, to be administered for the benefit of the poor. The donor now asserted that if he had known that there was any chance of the funds being taken out of the hands of the ecclesiastical authorities he would never, in his lifetime, have denuded himself of his property. It ought to be made clear that where it was the intention of the donor that his gift should be ecclesiastically administered, such an arrangement would not be interfered with.
§ VISCOUNT WOLMER
said, that he did not wish to misrepresent the President of the Local Government Board. He had now found in Hansard the quotation to which he had referred. It was as follows:—Therefore we are prepared to contend that these doles, which are for general charitable purposes and not exclusively for ecclesiastical purposes, are parochial charities, and, although we do not for a moment propose that the rector or any trustee properly appointed shall be removed or dispossessed or interfered with in his trusteeship, we claim that the Parish Council shall have the right to elect, instead of the Vestry, trustees in these cases.Yes; but in hundreds and thousands of cases the Vestry did not elect both Churchwardens. One Churchwarden was nominated by the Incumbent; and that being the case, if the Government stood by their proposal and declined to accept the Amendment, they would be guilty of a distinct breach of faith.
§ SIR R. PAGET (Somerset, Wells)
desired to make an earnest appeal that the Government in a spirit of fair play would allow the Amendment of the hon. 594 Member for Preston to be withdrawn and the issue to be taken in the way hon. Members on his side desired—namely, upon the Amendment of the noble Lord the Member for Edinburgh.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
said, he was very anxious that the hon. Baronet and his friends should have fair play, but he also desired that the House should have fair play. The great expenditure of time on this Bill had been due to Amendments which had been debated at great length, and then not brought to an issue. All the time expended on the Amendment of the hon. Member for Preston was to be wasted, and then there was to be another Debate on the Amendment of the noble Lord. ["No, no!"] In his opinion, it would be a pure waste of time if the Committee did not come to an issue on the present Amendment.
§ MR. HANBURY (Preston)
desired to ask, supposing there was no Debate upon the Amendment of the noble Lord, would the Chancellor of the Exchequer still refuse the opportunity of bringing that Amendment before the House?
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
Certainly: I think that, after we have spent several hours on this discussion, it is right that the opinion of the House should be taken upon it.
§ MR. TOMLINSON (Preston)
desired to make but one observation, and it was this: They could prove to demonstration that donors had, in fact, placed these funds in the hands of the Churchwardens in order that they might be administered by the Ecclesiastical Authorities. Now the Government said that all the intentions of persons who made their bequests in that way were to be disregarded. Did the Government think that that would not be looked upon as an act of spoliation in the country? He ventured to think it would.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 150; Noes 95.—(Division List, No. 359.)
§ Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; Committee counted, and 40 Members being found present,595
§ VISCOUNT WOLMER
said, he wished to move, in line 25, after the word "charity," to insert the following words:And if the Churchwardens, or some of them, are either alone or jointly with any other persons the trustees of such charity, the Parish Council may appoint additional trustees not exceeding the number of such Churchwardens.He did not intend to trouble the Committee by repeating the remarks he had already made, but would confine himself to asking two questions simply. He had stated that it was admitted by hon. Members sitting around him, whatever their general views might be, that there were cases where charitable funds intended for the benefit of a parish generally were vested by Church of England benefactors in the Churchwardens as trustees in the belief that it would be adminstered by them in a strictly denominational manner. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, although he expressed some wide and sweeping views, had (unless he had misunderstood him) admitted that point. Well, he (Viscount Wolmer) would press the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board to say whether he did not admit on behalf of the Government that such cases existed, and that they would receive very unjust treatment by the Bill in its present form. In the second place, he wished to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether it was the intention of the Government that henceforward Churchmen and Churchwomen should not have the power of appointing Churchwardens as trustees of parochial charities. If it was not the right hon. Gentleman's intention that in future Churchwardens should be precluded from acting as trustees of these charities, he would ask how the case was to be met? He begged to move his Amendment.
In page 10, line 25, to leave out from the word " apply," to the end of the Sub-section, in order to insert the words " to Churchwardens with this modification, that if the Churchwardens, or borne of them, are either alone or jointly with any other persons the trustees of such charity, the Parish Council may appoint additional trustees, not exceeding the number of such Churchwardens."—(Viscount Wolmer.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words 'as if the Churchwardens ' stand part of the Clause."596
§ SIR J. GORST
Before the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board replies, I should like to make an appeal to the Government really to carry out their own professions and undertakings in the Bill. There are two points we are pressing on the attention of the Committee, and, perhaps, we are a little confounding them together. The first is— and it is the most important—is it the intention of the Government that the Church of England shall be treated on an equality with other Religious Denominations, or shall it be exceptionally treated; and, secondly, is it intended in the interests of the people at large to sweep away altogether all religious administration of temporal charities? Now, the Government have most positively declared their intention and desire to treat all people alike. That is all we are asking for at the present moment. What the provision they will make will be the subject of discussion in the future, but at present our contention is that we should have equality of treatment. That equality of treatment was most distinctly promised by the Government, not only on the Second Reading, but last night I was interrupted by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board, who told me that I had not recognised that the Government were prepared to treat all religious denominations alike. He told me that I had not been present during the Debate, and, therefore, was not acquainted with what had been going on. He interrupted me to tell me that I was under a mistake, and that it was a principle of the Government to treat all religious denominations alike. The same principle has been laid down in the speech which the Chancellor of the Exchequer made a short time ago. But what happened last night when the right hon. Gentleman gave that pledge? Why, an hour or two afterwards the Solicitor General got up and threw the right hon. Gentleman over. I have only been present on two nights of this Debate, but as far as I can judge it seems to be the practice to throw the right hon. Gentleman over two or three times a night. I have the greatest confidence in the political honesty of the right hon. Gentleman, and fully believe that he wants to treat 597 all denominations alike, but the Solicitor General distinctly stated, in opposition to what had been said about an hour beforehand by his right hon. Colleague, that the Church was to be exceptionally treated, and that she was to be punished because there was an establishment. The Solicitor General asked us to show him any officer of any other religious denomination which was established, and said if we could he would treat him as badly as if he were an officer of the Church. All we ask is that you should apply to the religious administration of charities in the Church exactly the same principle as that which you are prepared to apply to the administration of charities by Nonconformists, by the Jews, or by the Church of Rome, or by any other Religious Body. Nobody knows better than the right hon. Gentleman himself that, as the Bill stands, such equality of treatment will not obtain. A good deal has been said about the reason why this proposal is pressed as a measure of justice to the Church. I press it on two grounds. The first is that the Church ought not to be treated exceptionally. I go on the broad principles of justice, which would commend themselves, I should think, even to the minds of gentlemen opposite, who may be the most bitter opponents of the Church.
§ SIR J. GORST
Well then, if so, at least you will give the Church justice. At least you will treat that Religious Organisation and Body with the same measure as you mete out to other Religious Bodies and Organisations. That is all we are asking for. My second reason is that it is to the interest of the people at large and of the people of the Church itself that equality of treatment should obtain. I do not ask for it in the interests of the clergy. The Chancellor of the Exchequer (Sir W. Harcourt), who is a great master of debate, tried to make out that this was an effort on our part to bolster up the power and patronage of the clergy. Well, so far as my knowledge of the clergy goes, they would be most thankful to be rid of the obligation to administer these public trusts. I will mention one reason why. 598 Difficult as it may be to administer these charities with perfect impartiality it is absolutely impossible to convince the people at large that they are properly administered. We had an example only just now. Even so large and liberal minded a man as the hon. Member for Northampton was quite unable to conceive that any clergyman could act in the distribution of public charity from any other than the most degraded and unworthy motives, and we have had the hon. Member for Norfolk (Mr. Arch), who has described himself in this House as a typical agricultural labourer, declaring that he agrees entirely with these sentiments. This shows how extremely difficult it is to administer these public charities in such a way as to convince people that the administrators act impartially. I have no doubt that when you take the administration of public charities out of the hands of ministers of religion and Churchwardens and place them in the hands of popularly elected persons there will be even more complaints of the way in which they are administered than there are now. The party which is defeated in the parish election will declare that it is excluded on political grounds from the parish charities, and I have not the slightest doubt that allegation will be made of partiality against the dominant political Party in its administration of the charities. As far as the interests, therefore, of the clergymen are concerned, I do not think anyone on this side has made any demand for the preservation of his patronage or rights, although the Chancellor of the Exchequer has put such language into our mouths. What we do demand is the right of the people to choose those dispensers of their charity in whom they place confidence, I think that is a very democratic and a very reasonable proposition. I am not myself very likely ever to be in the position to make any great bequest by will or gift in my lifetime for any such purpose, but I go as far as to say that if I were in such a position, I would rather have my charity administered by a Religious Body than by elected trustees. If I had to choose persons to administer a charitable bequest, if I could not have the Vicar and Churchwardens, I would ten times sooner have the Wesleyan 599 minister or the minister of any other Dissenting Body, the Jews, or the Roman Catholics, or any other organised Religious Body, than I would have trustees elected by popular vote. I would do so for this reason: that those are people who, through the exercise of their duties, are far better acquainted with the condition and wants of the people, and far better able to discriminate between really deserving cases and cases in which charity would be thrown away than anyone else in the parish. This Bill will work well, because I firmly believe that if you give them power to do so, the parish meeting or the Parish Council will choose the Vicar and Churchwardens as the best people to distribute the parochial charities. We are fighting for equality of treatment. Those who on the other side of the House do not like to be called the enemies of the Church will, I think, admit that equality of treatment is only fair in this matter. I should like to see anyone get up in this House and boldly contend, except upon some legal quibble like that used by the Solicitor General last night, that there is any justice in the exceptional treatment of the Church in this matter. My right hon. Friend the Member for Horncastle (Mr. E. Stanhope) spoke of a case in which in very recent times a lady had given £1,000 to the poor of a parish to be administered by the Incumbent and the Churchwardens, and another £1,000 to be administered by the Wesleyan minister and his stewards. Who can have the slightest doubt that the donor intended that her bequest should be administered by Religious Bodies? What is the good of the legal technicalities of the learned Solicitor General? That was clearly her intention, and is it not just and to the interest of the poor that intentions of that kind should, as far as possible, be carried out by the Legislature? All we ask for is that equality of treatment which the Chancellor of the Exchequer declared he was prepared to give to the Church and to all other Religious Bodies. We ask that the Government should respect the wishes of those who in recent times have given sums of money for public charities, and that they should not adopt the foolish, tyrannical, and unwise course of flying in the face of their wishes.
§ MR. JEFFREYS (Hants, Basingstoke)
said, that before the Amendment was put, as he had an Amendment upon the Paper of a similar nature, it would save the time of the Committee if he were allowed to say a few words now instead of later on, and he wished to express his opinion that unless an Amendment of this sort was carried it would be a source of great hardship upon many in their villages. They had heard how a certain lady left money to be applied in a certain way, and if that was not to be the case, people would not give money as they had done before. There was an instance mentioned by the hon. Member for Dorsetshire yesterday, who said he knew a case where money was left to the clergyman and Churchwardens to be administered to the poor in the villages, but if his friend had known what would happen under this Bill he would never have left that money to the poor people. He appealed to the Committee whether that was not an instance that might cripple the distribution of charity? This gentleman gave his money to be administered not only to Church people but to Nonconformists also; and that being the case, it was to the interest not only of Church people, but of Nonconformists and everyone in the village, that an Amendment of this kind should be passed so that charitable bequests should be made more easily obtainable by, and acceptable to, those who received them. The Solicitor General said that Churchwardens were frequently Nonconformists. That was certainly new to those who lived in the villages. ["No, no!"] He said it was. He did not deny there might be Nonconformist Churchwardens in the towns, but there were certainly very few in the country villages. Could hon. Members give many instances where Nonconformists were elected Churchwardens in the country? He said it was a very exceptional thing, and he would ask hon. Members to remember this Bill applied to rural parishes only, and, therefore, it was beside the question for the Solicitor General to say there were Nonconformist Churchwardens in the towns. He said that in nine cases out of ten, and, he believed, in 99 cases out of 100, they were exclusively members of the Church of England. ["No, no!"] If 601 hon. Members denied that, let them give their proofs. All who lived in the country would find it hard to give a single instance. He did not know one, and he had lived most of his life in the country. Unless, by an Amendment such as that of his noble Friend, they encouraged charitable people to leave money to fixed trustees like Churchwardens for the benefit of the poor of the parish, they would do considerable harm to the poor. Without such an Amendment they would place a hindrance in the way of these bequests for the future. He, therefore, made this appeal not on behalf of the Church of England, which was strong enough to take care of itself, but he made it on behalf of the poor of the parish to whom considerable harm would be done.
§ MR. WINGFIELD-DIGBY (Dorset, N.)
hoped the Committee would adopt the Amendment of the noble Lord. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer asked what right the Church had to administer these charities. He should think their right of administering these charities existed in the wishes of the donor. Until now the donor had always been supposed to have the right to state on what terms he would make a gift; but by this Bill that gift would be alienated; therefore, in future donors would have to see to it that if they gave charities some other means would have to be taken to secure that their wishes might not be disregarded. As his hon. Friend had said, there were probably numbers of people now living in this country who had created these trusts and who would see their wishes entirely disregarded and the funds diverted from their original purposes. An hon. Member, a supporter of the Government, last night said he regarded the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board as a great strengthening of the Bill. An intimation was given to the Committee and the country that these charities were to be alienated from their original purposes of administration and the old trusts to be torn up and set on one side, and it was that action the hon. Member called a strengthening of the Bill. The Bill must needs strength- 602 ening and bolstering up if it required action like that to recommend it to a certain section of the supporters of the Government. But, in his opinion, a much larger question was involved. He knew that chapels and Sunday schoolrooms and similar trusts in the country were invested in the names of certain trustees by agreement and deed, and he believed there could be no doubt that these Nonconformist chapels and schoolrooms were charities for the public good, because in an Act passed in the reign of Will. IV. to exempt these places for public worship from rating they were named as "places for public religious worship." He would not trouble the Committee by reading from the Act, but he thought it was quite obvious that opened up a very much larger question, and it would be for some legal mind— his was only a lay mind—to say whether all these Nonconformist trusts would not come into the hands of the Parish Council. He did not know whether that was the intention of the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill and the promoters of the Bill that all these Nonconformist trusts which existed for public purposes and for the public good should come under the Parish Council, but he should think, taking the Act of Will. IV. as showing they existed for the public good and were exempt from rates, that the result of this clause, carried in its present form, would be to pass them to the hands of the Parish Council or to impose upon the trustees the election of a certain number of members of the Parish Council who might not belong to their religious belief. He should like to look for a moment at the fact which had been mentioned of a proposition for some limit of time.
§ MR. WINGFIELD-DIGBY
said, he would confine himself to the Question before the Committee, and he would say that the original intentions of the donors of these particular charities or doles was to benefit the poor, for the words in many of these cases were, "they shall be applied for the use of the pious poor;" they were left to be administered by the clergyman and Churchwardens, thereby showing almost conclusively the 603 intention of the donors of these charities that they should, so far as their administration was concerned, remain in the hands of the Church. He thought that the religious sentiment of these donors should be recognised. As they knew that religion entered largely into charity and philanthropy, he maintained that he was justified in asking the Committee to pay some attention to the religious sentiments of the donors and, he hoped, in asking the Committee to accept the Amendment.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
That has happened which I ventured to say would happen. We had the subject discussed upon the last Amendment, and now it is discussed all over again. But I only rose to point out one thing that this Amendment does not accomplish what it is proposed to accomplish. Having provided in the part of the sub-section you have passed already, that the Overseers shall be done away with, and that the Council may appoint Trustees in their place, you then go on to say that this clause is to apply to Churchwardens in certain cases. Now, it does not apply to Churchwardens at all, for we seek to abolish the Churchwardens as well as the Overseers. Do you mean to abolish the Churchwardens or not? I understand you intend to leave the Churchwardens as they are, and appoint additional Trustees. The Amendment says—This enactment shall apply as if the Churchwardens were specified therein as well as the Overseers.Therefore, this Amendment we are discussing is one that would not accomplish what those who propose it wish and desire, and it would make absolute nonsense of the clause if it were carried. It says it is to apply to Churchwardens, and the clause says the only way is to abolish Churchwardens and appoint others in their place. But it does not propose to do that, but to appoint others in addition; therefore the Amendment is nonsensical in itself, and the discussion which has now been so prolonged is a pure waste of time.
§ MR. COURTNEY (Cornwall, Bodmin)
I think my right hon. Friend is mistaken as to the meaning of this Amendment. I must say, in answer to what he has said about the Amendment 604 being nonsensical, that if the words run, as I understand it is intended, somewhat in this way—And when the charity is not an ecclesiastical charity this enactment shall apply to Churchwardens, with certain modifications,that would certainly be good sense. But I do not wish to continue this argument, for I share the feelings of right hon. Gentlemen on that Bench that we are spending a considerable amount of time over this particular Amendment. But why is it that we are spending the time? Because there is a difficulty which the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer declines to look at. The argument used by the right hon. Gentleman earlier this afternoon in support of the clause goes to charities of long standing, but not to those of recent origin. I suggested last night a modus vivendi, which would meet the hard cases, that this clause should not apply to charities of recent origin, and that would leave a large mass of charities within the operation of the clause. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Forest of Dean (Sir C. Dilke) said that, if adopted, it would not apply to five-sixths of the charities in his division; but if the Amendment were adopted, restricting the operation to ancient charities, the principle of the operation would be the other way—only one-sixth would be exempted. But that contains the hard cases which the Government will not look at, such as the case quoted by the hon. Member for Horn-castle, where there was an intention to fix a Church administration, because she fixed it by another charity, where there was a denominational administration. Where you have recent charities which have arisen since the Church has maintained a position of one Religious Body among other bodies, and not a dominant and exclusive Religious Body, it is impossible to sustain the proposal to displace Churchwardens, and the proposal itself excites a feeling of injustice that lies at the bottom of this discussion. If my right hon. Friend and the Government would consider favourably the proposal to exempt from this provision charities which are 50 years old, or some similar date, they would meet the hard cases that have been dwelt upon, and remove a sense of injustice that inspires the speeches of 605 so many hon. Members, and would bring this question to a settlement. I again press on my right hon. Friend and the Government whether they would not only settle this question now, but prevent what they must see will take place in the future—a reference to this question in many forms on subsequent stages.
§ MR. GOSCHEN (St. George's, Hanover Square)
I really think the time has come when we might appeal to the Prime Minister himself. At all events, from lips like his we should not hear that kind of denunciation of the Church to which we listened from the Chancellor of the Exchequer. May I appeal to my right hon. Friend? He has heard the speech just made in a conciliatory tone, and I would ask him is it not possible to settle the question on the lines the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bodmin (Mr. Courtney) has indicated; to satisfy the Church in this matter, without running counter to what we thought, up to yesterday, were the proposals of Her Majesty's Government? At all events, if we are not to have any more the advice and counsel of the President of the Local Government Board, who was in charge of this Bill, then we ask that the Prime Minister himself should deal with these questions, and take them out of the hands of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who has the unfortunate habit of introducing every kind of heat into the question. I am sorry the Chancellor of the Exchequer has left the House, but no one can have listened to the tone of the right hon. Gentleman—I may say I am expressing the almost universal feeling on this side of the House—without feeling that the Chancellor of the Exchequer from his management of this Bill is not calculated to promote the passage of the measure. What happened with regard to the previous Amendment? It was suggested that that Amendment should be withdrawn in order to substitute this Amendment in its place, and then the Chancellor of the Exchequer said—"Very well, and you will debate the same question on the other Amendment"; and now he says precisely that has happened which he prophesied. But why has it been debated on this Amendment? Because he would not allow the previous Amendment to be withdrawn. The suggestion 606 was made to him that fair play should be given to this side, and, at all events, that should be discussed which raised a fair issue which the friends of the Church wished to have raised. The Chancellor of the Exchequer refused, and this will be the consequence wherever he refuses to give fair play to the proposals made by friends of the Bill. Some further explanation should be given of why the Government have departed from the position the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board took up. We may claim from that right hon. Gentleman that he will say on what matters he departs from the position he took up, or he should state how he reconciles the present attitude of the Government with the pledge he gave in introducing the Bill. We feel the difficulties in which the right hon. Gentleman finds himself, and I trust that not many hours will elapse before he will resume that position with regard to the Bill which he held up to yesterday, and which will further the progress of the measure.
§ MR. H. H. FOWLER
When the time arrives upon a subsequent Amendment, I shall be quite prepared to deal with any question with regard to any alleged inconsistency in my attitude, and to explain, but that question does not arise upon this Amendment.
§ SIR A. ROLLIT (Islington, S.)
submitted that while the form of the Amendment might be open to criticism, the intention of it was perfectly clear. It was evident it was not to be read as the Chancellor of the Exchequer had suggested, as interpolated before the words "this enactment shall apply" but in substitution for them, and consequently those words of the clause would have to be omitted. The proposal was to give additional trustees to the Churchwardens and to retain the Churchwardens, whereas the Bill eliminated the Churchwardens entirely. He thought the principle of the Amendment should be accepted. He respected the feeling that a term should be proposed exempting certain charities from this Bill, and he believed that would be a compromise founded on justice to all denominations.
§ MR. STANLEY LEIGHTON (Shropshire, Oswestry)
did not think the treatment of this question by the Government tended to the shortening of the Debate. Why did the Government bring in charities at all for; they were not necessary to the Bill, and when they had brought them in why did they change front? The only way in which he intended to approach the question was to see how the charities could be best managed. That, to him, was a matter of far greater importance than the question of whether one was ecclesiastical and another secular; in fact, they could not divide into ecclesiastical and secular all the varied charities of England. There was nothing charitable that was not done from a religious motive, and all work of religion was to a great extent charitable. Starting from that point, he should like to ask on what grounds the Chancellor of the Exchequer said that the charities of the Church were public property; that the charities which had grown round the religious communities of England were public or common property? They were left for special purposes, and they were placed under the administration of special persons; therefore, they were not public, and they were not common. He would quote from Blackstone—That all objects are considered religious that tend to the benefit either of the Church of England, or any body of Dissenters, or Roman Catholics,and founding himself on that dictum, which he did not think would be disputed by any hon. Member, he said their description of ecclesiastical and their distinction between ecclesiastical, secular, and civil could not be maintained. Why did they wish to cut off the Church and all other denominations from all the social work which they, from the beginning of their days, had been doing? That was what was proposed, for it was said that nothing that was social should be considered religious.
§ An hon. MEMBER asked if the hon. Member for Shropshire (Mr. Stanley Leighton) was in Order?608
§ MR. STANLEY LEIGHTON, continuing, said, that by this clause they were taking away the administration of charities from the Church on the ground that they were not ecclesiastic. What he wanted to point out to the Committee was that the work of the Church must not be confined to spiritual things alone.
, interrupting, said, he did not think that the hon. Gentleman's remarks were in Order.
§ MR. STANLEY LEIGHTON
said, that what he suggested to the right hon. Gentleman who used to have charge of this Bill was that he should make some inquiry as to the charities affected by the Bill, look at each of them, and consider whether it was or was not ecclesiastical, and whether it should or should not be placed under the Parish Council, or its administration left, to the denomination in respect of which the request was made. ["Divide!"] If the Government chose to introduce this question of charities, which was one of the greatest importance to every parish in the land, they must not be surprised if objection was taken to their narrowing of the question and their attempt to divide upon it in a few moments. There were charities of a scholastic kind at present administered by the clergy and the Churchwardens, which, unless this Amendment were accepted, might be reported to be secular charities, and in that case the Churchwardens would be removed, and secular trustees would be entrusted with the management, although there could be no doubt that the charity belonged to the Church. He was very anxious that the two authorities should work well in the parishes. The noble Lord's Amendment would not displace the Churchwardens, but they would administer the trust side by side with the representatives of the parish, who, no doubt, would be very helpful in the work of administration.. That appeared to him to be a most reasonable suggestion. He would conclude with these words—The .personality and the official Church character of the trustees primâ facie indicate whether the charity is religious or secular, and the fact that the endowments are for the social work of the Church does not secularise them but indicates the broad liberality of Churchmen.
§ SIR J. LUBBOCK (London University)
said, that the President of the Local Government Board had made no answer to the question of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bodmin. His right hon. Friend suggested that a limit of 50 years should be drawn. It could hardly be denied that many charities vested in the Incumbent and Churchwardens more than 50 years ago were distinctly Church of England charities, but no one would deny that such was the case with those of more recent date. The question, moreover, affected the future as well as the past. As the Bill was drawn members of the Church alone were precluded from leaving funds for such purposes to the clergyman and Churchwardens. Every other denomination could leave funds to their ministers and elders; but any sum left to the Clergyman and Churchwardens would pass to the Parish Council. That was evidently unfair, and he felt the suggestion of the right hon. Member for Bodmin was intended to promote the progress of the Bill, and would diminish the feeling of injustice, which would otherwise be deep and acute. He hoped, therefore, that the Government would consider the suggestion.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
I am really astounded at the appeal which has been made by my right hon. Friend. I understand that he invites us to say what our course will be upon a future Amendment in order to induce the present Amendment to be withdrawn. If we did that we should have the right hon. Member for St. George's (Mr. Goschen) getting up and saying that this was a "put up job." This is the very thing for which we were denounced last night. Accepting the classic challenge addressed to us last night by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for St. George's, I am sorry to say that the Government cannot accept the advice of my right hon. Friend.
§ MR. TOMLINSON (Preston)
said, the bantering tone adopted by the Chancellor of the Exchequer was not worthy of the position he held in the House. A right hon. Gentleman had got up on the other side of the House to make a proposal in the interests of peace, and for the purpose of shortening their discussions, and he was met by an answer which was 610 a sort of travesty upon what occurred on the previous evening, and was told that this was all the Government would say upon the subject. The case yesterday was different, because they then had the assurance of the President of the Local Government Board that an arrangement should be arrived at under which the Bill would not affect the Church charities in the way suggested by the clause, and the Government had pledged themselves that some arrangement should be arrived at if that Amendment were withdrawn. The right hon. Gentleman opposite (Sir J. Lubbock) had made a fair proposal. His suggestion did not go so far as Members on the Opposition side deemed desirable, but still it drew the line somewhere, and it diminished the injustice, the wrong, and the spoliation which the Government were trying to carry out in this case.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 178; Noes 135.—(Division List, No. 360.)
§ MR. HANBURY (Preston)
said, he should now move to insert, after "Churchwardens," the words "as such." His opinion was that this Amendment should be adopted in order to put the Churchwardens in the same position as the Overseers in respect of whom a similar Amendment had been inserted in the clause. As the clause stood it might be impossible to appoint a Churchwarden in his private capacity.
To insert, after the word "Churchwardens," the words "as such."—(Mr. Hanbury.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ THE SOLICITOR GENERAL (Sir J. RIGBY, Forfar)
This Amendment goes upon the principle adopted in the case of the Overseers, and will be accepted by the Government.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ MR. L. HARDY (Kent, Ashford)
moved to insert, at the end of Subsection 2—Except that there shall be no alteration in the appointment of trustees in the case of charities, where the Charity Commissioners have already approved and formulated schemes for their better regulation, and where the 611 Churchwardens have been retained as trustees' with the assent of the Charity Commissioners.He said, the Amendment had a limited scope, and in proposing it he trusted that they might perhaps be able to appeal from Philip drunk to Philip sober, and that the Committee, instead of being led away by the eloquence of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, might listen to the more sober reasoning of the President of the Local Government Board. Since he placed his Amendment on the Paper his views had been strengthened and confirmed by what had fallen from the Government Bench. The Committee had been informed that the Charity Commissioners had of late years appointed a majority of public representatives in the charities they had dealt with. If that were so it would be unfair, and contrary to the avowed intentions of the Government, to begin to alter and tamper with schemes that had been approved by the Charity Commissioners and to take away Churchwardens where the parishioners desired to retain them. He knew of one case in which the interest on a sum of £1,150 was left to be administered by the Vicar and Churchwardens for the benefit of inmates of almshouses who attended the Established Church and received the Sacrament there. The Charity Commissioners had altered the trust by making the terms general, but in order to provide for the carrying out of the intention of the donor they had reserved the administration to the Vicar and Churchwardens. If the clause were passed as it stood, not only would there be deviation from the intentions of donors, but by a side wind the administrators would be changed. In another case the Charity Commissioners had added five elected trustees to the Vicar and two Churchwardens. If the Charity Commissioners were to be a Court of Appeal for the future, at least the Bill ought not to upset their past work. When the Commons had carefully considered a scheme, had altered the original trust, and had introduced the representative element, it would be unfair to take away the Churchwardens. He trusted the Government would accept the Amendment, because in recommending it he was not recommending anything which dealt with old charities dating back to historic times, 612 and which had fallen into desuetude, but rather with the more modern benefactions.
In page 10, line 26, after the word "Overseers," to insert the words "except that there shall be no alteration in the appointment of trustees in the case of charities, where the Charity Commissioners have already approved and formulated schemes for their better regulation, and where the Churchwardens have been retained as trustees with the assent of the Charity Commissioners."—(Mr. L. Hardy.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ SIR J. RIGBY
said, the Government had provided that the Churchwardens should have no position except as ecclesiastical trustees. The justification for the way in which the Churchwardens were being dealt with under the Bill was that their position was being entirely altered.
MR. J. W. LOWTHER (Cumberland, Penrith)
said, he regretted the answer of the Solicitor General, because he thought that the proposal of the hon. Member for Sussex offered a compromise which the Government might reasonably accept. The question of the machinery for the administration of these trusts had been considered over and over again during the last few years by the Charity Commissioners. Wherever, in their opinion, a trust was given to the Incumbent and Churchwardens in their civil capacity, there the Commissioners had invariably appointed trustees from the outside; but where the Incumbent and Churchwardens were specially selected, in their opinion, for their religious or denominational character, the Commissioners had retained the denominational element. He earnestly appealed to the Government to accept an Amendment which, though it did not altogether meet the views of the Opposition, would to a considerable extent relieve the disability under which the Church trusts would lie by the clause as it stood.
§ MR. TOMLINSON
said, he was really surprised that after the explanation which had been given as to the course taken by the Charity Commissioners by his hon. Friend (Mr. J. W. Lowther), who was certainly well qualified to speak upon the subject, no Member of the Government had risen to make any answer. 613 What was the statement of the Solicitor General? He had said that the Charity Commissioners more carefully respected the intentions of donors than the Government intended to do. It was clear that the Commissioners did not unduly favour the Church. It was only where the nature of the trust indicated that the donor intended the administrators of the charity to be persons connected with the Church that the Commissioners appointed the Churchwardens to represent the Church. The statement of the Government that they did not intend to follow very closely the action of the Charity Commissioners showed that they were bent upon the commission of an act of spoliation.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 129; Noes 176.—(Division List, No. 361.)
§ MR. COURTNEY (Cornwall, Bodmin)
said, he would now submit in a practical form the suggestion he threw out at an earlier period. He moved to add at the end of the sub-section these words:—But this provision for the appointment of trustees instead of Church wardens shall not apply to any charity founded on or after the first day of January, 1840.He made the proposal in the spirit of justice to all parties. He accepted and recognised the force of the argument that in connection with many ancient endowments, including those of the 17th and 18th centuries, the administration was vested in the Churchwardens as representatives of the parish as a whole, and not in connection with the establishment of a particular Church. But that argument, he submitted, could not be maintained where the gift had been made during the last 50 years. The same equal treatment should be accorded in these cases as would be extended to gifts made to the office-holders of any religious denomination—to the pastor or deacons of a Congregational Chapel, to the stewards of a Wesleyan Circuit, or to the managers of a Jewish Synagogue. Although such gifts might be in express words made to the poor of the area in which the chapel, or synagogue, or other place of worship was situated without restriction, yet they would not be carried out 614 by this Bill because it was probably recognised that the founder, although making the objects of his benefit the whole inhabitants of the district, had associated the administration of the trust with the office-holders of a particular sect, and there was no reason for departing from the recognised wish of the founder. Similarity in the case of a recent founder who had left money to the Vicar and Churchwardens, the fact that there was a general form of gift for the benefit of the poor of the parish, did not displace the presumption which arose, that the donor intended the administration to be connected with the organisation of the Church. On the ground, therefore, of simple justice to the Church of England as a Religious Body, he earnestly pressed on the Government his proposal for restricting the operation of the clause. The right hon. Member for the Forest of Dean stated that, having examined into the parish charities of his division, he found that if the Churchwardens were retained as trustees of the secular charities, under the suggestion of his hon. Friend behind him, five-sixths of the existing charities would not be touched by the Bill; that, in fact, the Churchwardens would remain in possession as administrators of five-sixths of the charities. The present Amendment would work in a different direction, and would reserve probably only one-sixth of such charities. In the interests, moreover, of the progress of the Bill, he appealed to the Government to give a favourable ear to the proposal he now submitted.
In page 10, line 26, after the word "Overseers," to insert the words "but this provision for the appointment of trustees instead of Churchwardens shall not apply to any charity founded on or after the first day of January, 1840."—(Mr. Courtney.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ SIR C. W. DILKE (Gloucester, Forest of Dean)
had hoped to see some Member of the Cabinet rise to say that the Government were unable to accept this Amendment. He should not have risen but for the fact that no Member of the Government showed any sign of rising. If the facts were as the right hon. Member for Bodmin had stated, and 615 as he no doubt believed, his Amendment would be a reasonable one, but it was because he believed the facts were not as the Member for Bodmin thought them to be that he considered the Amendment ought not to be accepted by the Committee. As he said the previous night, this clause must be considered not only in its relation to rural districts, but in relation to urban districts and London, because the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill was going to take power to extend the benefits of the first part of the Bill and of this clause to all parts of the Kingdom, including London. He ventured to say there was not a single Metropolitan parish in which a large number of charities had not been given to the Rector and Churchwardens of the parish which were intended for the benefit of the whole of the inhabitants, and which were virtually administered by the elective Vestries of these parishes. Wills were made by solicitors, and the custom of the solicitor was to put in the Rector and Churchwardens when the testator wished to leave money for the benefit of a particular charity of the parish. In the West of London there were charities in considerable number and value which, during the last 50 years, had been left to the Rectors and Churchwardens by people many of whom many hon. Members recollected, and whose desire was to benefit the whole of the poorer inhabitants of the parish without distinction of creed. These charities were, in practice, administered by the elective Vestries, because the Rector was ex officio Chairman and the Churchwardens ex officio members, and on Easter Tuesday in each year they made their Report to the Vestry. The clergy, as a rule, disliked to have the charities to administer, and the work in connection with the charities was performed by the elected Vestry. These were cases which ought not to be exempted from the operation of the Bill. There might be something to be said with reference to future charities, because people would have notice with regard to to the future; they would know what they were doing, but he was convinced they would be doing a grievous injustice if they exempted these charities which had been founded during the last 50 years from the operation of the Bill. He admitted there might be here and there 616 an extreme case which might properly be withdrawn from the operations of the Bill, and it was for that reason he should most heartily have supported the Amendment of his hon. Friend near him, which proposed to give the power of veto, as regarded the elective control of the whole trust, to the Charity Commissioners, which would have met exceptional cases of this kind. The right hon. Gentleman spoke as if for the last 50 years a man had known that the Rector and Churchwardens were ecclesiastical persons, and that when he left his money through them to the poor, he must be meaning to leave it to the Church of England. The Rector and Churchwardens were still Chairman of the Vestry and the conveners of the Vestry of a parish. They were the official representative of a rural parish for the purpose of calling the Vestry together, and looking to their position he could not wonder that the practice should have continued up to the present time of choosing the Rector and Chairman of the Vestry as being the representatives of the parish. He hoped the Government would not accept the Amendment.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. W. E. GLADSTONE, Edinburgh, Midlothian)
My right hon. Friend who has just sat down has supposed there was some hesitation on the part of the Government as to whether they would accept or reject this Amendment. I can assure him he is under a mistake. There is no doubt in our minds as to the course we will take, but we were desirous to meet such a case as hon. Members might make. The speech of my right hon. Friend has been very valuable in throwing light upon the subject, and we thought that possibly other speeches might have the same effect. I shall follow the example of my right hon. Friend in this—that I shall not attempt to discuss all other possible questions, but shall state my objection to to this Amendment in very few and simple terms. Now the proposal of my right hon. Friend the Member for Bodmin, as I understand it, is that all charities which have been founded since 1840 shall be exempted from the operation of this clause for ever. Perpetuities of exemption are to be created by this Amendment.
§ MR. COURTNEY
Not strictly that, but that the provisions with respect to the displacement of Churchwardens shall only apply to a charity founded after this date.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
These charities are to be exempted from the operation of this clause; that exemption is to be in. perpetuity, and to extend to charities founded since 1840. These questions are of extreme complication, and they raise a very great number of considerations. There is the consideration of the license which our law has allowed —perhaps a very extravagant license— to death-bed bequests, and the encouragement it has given. Not only has it given encouragement, but it has given eulogy and almost sanctity to these bequests; and bequests made by men on their death-beds are set up as if they are great acts of munificence, whereas they might not partake of that character in the smallest degree. In fact, they have not the character of munificence and do not involve the smallest grain of self-denial. But the question whether the respect entertained for them is to be withdrawn wholesale and at a moment's notice is a question upon which there may be some difference of opinion, and I do not think it necessary to give, at present, any absolute judgment upon it. I admit that to a certain extent the Mover of the Amendment is supported by precedent in the Endowed Schools Act. The exemption given in that Act was an exemption given in perpetuity. There was no limit of time within which the exemption was to operate and to which it was to be confined. But the operation of the law under that Act did not go back half a century or more. Viewing the Amendment of my right hon. Friend as it stands, I put it to the Committee that none of these exemptions, even if there be such a thing as a just exemption, ought, on any account, to be granted in perpetuity. It ought to be carefully considered and limited. I give no opinion upon the question whether any limited exemption could be introduced into this Bill, or whether the opinion is a sound or just opinion, which I know is held by some 618 authorities, that an exemption of that kind can be dealt with by the general law and ought not to be confined in its operation to the particular provisions of the present Bill. On these grounds, strictly applicable to the terms of the Amendment of my right hon. Friend, without going beyond them, but expressing sympathy with the speech of my right hon. Friend who followed him, I must express the distinct intention of the Government not to accept the Amendment.
§ SIR R. WEBSTER (Isle of Wight)
could not help but feel regret that all the suggestions which had been made by both sides of the House with regard to this matter should be met nearly always by the Government with a non possumus, or rather non volumus. He did not think he need follow the right hon. Gentleman into his argument with reference to death-bed bequests, for it had no direct bearing upon the question under discussion. There were many charities not the subject of death-bed bequests, but which had been carefully considered and planned by persons, who desired to found charities and give a portion of their means to charitable purposes, many years before their death. With regard to the argument as to perpetuities, the Member for the Forest of Dean practically almost admitted that such an exemption would be right as to future charities; he made no suggestion that if exemptions were granted in that case they should not be perpetual; therefore, the doctrine that by accepting this Amendment they were creating a special privilege of perpetuity would apply just as much to the case of future charities as to charities founded during the last 50 years, assuming the Amendment to be adopted. As a matter of fact, neither of these considerations, he submitted, had any very important relevance to the subject they were now discussing. In this connection he would remind the Government of an argument used last night bearing directly upon this matter which, he thought, had been brought into great prominence by the Mover of the Amendment. They were told by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board that all charities of whatever denomination were to be put in the same position by this Bill. When he (Sir R. 619 Webster) ventured to ask for an explanation, and pointed out that Nonconformist charities were not put in the same position because officers in an analogous position to Churchwardens would be removed by virtue of this clause, whereas officers in the Nonconformist Body would not be removed, they were told, with some apparent confidence by the Solicitor General, that they were wrong, because there were no such officers in the Nonconformist Body. All he could say was, that that was not in accordance with his experience. The real question to be discussed might be shortly put as a question of notice. It was admitted that up to 1840, or thereabouts, the Churchwardens were constantly appointed as trustees, because no other persons could be selected. During the last 25 years, however, the question had been before the Charity Commissioners, while for a longer period it had been before the Court of Chancery, and it was not the fact that people who were desirous of establishing charities had not full notice of what was the current of public opinion upon the matter. It was entirely untrue to say that during the last 30 or 40 years Churchwardens were appointed trustees because there was no one else to administer charities. They had been appointed because they were considered to be the best persons to administer local charities, and not because solicitors' clerks had drawn the wills appointing them. In his opinion they had to a very large extent fulfilled the expectations which had led to their selection. He could not help once more asking Her Majesty's Government whether it was not worth while, at any rate, to make the most moderate concession now asked for, to the wishes of those who had brought the subject before the Committee. He regretted that the Government had assumed their present attitude, and hoped the Amendment would be pressed to a Division, so that a protest might be recorded against the refusal of an Amendment of so perfectly fair and reasonable a character.
§ SIR F. S. POWELL (Wigan)
said, he thought the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Forest of Dean (Sir C. Dilke) had done a great injustice to the intelligence of testators. In his (Sir F. S. Powell's) opinion a testator, 620 especially one who was wise enough to place himself in the hands of a skilful solicitor, was competent to interpret his own intentions. Precedents for this Amendment were to be found in the Endowed Schools Act and in the Irish Church Act; both of which were passed by the present Prime Minister. In the case of the Irish Church Act all the endowments for 50 years were saved, and if that was the proper provision both in that Act and in the Endowed Schools Act, it was also a proper provision in the case of this Bill. Ample evidence had been forthcoming, showing how recent some of these foundations were, several hon. Members around him having stated that they had founded charities and had made the Churchwardens trustees in order to give the impress of a Church trust to the new foundation. With reference to future endowments, he sincerely hoped that some provision would be made that nothing in this enactment should touch them.
§ MR. A. C. MORTON (Peterborough)
said, that having been a Churchwarden most of his life, he would prefer to do away with the Churchwardens altogether in connection with these parochial trusts, except in the City of London, where in all parishes but one the people elected both the Churchwardens. Outside the City the people generally only elected one Churchwarden, and then it became a case of the Incumbent and one Churchwarden on the one side and the people's Churchwarden on the other. If he had his way he would give a fair share of the charities to the Nonconformists. Generally speaking, all the charities administered by Churchwardens were given up to the Church people, the recipients being selected as a rule by the clergyman and the Primrose Dames. He trusted that the Committee would sweep away the Churchwardens, so far as these parochial trusts were concerned, altogether, and leave the trustees to be appointed by the representatives of the people in accordance with the promises of Liberal Members and the Newcastle Programme. On one occasion when he was acting as Churchwarden the Incumbent and the other Churchwarden refused to allow his name to go on the banker's account. However, he threatened them with a little law and they very soon put his name 621 in the account, and he took his share. [Laughter.] He was afraid that some Members thought that he took some share of the charity. That was not so. On the contrary, one good man left 6s. 8d. to the Churchwardens, and he did not take his 3s. 4d. He trusted that the Committee would allow the representatives of the people to manage all these charities in the interests of the people.
§ LORD BURGHLEY (Northampton, N.)
said, it seemed to him that the Committee was rather wandering away from the Amendment. It was only natural that those who were personally responsible for the management of charities should have very disquieting feelings when they found that other members were to be placed on the trusts. He should be very glad to support the Amendment.
§ MR. DARLING
remarked that if the Amendment were carried the system which now prevailed in London would be left as it was. Was any complaint made that the system did not work well in London. None at all. As the Bill was to be expressly extended to London parishes it became important for London Members to consider whether the Government should not be further pressed to leave the management of the London parishes alone. Of all the ill-treatment to which the President of the Local Government Board had been subjected during the last 24 hours, he (Mr. Darling) really knew nothing to equal the suggestion made by the First Lord of the Treasury just now that a person when he was advanced in years became wholly incapable of disposing of his property.
§ MR. DARLING
said, he at all events gathered that the objection to these charities being administered in accordance with the will of the founder was that the persons who made the will did so not in their première jeunesse. He begged to tender to the President of the Local Government Board his respectful sympathy for the way in which he had been treated.
§ MR. BARTLEY (Islington, N.)
said, the position in which the Committee was placed was the natural result of the breach of faith of which the Govern- 622 ment had been guilty in this matter. When the Amendment was moved the whole of the occupants of the Treasury Bench sat still and waited until the right hon. Baronet (Sir C. Dilke) gave the lead as to what they were to do. Everybody sympathised with the President of the Local Government Board in the position in which he had been placed. The right hon. Gentleman was a man of considerable feeling and of great honour, and he must feel his position to be almost impossible at the present moment. He had given his word of honour that he would not interfere with these charities—
§ MR. BARTLEY
said, there need be no argument on that point, because the Opposition said that these were ecclesiastical charities. He should have thought that at the very first idea of a breach of faith, the right hon. Gentleman would have come forward and clearly explained his views. Not a single word could be obtained from him, however, as to why he had made this complete change of front. The argument of the right hon. Baronet (Sir C. Dilke) that wills were made by lawyers and that founders of charities did not know their own intentions was a most absurd one. People who left money for charities knew exactly what they meant by it, and the reason why the Gladstonian Opposition was so keen to get possession of these charities was that they had gone through the country stating distinctly that if the Bill were passed the parish would get the whole of the bequests that had been made absolutely to the Church of England. If this were not a Party question, there was not a man present who would support the appropriation of bequests and legacies given by Churchmen to their own Church, whilst allowing similar gifts given by Dissenters to be retained by the Dissenting Body. Of course, everybody knew that the Bill was an attack on the Church of England. It was one of the signs of the times that the Prime Minister, who had all his life been a strong supporter of the Church, should, for the sake of following those who led him, adopt the attitude he was now assuming. The fact was, that the right 623 hon. Gentleman had to go about cadging for votes in all directions—
§ MR. BARTLEY
went on to say that if the Government had maintained their position and safeguarded the revenues of the Church, not only the present, but other clauses of the Bill would have been passed before now. The contention of the Opposition was that sums which had been left to the Church should be regarded as part and parcel of the Church property. This was not only reasonable, but simply honest, and he protested in the strongest manner against the complete change of front on the part of the Government. Until a distinct and satisfactory statement was obtained from the Government, the Opposition would resist every line of the Bill.
§ MR. J. G. TALBOT (Oxford University)
said, that the Endowed Schools Acts passed by the Government of the present Prime Minister in 1869 provided that nothing the measure contained should authorise the making of any scheme interfering with any charitable endowment given less than 50 years before the commencement of the Act unless the Governing Body assented to the scheme. By the Irish Church Act a sum of £500,000 was conveyed to the Church in lieu of a similar provision. If these were not to be accepted as precedents he did not know how any precedent could ever apply. This was a question not of bequests only but of donations. He had already quoted a case in which a clergyman now living had given money for the purpose of establishing an institution in his own parish with himself and his Churchwardens as trustees. If this clause were passed in its present shape that clergyman would remain a trustee, but the Churchwardens might be replaced by men who might conceivably be the bitterest enemies of the Church. Did the Government intend that such a state of things should prevail? If so, they were not adopting a course which would facilitate the passing of the Bill or command the confidence of the country.
§ MR. E. STANHOPE
said, the point under consideration was one of the subjects which the Government must have 624 carefully considered in the preparation of their Bill, and the Committee might have expected from the right hon. Gentleman some indication of the policy which guided the Government in this matter. The fact that it was now proposed to be postponed showed how eminently squeezable the Government were. The course adopted by the Government was not an easy method for passing the Bill, and their policy on the present occasion was only a further instance of the way in which in respect of every Amendment and every clause of the Bill they were laying up for themselves a legacy of difficulties to be encountered before they came to the conclusion of the labours of this Committee.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 138; Noes 183.—(Division List, No. 362.)
§ SIR F. S. POWELL
said, he desired to move an Amendment providing that at the end of the sub-section the following words should be added after the word "Overseers":—Provided that nothing in this enactment shall apply to charities founded after the passing of this Act.Several hon. and right hon. Gentlemen had made reference to this matter, and had stated that their opinion was that this enactment should not apply to future charities. He did not desire at this period of the Sitting to enter into any argument, but he thought that when he had an opportunity he should be able to put forward sufficient reasons for the Amendment he was submitting to the House.
§ It being half-past Five of the clock, the Chairman left the Chair to make his report to the House.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow.