§ COMMITTEE. [Progress, 7th December.]
§ [SIXTEENTH NIGHT.]
§ Bill considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ Clause 13 (Public property and charities).
In page 10, line 26, after the word "Overseers," to insert as a new sub-section:—"(3) In
the case of every parochial charity, not being an ecclesiastical charity, the Parish Council shall, notwithstanding that the number of trustees may have been fixed by the instrument creating the charity, or by any scheme for its administration or otherwise, appoint such a number of additional trustees as will cause the number of trustees, who are either elected by ratepayers or parochial electors or inhabitants of the parish, or appointed by the Parish Council or parish meeting, to be a majority of the whole body."—(Mr. Cobb.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
Amendment proposed to the proposed Amendment,
In line 1, to leave out the words "every parochial charity," and insert the words "any parochial charity which is not included in the preceding sub-section and for which a scheme providing for the election or appointment of representative trustees has not already been made under the Charitable Trusts Acts or the Endowed Schools Acts."—(Mr. H. Hobhouse.)
§ Question again proposed, "That the words 'every parochial charity' stand part of the proposed Amendment."
§ Debate resumed.
§ SIR J. GOLDSMID (St. Pancras, S.)
said, he desired to say a word or two on the proposed new sub-section and on the Amendment connected with it, and as it was a little difficult to separate the two in the few observations he wished to make, he should combine his references both to the original Amendment and the further Amendment. This proposal, which was practically that the greater part of the parochial charities should have a number of trustees who should be elected at a public meeting, or by a Parish Council, was to his mind the most absurd method of attending to public business he had ever heard of. If any single Member of that House desired to constitute a trust for anything in which he took an interest and which he wished to be used for the benefit of others, the very last thing he would do would be to submit the nomination of the trustees to election. He would further say he did not believe there was a single man in the House who, for any private business of his own or of his family, would think of obtaining elected trustees. Why the very first thing a man would do would be to go and consult a person of experience and authority and ask him whether the gentlemen it was proposed to put in the trust were men of 836 sufficient knowledge, experience, and weight to take upon themselves this duty it was intended to place in their hands. He thought they should all admit there were men who might be suitable persons to take part in a public meeting, or a Parish Council, who yet might not be suitable persons to decide upon the competency of trustees; but in order to give weight to the principle which the Government imagined was to be applied to everything, they wanted to elect trustees just as they elected members to the House of Commons and to the District and Parish Councils. But the two things were not similar; the duties were not similar, and consequently the method of election and appointment, to his mind, could not be similar. He had heard it stated in these Debates that the trustees in most cases of these parochial charities had discharged their duties well. The natural question was why in the world dispossess them in favour of others of whom they knew nothing, who were to be a majority, and would, therefore, control those who, up to the present time, had performed those duties to the satisfaction of the public. They had not had an answer to that question, for the simple reason that nobody could answer it. Because it was imagined that everything must be settled by this absurd idea with reference to popular election, when popular election had really nothing to do with the matter, hon. Members wanted to spoil the management of a great number of important trusts in order that they might give the control to people assembled at a Parish Council. The thing was in itself so absurd that he did not believe the great majority of the people of this country would for a moment accept it. The desire of the House of Commons ought to be that where trusts had been well administered, and where trustees had done their duty, they should be left in charge of the trusts they had to administer; and that only in those cases where trustees had not done their duty should they be superseded by some other persons to be appointed. He said with regard to that, that the Charity Commissioners had already sufficient power, because under the Act the Charity Commissioners had the absolute right, in the first place, in the case of charities of less 837 than £30 a year, to remove trustees or add trustees as they thought proper, and in other cases they had the right to add to the number of trustees with the consent of the existing trustees. Of course, it was quite right that men who had taken upon themselves a public duty should be consulted before they were superseded. It was absurd to say they did not alter the constitution of a trust when they added very largely to its numbers. He had never yet heard, for instance, that a public meeting which consisted, in the first place, of 12 men, and then consisted of 50, was practically the same public meeting as first assembled. If they added, as it was proposed to do by this clause, more trustees to the already existing number, not only did they alter the trust but they constituted an entirely different one, because the voting power was taken away from the existing trustees. The moment they gave the majority to new trustees they were withdrawing practically the voting power of the old trustees, and by carrying their elective principle so far they were destroying all the powers hitherto exercised by the existing trustees. Just one word with regard to the persons who accepted the duty of trustees. Constant applications were made to individuals to be trustees either for public or private purposes, and many of them thought a good long time before they accepted a very large number of different trusts. He knew himself that it had occurred to him over and over again to say he had so much of this sort of responsibility that he did not want to add to it, and to ask the applicants to go somewhere else and find another person willing to take the trust. He believed that was a common observation. What did that mean? It meant that the best men would not take these duties, and consequently they were going to depend upon the accident of a person desiring the popularity of a public meeting, or Parish Council, to accept the duty of a trustee, such meeting not being called specially for that purpose, but in order to deal with concerns of an entirely different character, for which the men assembled might be competent, but yet might not be competent to select good trustees. As a result he did not believe that in any single case, or certainly in very few cases, would they get really good men to accept the trusts for which they 838 were to be elected. Their efforts ought to be directed to improve the administration of the trust, and not to spoil it. They were setting about this thing in the wrong way, for whereas they ought only to endeavour to disturb, remove, and overpower those trustees who had badly discharged their duties, they were going to swamp all, whether they had done their duty or not, to discourage men from discharging these important functions, and leave it to the accident of individuals attending a Parish Council to say who was to discharge the onerous duties the old trustees had hitherto discharged so well. He thought this was a very strange way of selecting the best instruments to accomplish what they had in view, and, therefore, as far as he was concerned, thinking the whole thing mischievous and wrong, he should oppose every word of the proposal.
§ MR. COBB
said, the hon. Baronet had based his argument on the assumption that the trustees were to be appointed at a public meeting. They were to be appointed by the Parish Council. The principle of his Amendment was that the majority of trustees should be elective trustees, and the hon. Baronet's contention was inconsistent with this.
§ MR. J. E. ELLIS (Nottingham, Rushcliffe)
had listened with great surprise to some of the observations of the hon. Baronet, which at least were unusual when proceeding from one holding Liberal principles. One extraordinary phrase he particularly noted. The hon. Baronet spoke of the "absurd system of popular election."
§ MR. J. E. ELLIS
said, he would leave the hon. Baronet to settle that matter with his political Leader, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham. He, at least, would hardly use such language in reference to the principle upon which the whole of our representative system is based.
§ SIR J. GOLDSMID
explained that he specially limited his observations to the question of trusts. He was speaking of trusts only, and in no way applied the remark to popular election to representative assemblies.
§ MR. J. E. ELLIS
thought he could on good authority contravene even that proposition. But the hon. Baronet had indeed based his opposition to the Amend- 839 ment of his hon. Friend (Mr. Cobb) on a complete misapprehension of the facts of the case. He compared the election in this case with the system of election for Parliament, or for the County Council, but nothing of the kind was proposed. The proposition was simply that the Parish Council should select a majority of the trustees for a particular parish charity. He was very glad to support the Amendment, and he expressed his thanks to the Government for their acceptance of it. He hoped the Amendment would in no way be weakened or whittled down, for it represented the irreducible minimum for which Liberals were entitled to ask. This was a very old story, this introduction of the representative principle with respect to parish matters, although it had been represented, and there had been Members of the House who had insinuated that this arose out of the recognition of reckless pledges sown broadcast in rural constituencies during the General Election. Well, if hon. Members had indulged in the sowing of pledges broadcast, such as they were unable to fulfil, then they deserved—using a vulgar expression—to find themselves in a tight place. Certainly he had no sympathy with promises made when there were no hopes of their fulfilment. [Ironical cheers.] Yes, there were large numbers of promises freely made in 1886—promises of "No coercion" —promises broken in the last Parliament by some who disappeared at the last General Election. But this was a digression for which an apology was due to the Committee. This matter was an old story. The Schools Inquiry Commission of 1869 looked carefully into the matter, and went so far, even, before the Education Act of 1870, as to propose what they called a system of Provincial Councils, as one of the pillars on which the fabric of our local charities should rest. They used some very strong language in their Report in respect to this point, and the Endowed Schools Act of 1869, as it was first drafted, contained a provision for Provincial Councils, which, unfortunately, was omitted in the passage of the Bill through the House of Commons. He ventured to ask any Member who was inclined to undervalue the importance of the representative principle to turn to the Report of the Select Committee, which in 1873 840 inquired into the operation of the Endowed Schools Act of 1869. He invited hon. Members to turn to the answer given by Lord Lyttelton, then chief of the Endowed Schools Commission, to answer 1,254 in the Report of 1873. The answer filled nearly half a page, and in it Lord Lyttelton said—The Schools Inquiry Commission never intended that the work should be placed in the hands of a single Central Authority.He (Mr. Ellis) gathered from the speech on the previous night delivered by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham that one of the grounds of his attack upon the Charity Commission was that it was too much a centralizing body, and he was bound to say that in that he very much agreed ' with the right hon. Gentleman. Lord Lyttelton went on to say—It was intended to rest the whole fabric on two great equal pillars, a Central and a Local Authority.His lordship pointed out that there was an immense chasm between the scheme as originally proposed in 1869 and the plan followed by Parliament, and he said—Local organisation of elements commanding through immemorial usage and tradition the respect and confidence of the people was essential to our scheme of charity management.In their Report of 1873 the Select Committee [introduced words which reflected upon the Charity Commissioners for their want of consultation of the wishes of a locality, and it was admitted by Sir George Young before the Committee of 1886, of which he (Mr. Ellis) had the honour to be a member, that this had had considerable effect on the minds of the Commissioners. He need not repeat the strong sentence in which the Committee of 1884, of which the present Chief Commissioner of Works (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) was Chairman, spoke of the advantage and necessity of representative popular control, but he called the attention of the Committee to what occurred in the Committee of 1886 as to this matter. In a paragraph of their summary that Committee in 1887 said—It is essential to the welfare of endowed schools not being of a special character that the sympathies of the localities should be enlisted by giving to the people a large share in their management either direct or indirect through elected bodies.841 It was his lot to move the omission of the words "large share" for the purpose of inserting words similar to those used in the Amendment of his hon. Friend the Member for Rugby "a majority elected." The addition of these words and the adoption of this principle was only lost by the casting vote of the Chairman, the present Lord Playfair, so that seven years ago that Committee of 1886 was very near adopting the principle embodied in the Amendment now before the Committee. There was any amount of evidence from such men as Dr. Percival and many others of the highest position, all going to the effect that our endowed school system could only be successfully carried on by enlisting local sympathy and giving local representative control. In the Return (No. 244) of this Session, issued in pursuance of his Motion, the Charity Commission gave some information as to how far they had carried out this principle, and he felt bound to say the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham had much colour for the suggestion that the Charity Commission and the Endowed School Commission entertained much jealousy and dread of the application of the representative principle. It was essential that there should be some direction from Parliament in unmistakable terms, that hereafter and from this time forth that principle should be followed. He had listened with great respect and pleasure to the Prime Minister as he dwelt the other night upon all that the word "majority" really meant. He hoped the Amendment on the Paper, to insert "may" in the place of "shall," would not be accepted. Believing as he did that on the successful administration of these charities, including endowed schools, depended the adoption of this principle of enlisting the sympathies of those who knew the wants of the locality, and of listening to the voices of those who possessed their confidence, as shown by election, he would cheerfully vote for the Amendment of his hon. Friend.
§ MR. W. LONG (Liverpool, West Derby)
said, he had some experience and could point out to the Committee the effect the Bill was likely to have in this regard. As he understood, they were now considering the Amendment and the Amendment to the Amendment together. 842 The question involved was not that of the representative element upon Boards of Trustees—which was a very old question —but whether or not the existing Boards should be entirely swamped by the majority of elected trustees. The hon. Member for Somerset wished to exempt those charities that had been dealt with by the Charitable Trusts Acts and Endowed Schools Acts.
§ MR. H. HOBHOUSE (Somerset, E.)
said, he only wished to exempt schemes in which arrangements had been already made for election of representative trustees.
§ MR. W. LONG
said, the case he ventured to put to the President of the Local Government Board was a strong one. In the parish of West Lavington there was a parochial and not an ecclesiastical charity, which was intended for the benefit of the parish by the testator, who lived there many years ago. Under the Charity Commission a scheme was formulated three or four years ago for the management of the charity, and about 23 Governors had been appointed, some of them by the great company in London which was intrusted with the money under the will, some of them representatives of the County Councils of Wiltshire, Somerset, and, he thought, Gloucestershire; some representatives of the agricultural colleges, and three Governors elected by the parish itself. The objects of the charity were education, elementary and agricultural, and the provision of almshouses. The administration of a charity of this kind occasioned a certain amount of jealousy in the small parish with which it was particularly associated. In West Lavington the Governors had considerable difficulty in starting the scheme, but the elementary schools had been improved, the almshouses were now much better administered, and the whole scheme would be in full swing on the completion of the agricultural school, which had given the building committee, of which he (Mr. Long) was a member, an immense amount of work. If the Amendment of the hon. Member for East Somerset were not adopted it might possibly, be that the Parish Council would be called upon to elect 24 or 25 Governors in order to form a majority on the Board.
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD (Mr. H. H. FOWLER,) Wolverhampton, E.
§ MR. W. LONG
said, notwithstanding the dissent of the right hon. Gentleman, it was impossible to say that, under this Bill, the management and control would not fall to others. That would be nothing short of disastrous. It would paralyse the hands of the present Governors, and they would have no assurance that their system of administration would be continued. He hoped the Solicitor General (Sir J. Rigby) would be able to assure the Committee that this charity and the vast number of similar parochial charities would not be affected by the Amendment; but as he did not see how such charities were to be excluded, he hoped they would accept the Amendment of the hon. Member for East Somerset. The matter was one of great importance to the poor of the country villages generally, and he trusted it would receive satisfactory consideration.
§ THE SOLICITOR GENERAL (Sir J. RIGBY,) Forfar
said, on reading the Amendment of the hon. Member for East Somerset he was struck by the mention of the Endowed Schools Acts, and it appeared to him to be deserving of consideration whether, as elementary schools were excluded, endowed schools might not also be excepted. But, on inquiry, he found that there were no schools established under schemes of the Endowed Schools Commissioners which could be described as parochial charities. He would not question the accuracy of the hon. Member for West Derby, but he would relieve his apprehensions by stating that under the existing scheme the West Lavington School was not a parochial school.
§ MR. W. LONG
said, the elementary school was confined to the parish of West Lavington, but there was also the agricultural school for secondary education. The object of the testator was to provide free education, and any one belonging to the parish had no right to pay anything.
§ SIR J. RIGBY
said, if it were an elementary school it would be excluded from the Bill under the new clauses which the President of the Local Government Board had promised to bring in. So far as the school for secondary education was concerned, it was not within the four corners of the hon. Member for Rugby's Amendment, because it was not a parochial school. All schemes established under the Endowed Schools Acts outside elementary schools were extended to persons in different parts of the Kingdom, and were not included in the term "parochial charity." As to schemes under the general jurisdiction of the Charity Commissioners, the portion of the Bill already passed provided that wherever Churchwardens or Overseers had been introduced into those schemes other appointments should be made in their place. The effect would be that the Amendment of the hon. Member for Rugby would only be called into operation in a small number of cases. In recent years the Charity Commissioners had already adopted the course of giving a majority to the representative element. The only cases to which the Amendment could apply were those in which, in the time of the early and tentative introduction of the representative element, the principle was applied by the Commissioners, who were guided by the decisions of Parliament, in the way of experiment. He did not see why the Amendment of the hon. Member for Rugby should not step in to meet, in the cases referred to, those deficiencies in the representative element which arose at first from an experimental policy. The Government believed that the Amendment would simplify the various schemes and render them more rational and uniform, and bring them into conformity with the present policy of the Charity Commissioners. For those reasons they could not accept the Amendment.
§ SIR M. HICKS-BEACH (Bristol, W.)
said, they were placed in great difficulty through having to discuss this matter without any definition of parochial charities before them, and much time would have been saved if the Government had placed such a definition on the Paper. He wished to call attention to a point of procedure. If the Government were determined, as the Solicitor General told them, to accept 845 the principle of a majority of elective trustees in all cases—to which he strongly objected, and as to which in due time there would be a division—the proper course would be to lay down the principle in the clause, and then to relegate the carrying it out to the Charity Commissioners, who would deal with it according to the circumstances of each particular case. In that way alone could a body of trustees be appointed who would properly be constituted to administer the affairs of the charity. He believed that under the Amendment of the hon. Member for Rugby many charities would be seriously prejudiced and rendered unworkable. There was the point mentioned by the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. J. Chamberlain) as to the difficulty of electing trustees for life or for a long term of years, since they might act against the wishes and intentions of the Parish Council for the time being. He would urge that the course he suggested was the only one that would be workable.
§ MR. J. LLOYD MORGAN (Carmarthen, W.)
said, it had been stated that the Amendment of the hon. Member for Rugby went too far. But that, he held, was according to the point of view from which they looked at the Bill before the House. He did not think that anyone could be opposed to it on any reasonable ground. It seemed to him that it would be perfectly absurd to give the parishioners the powers of settling the affairs of the parish and then to exclude them from dealing with the property of the poor in the parish. The Member for St. Pancras said that by adding trustees they altered the character of a trust. That was a proposition he was not able to follow. The trust remained and would be administered by people who had the confidence of the parishioners, and, in his opinion, in these circumstances there would be a better chance of having the trust well and properly administered than before. Some hon. Members objected to any addition being made, because it would bring into the administration of the trust that which was absent from the mind of the donor or creating party. The hon. Baronet also told them that if this Amendment were adopted in its present form they would not get good men to act as trustees. That was a proposition that was scarcely worthy of a hon. Baronet. 846 He (Mr. Morgan) had a better opinion of mankind than to believe that because a person did not agree with a particular view as to popular representation he would refuse to act as a trustee of a charity, and, more than that, in his opinion, the man who declined to sit upon a body of trustees for such a reason was a man who was not fit to sit upon it, and the charity could be administered much better without him. The proposed sub-section was necessary to render the clause a valuable one; it seemed to him that the suggestion contained in the Amendment was a fair compromise between the Bill of the right hon. Gentleman as it was originally proposed and the other view that had been taken of the matter. Without the sub-section proposed the clause would not give the Parish Council proper control over the affairs of the trusts, and the Amendment was, therefore, necessary to meet cases of that kind. Some time ago an inquiry was held in Denbighshire—it was during the time the last Parliament was in Office that the Sub-Committee was appointed to make this inquiry into the trust charities then, and, as far as he (Mr. Morgan) could recollect, the Report, which was placed on the Table of this House, stated that there had been maladministration— money not properly applied—and there were even some cases where the charities were altogether lost. The Amendment would meet cases of that kind. The only point remaining was that it was said the word "may" should be inserted instead of "shall" to give the Parish Council discretionary power as to taking over a trust. He was at first inclined to favour that view; but he had arrived at the conclusion that it would mean that trusts would remain just as they were in a great many instances—that much pressure would be brought to bear on the Councils in that direction, and nothing would be done. Therefore, he thought that the Amendment should remain as it was. If the Amendment to the Amendment were to be inserted it would be a positive blow, and the scheme would not work at all. Hon. Members said that they supported the Amendment to the Amendment because of pledges to their constituents. He did not remember giving any pledge on the subject to his constituents; but he did pledge himself that he would act on the well-known 847 lines of the Liberal Party. [Laughter.] He did not know why hon. Gentlemen should laugh. He was acting on those lines, as he said he would, and as he always hoped to do, and for that reason he could not support the proposal of the hon. Member for Somerset.
MR. JESSE COLLLNGS (Birmingham, Bordesley)
said, he was amused at what had fallen from the hon. Member who had just sat down, who had said that his attitude was in accordance with the old Liberal doctrine. Rather was it in accordance with the new Liberal doctrine. The old Liberal doctrine was "trust the people," but the hon. Member advocated a directly opposite course. He held that the word "shall" should be used in connection with the Parish Councils, and not "may." Out of his own mouth he would -judge the hon. Member. He objected to placing these charities in the hands of the Parish Council to do as they liked, unless they were subject to pressure which would prevent them from doing what they thought best. That was a new reading of the old Liberal doctrine at all events. The Parish Council was not to be trusted, but they in that House were to dictate to them what they were to do. That was a new Liberal doctrine. He would like to ask the Solicitor General a question. There were cases— as had been cited by the hon. Member for West Derby—where there were elementary schools, and where there were supplementary charities all under the same foundation. Take the case of West Lavington. The agricultural schools would be taken out of the scope of the clause, and elementary schools would also be out of the scope of the clause, but what about the almshouses and other advantages confined to the parish, and which constituted a parochial charity? All were governed by the same trust. Would the Parish Council of West Lavington be compelled to elect 24 trustees (the trust having already 23) on that foundation? If so, he did not know whether they would find them in West Lavington.
§ COLONEL KENYON-SLANEY (Shropshire, Newport)
said, the hon. Member for Nottinghamshire had made a quotation from Lord Lyttelton, which seemed to apply in an opposite direction to that the hon. Member intended. Lord 848 Lyttelton had said that the system he would supportshould be based on equal pillars of Central and Local Authority";but how could it be said that the creation of a body in which one element was in a majority was keeping up "equal pillars of Central and Local Authority"? He (Colonel Kenyon-Slaney) should like to take exception to the hon. Member's speech, in so far as he seemed to labour under the complete delusion that the Opposition, in the attitude they assumed on these matters, were opposed to the elective principle, as regarded the appointment of trustees. On the contrary, they were friendly to the elective principle in the formation of the trusts, but they rested themselves on the very authority the hon. Member had cited, and said they wanted to maintain the "equal pillars of central and local government." He wondered whether the hon. Member, and those who thought with him, would be consistent in this matter. They wished to maintain these equal pillars. Would they, therefore, consent to an Amendment which would provide that the elected members should be only equal in number to the trustees already existing? That, to his mind, would be the maintenance of the equal pillars, and the suggestion of hon. Members opposite seemed to be in the direction of inequality rather than of equality. With regard to the practical and sensible suggestion of the hon. Member for St. Pancras, he seemed to put before the Committee in a workmanlike manner the probable results of the scheme they were now formulating. A practical suggestion such as the hon. Member threw out ought to be allowed to weigh in the minds of the Committee. He had pointed out the difficulty which might be experienced in many small parishes, of finding competent and willing trustees to undertake the work. But the hon. Baronet had not left himself open— as some Welsh Members had stated—to the charge of holding that it would be difficult to get trustees for the reason that they would not sit with elective members. The hon. Baronet was friendly to the system of elected trustees under certain circumstances, and he never suggested that there would be, as between them and the other trustees, any attitude of jealousy or of suspicion. There was another point of the argument of the hon. 849 Baronet that he (Colonel Kenyon-Slaney) would like to press on the attention of those who were working the Bill in an honest and genuine manner. There might be such a thing in a local parish as a misconception of the purposes of a trust, and of the way in which it should be administered; and public feeling in the parish might run rather high. He had known instances where there had been a complete misconception of the magnitude of a charity, and of the results which could be secured by it, where it was thought that by a change of administration the beneficiaries would derive a great deal more from the charity. When such a misconception as that existed, the Parish Council might be induced to appoint a majority of the trustees for the purpose of bringing about a change in the system of administration. That would be a most unfortunate system to set up. Trustees might be elected in response to a popular cry, not necessarily based on accurate knowledge, and they might be obliged by the fact of their election to run counter to the original system. Such cases were not very likely to be of frequent occurrence; but those hon. Members who were conversant with the working of these charities in rural parishes, where there was not a large element of education, and where there was sometimes an element of local jealousy, knew that such a thing might happen, and that it should be guarded against by those who wished to make the Bill a practical and working measure. Sundry questions had been addressed to the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board as to what end be the working of the Bill under certain specific cases that Members had cited. He should like to know what would be the result of the measure in such a case as this—one which was well known to the Charity Commissioners—a charity in which a few of the trustees were nominated by the founder, and which had for its object the distinct benefit of three, four, five, or six parishes. Under the Bill, would it be necessary that each one of these parishes should set up a body to administer its own part of the trust, whilst a larger central trust were established to regulate the parts as a whole? That was a point he should like to see dealt with when the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local 850 Government Board was answering generally. He would also like to ask whether a parish would be able to elect the trustees already administering the trusts?
§ MR. C. E. HOBHOUSE (Wilts, Devizes)
said, that reference had been made by the hon. Member for the West Derby Division, and also by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Bordesly Division to a charity situated in a Division which he (Mr. Hobhouse) represented; therefore, he should like to say one or two words on the matter. Those who had referred to the charity had neglected to mention its previous history. It had an annual income of £2,500. It was established some 200 years ago, and the security on which the income of the charity rested was 11 houses in the City of London. When the charity was reconstituted some six or seven years ago, a demand was made on. the Mercers' Company (the trustees) for a sum of money which should be commensurate with the value of the trust, and the Mercers' Company, after a great pressure had been brought to bear on them, offered £60,000 towards the charity. They said that the company was too poor to give any further funds; but it was a curious fact, and one that he did not think would be denied, that as a security for the £60,000 they offered three out of the original 11 houses. He had no doubt that those interested in the charity were anxious to discover what had happened to the other eight houses which had not been accounted for by the Mercers' Company. He ventured to think that the original intention of the testator, which was to benefit the poor inhabitants of the parish of West Lovington, would have been carried out in its entirety had they had on the Governing Body of the charity trustees drawn from the inhabitants of the parish rather than from an outside company such as the Mercers' Company. He was sorry to say, from the evidence he had heard and read with regard to this charity, that the members of the company were more desirous of enriching their own funds than of carrying out the wishes of the original testator. He ventured to submit that if the Amendment were adopted by the Committee, it would be impossible for the intentions of testators 851 to be overriden by trustees who had no interest in the charities. He confessed that if he had no other evidence to induce him to support the Amendment of his hon. Friend the case of the charity to which he had referred would itself be sufficient to convince him. It would, he was sure, convince not only himself, but the greater part of the Members of the House.
§ MR. J. G. TALBOT (Oxford University)
said, he should like to put it to the Government, as a matter of convenience, whether the suggestion made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bristol was not one which they should consider and act on? Let them consider what the Committee had been engaged upon. They had been engaged since 4 o'clock on a matter that would not have been discussed at the same length if they had known what the words "parochial charity" meant. They knew nothing of the meaning the Government meant to apply to the words; therefore, it was no consolation to them to tell them, through the mouths of individual Members of the Government—however learned and eminent—that it was not the intention of the Government to meddle with this or that charity. Everyone on the Treasury Bench knew, as an elementary fact in politics, that the declarations of Ministers had no effect in the interpretation of the law, and that what was wanted, from a legal point of view, was the actual words of the Act. They wanted to know the definition of the words "parochial charity." Until that definition was distinctly laid down, hon. Members had a right to their own interpretation. He maintained that the words "parochial charity," limited by the words "not being an ecclesiastical charity," would cover a great number of institutions which were designed for special purposes—he would not enter into the religious question at that moment. To make his meaning perfectly clear take a concrete example. A friend of his in the county in which he lived told him that he had given a parish room to a certain parish, and had placed it in the hands of certain trustees—he (Mr. Talbot) would not say who they were, as the fact wag not material. The room was not given for ecclesiastical purposes, but for the general good of the parish. But his friend had stated—and he had a 852 right to say it—that if he had known what this Bill was going to do, he would never have given that room to the parish in the way he had done. It was monstrous that a man who had given a parish room should not, in his own lifetime, be able to confine its management to individuals of his own selection, and that an Act of Parliament should step in and generally say that because it was a parochial and not an ecclesiastical charity the Parish Council should appoint a majority of trustees to override the designs of the donor. An hon. Member opposite had talked about giving general support to the designs of the Liberal Party. Well, he (Mr. Talbot) thought that one of the designs of the Liberal Party was fair play all round. Those who tried to minimise the arguments of the Tory Party said that they were contending for a very small and petty matter; but he believed that if this matter could be brought to the notice of those outside the House who took an interest in the affairs of the country, their sense of justice would revolt against this Ministerial invasion of ancient rights being forced on the House of Commons. If the Government wished to carry this Bill, as they all thought it should be carried, they should accept the proposal now made. This Amendment to the Amendment dealt with a special class of cases. The hon. Member for Liverpool had pointed out how ridiculously the case of endowed schools would be affected, which showed the necessity there was for the Government to make their meaning clear, and not at the bidding of individual or irresponsible supporters include all kinds of subjects in the Bill. What had they to do with amending the Endowed Schools Act or the Charitable Trusts Act in this Bill? Those were subjects large enough to be dealt with in separate Bills. The Committee was considering a Bill for the better regulation of parish life in the rural districts. Was the right way to do that to upset all kinds of existing institutions? However strongly he opposed Her Majesty's Government, he was not speaking as an opponent now. If he were one of their keenest supporters he should say—"If you want to pass this Bill pass it in a way that will commend itself to the reasonable doctrines of ordinary Englishmen; that is, by accepting the situation as you find it, and 853 having respect for the wishes of living donors."
§ MR. REES DAVIES (Pembrokeshire)
said, the speeches he had listened to demonstrated to his mind very clearly the warm, almost undying, affection which hon. Gentlemen opposite entertained for the Bill. The hon. Gentleman who had just sat down (Mr. Talbot), with refreshing candour, described this the other night as a most unfortunate Bill.
§ MR. J. G. TALBOT
I called it an unfortunate Bill because of the unfortunate way it has been treated.
§ MR. REES DAVIES
was quite aware that the expression fell from the hon. Gentleman rather unintentionally. He was quite sure those of them who listened to the Debate last night were assured that the hon. Gentleman very correctly described the views of hon. Gentlemen opposite. They were asked by the late Attorney General the other day whether the elected trustees were to be thrust upon the old trustees. He would ask the hon. and learned Gentleman if the Parish Council was not the body which certainly should have the nomination in a matter of the kind? Why, the members of the Parish Council were the very persons who would be interested, and should be interested, in the distribution of local charities. The hon. Gentleman was prepared to vest large powers in the Parish Council as the representatives of the parish, and he (Mr. Rees Davies) submitted that the Amendment of his hon. Friend the Member for Rugby was a very proper corollary to the other powers which had been vested in these Parish Councils. Those of them who represented rural divisions knew very well that there was the greatest possible dissatisfaction with the present system of distributing parochial charities. In his county there was an important charity which existed in four parishes. He was not quite sure whether the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board would say that it was a parochial charity, because it was a charity which, as he had said, was distributed over no less than four parishes. At any rate, it was a very rich charity. In three parishes the distribution was vested in the minister, Churchwardens, and Overseers; and in the other 854 parish, which was in the Cathedral City of St. David's, it was vested in the Vicars Choral and the Overseer. In each case the distribution was subject to the approval of the trustees, who were an altogether distinct body. The trustees were co-optative, and he need scarcely say that if the Amendment of the hon. Member were accepted the elected trustees would be in a majority. He supported the Amendment of the hon. Member (Mr. Strachey) because he held that the distribution of all charities should be vested absolutely in the Parish Councils. He was extremely glad to find that the Government, although they were not prepared to go so far as to accept that Amendment, had accepted the principle, and he hoped they would not in the least degree depart from it. The right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. E. Stanhope) had told them that many clergymen of the Church of England would be glad to be rid of those duties, and he expressed the opinion that they were the most competent persons to distribute the charities, because they knew the needs and the wants of the poor of the parish. Speaking as the Representative of a Welsh county, he (Mr. Rees Davies) could declare that the clergy had little or nothing to do with the poor of the parish. If the Amendment of his hon. Friend were adopted they would have elective trustees who would represent the whole parish, the Nonconformists, Church, and all classes, and they would then see that the distribution was fair and equitable as between the various parts of the parish.
§ MR. H. HOBHOUSE
said, he was not going to follow a number of the supporters of the Government in widening the discussion, for his object last night in moving the Amendment had been to bring a definite issue before the Committee. So far as he could hear, the Solicitor General had objected to his Amendment on two grounds. He said,. in the first place, that it would not apply to endowed schools, because they were not parochial charities. But the Committee could not take that assurance from the Solicitor General without having some idea of the definition of a parochial charity which was to be put in the Bill, because it seemed to many of them that it would be quite possible to draw the definition in a broad enough way to in- 855 clude a good many endowed schools and foundations which, though not actually applied in their benefits to a single parish, yet were primarily so, and were also partially extended to adjoining parishes. They wanted to know what this definition was to be, and he was quite sure that it would be in the interest of the progress of the discussion for the Government to give them that definition, at any rate, on broad lines. In the second place, the hon. and learned Gentleman the Solicitor General said the Amendment was unnecessary, because it would not apply to most of the recent schemes of the Charity Commissioners, on the ground that in those schemes the representative element was already in the majority. Was the hon. and learned Gentleman sure that that element was in the majority according to the terms of the Amendment of the hon. Member for Rugby? because the hon. Member only recognised as representative trustees those who were elected by the ratepayers or parochial electors—that was to say, he excluded all members appointed by the School Board or County Council, or other local representative authority, except the Parish Council, which had not been hitherto in existence. His (Mr. Hobhouse's) impression was that though in many of these schemes there might be a majority of representative trustees in the broadest sense of the term, yet they did not exist in the narrow sense recognised by the hon. Member for Rugby.
§ MR. H. HOBHOUSE
said, that though they did not represent the parish they represented the popular element, and, in many cases, better trustees would be got in this way. It would be a great mistake to oblige the Parish Councils to swamp the representatives of the County Councils by legislating in an. indiscriminate and haphazard way. He had given his reason for moving the Amendment last night, but he was not surprised that the Government had not answered it, for their supporters had insisted on drowning his voice while he was speaking. His objection was that however much they might recognise the representative principle, and however much they might believe in an actual majority of popular representatives on 856 the Governing Bodies of the charities, yet legislating in the dark was not the right way to secure good Governing Bodies. He protested against the endeavour, in this rough-and-ready way, to carry out a principle which two Committees of the House of Commons had already declared could not be carried out in this way. By their present course the Government would be throwing discredit on the carefully-prepared schemes of a Government Department, on behalf of which he was surprised that no Member on the Treasury Bench had yet had the courage to say a good word.
§ SIR J. RIGBY
said, the point before the Committee was whether the Committee were to accept the Amendment of the hon. Member, and so to exclude cases in which the Charity Commissioners or the Endowed Schools Commissioners had prepared schemes. The only question now before the Committee was the narrow one, whether a special exemption was to be introduced in cases where schemes had been framed? When the Committee came to discuss the general Amendment, the other questions which had been referred to could be dealt with. A question might be raised as to almshouses which were attached to schemes not of a parochial character, but that was not before the Committee at present.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR (Manchester, E.)
It appears to me that the learned Solicitor General, with all respect for his legal acumen, has, in this case, put the cart before the horse. He tells us this is not the proper occasion on which to discuss the meaning of a parochial charity. When that occasion arises, he says he will be happy to give us such information as is at his disposal with regard to the proper legal interpretation of the term. He thinks we ought to deal with the question of whether certain parochial charities shall be dealt with in a certain way without knowing what a parochial charity is. Surely that is not good logic and not good law. We can only bring the whole subject before the Committee in all its various bearings by considering the various cases. The best way of illustrating the operation of this measure is for gentlemen who have personal experience of parochial charities to point out how they would be affected under the clause; but they cannot do that unless 857 they know whether such charities are parochial charities or not. A good illustration of this point is afforded by the case referred to by my hon. Friend (Mr. W. Long). He brought forward the case of a particular charity, and pointed out how absurd in that case would be the Amendment now under discussion. The question of that charity was further developed by the hon. Member who represents the Division of Wiltshire in which the charity is situated. We do not know, however, whether the case is apposite or not, and we are at this moment absolutely in the dark as to whether my hon. Friend was making a relevant and a pertinent argument or not. Well, we are in doubt, because the Government do not think this is a proper occasion to tell us what is the meaning of a phrase which governs every line of the clause we are now discussing. I know the Solicitor General intends to deal fairly with the Committee, and to give us all the assistance in his power, but, with all respect for him, he must see there is an extraordinary absurdity in asking us to discuss the bearings of the clause with regard to parochial charities until, at all events, we have some faint wavering outline in our own minds of what a parochial charity is. The hon. and learned Gentleman has given us a kind of rude anticipation of the speech which he is going to deliver later on as to what the Government mean by a parochial charity. I gather from this. preliminary statement that, according to the view of the Government, a charity is not a parochial charity if it is instituted in the interests of more than one parish. If there be a secondary school or an alms-house, attended or inhabited by more than those who live in a particular parish, then, according to the hon. and learned Gentleman, it is not a parochial charity. I do not say that is bad law—
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
Well, it is a question of legal definition; a question which will have to be decided in the Courts of Law, assisted by the learned Solicitor General and other lawyers. If the Solicitor General gives the Courts the benefit of his assistance, and they take his view, they would decide that though a parochial charity may be parochial in every 858 other respect if it refers to two parishes it will not be a parochial charity. Again, I say that is not good law, or, if the Solicitor General prefers it, good English. We shall most unquestionably have a very strange anomaly in our rural districts if in one parish there are alms-houses confined to the parish, while in the next there are almshouses which may draw their inhabitants from two parishes, and one is put under the Amendment of the hon. Member for Rugby, while the other is left as it is. I think that would be a bad arrangement; but it is the arrangement contemplated by the Government, and the arrangement we shall have to keep in view in discussing every single line of this clause. I think the Government would be well advised if they were to explain, without going into legal technicalities, the broad policy on which they have framed this Bill. Do they desire to include these charities or not? Do they desire, for instance, to cut up the Dauncey Charity into small fragments, putting a portion of it under the Amendment and leaving the rest of it under the existing trustees? If I understand the Solicitor General rightly, that is their policy. It seems to me to be a very impracticable policy, and one which will lead to very great difficulty in rural parishes, but, at all events, we ought to know whether it really is the policy of the Government or not. Do not compel us on every line on which the words "parochial charity" occur to ask what is the meaning of those words. We only ask for light where light should be granted, and I am sure the Solicitor General will see there could be no more appropriate time for defining the words used in a clause than before the Committee discuss that clause. To refuse to make the meaning of your clause clear before you have passed the whole of it is the most illogical and the most foolish way of attempting to do business which surely ever entered the head of Members in charge of a Bill.
§ SIR F. S. POWELL (Wigan)
said, he agreed with an hon. Friend who had preceded him that the words "parochial charity" were of doubtful interpretation, obscure, and uncertain. The case of the Dauncey Charity which had been referred to occupied much of the time of the Committee of 1886 on Endowed Schools, and so long was the evidence taken, and 859 so full of detail, that the index of such evidence occupied no fewer than four pages of the Report. His hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool (Mr. W. Long), with his usual accuracy of mind and his local knowledge, had said that the Dauncey Charity was a parochial charity, and another hon. Member had taken the same view.
I do not think it is in Order to go into details with regard to the administration of particular charities. The hon. Member for Liverpool (Mr. W. Long) was in Order, because he brought the case forward as an illustration in order to found a question upon it, but to go further into it would not be in Order.
§ SIR F. S. POWELL
said, his point was that the Charity Commissioners said it was not a parochial charity. The Solicitor General had stated that the Select Committee had recommended that a majority of elected trustees should be appointed. That was not the recommendation of either Committee. They recommended that there should be a large representative element, but they carefully abstained from saying that it should be a majority. He desired to have a representative element, and, indeed, was himself a representative under several endowed schools' schemes. He objected, however, to have all the representatives chosen by the same person. He believed that in order to obtain the best administration of these charities it was necessary to have representatives chosen by different groups of persons, some of whom would desire careful administration of finance, while others would wish that great care should be taken in the selection of the recipients of the funds.
§ MR. KNATCHBULL-HUGESSEN (Kent, Faversham)
agreed entirely with what had fallen from the hon. Member for the University of Oxford (Mr. Talbot) respecting this most unfortunate Bill. He very much hoped that the country would take note of the proceedings of the Committee. On this question the same old battle was being waged; the combatants were the same, and the principles for which they were severally contending were the same. Those who were supporting the cause of tyranny, inequality, and injustice were the new Radical Party.
§ MR. KNATCHBULL-HUGESSEN
said he, of course, bowed to the Chairman's ruling, but he was merely endeavouring to describe the Amendment as partaking very much of tyranny and inequality. It was an illustration of what, in his opinion, was the policy of the new Radical Party. He could not see what pretence of fair play or justice was contained in so unblushing a proposal. The Committee were deliberately asked to fly in the face of the donors of these charities, and to have them administered by persons who in all likelihood would administer them in a spirit entirely contrary to the wishes of the donors. Last week an assembly of Englishmen were actually engaged in considering not whether robbery was right, but how it was to be carried out. He was alluding; to the question of compulsory hiring.
§ MR. KNATCHBULL-HUGESSEN
said, he would not pursue the topic. He would merely say it appeared to him that the Committee were seeking to deprive the Church of England of the management of funds which were not left for her exclusive benefit, but which she had a right to participate in. He should like to press on the attention of the Solicitor General a question which had been put by one of his hon. Friends, and which had contained a very valuable suggestion —namely, whether or not it would be competent for these Councils to elect persons on the trusts who were already trustees? Would it be possible for such persons to act in a double capacity? If so, that would remove some of the objections to the Amendment. He could only say, in conclusion, as an opponent both of the Amendment and of the Bill, that he viewed with intense satisfaction the marvellous exposure of its true motives which was now being made from day to day.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN (Birmingham, W.)
I really feel in very considerable difficulty as to how I shall give my vote on this particular Amendment. Unlike the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken, I am in sympathy with the 861 Amendment proposed by the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. Cobb). The only question now is whether there is to be any exception to the Amendment? The Solicitor General, dealing with the Amendment on behalf of the Government, went so far as to say that at first sight there was a great deal in the argument of my hon. Friend for the exclusion of certain charities recently dealt with by the Charity Commissioners from the operation of the Amendment. The Government themselves sympathise with the intention and object of my hon. Friend, and the only reason why they refused his Amendment was because they found, after careful inquiry, that the particular charities to which the Amendment refers are already excluded from the operation of the clause. But why are they already excluded? Because they are not parochial charities. But that is no answer. Will the Government now tell the Committee what are parochial charities, so that we may know, not only in this case, but in other cases that may arise, whether it is necessary for us to protect particular classes of charities by moving Amendments, or whether they have been sufficiently protected by the Government? The Solicitor General declines to answer that inquiry. The other day the hon. and learned Gentleman told the Committee that these charities were not parochial charities, but apparently the Solicitor General has not distinct instructions from his colleagues to tell the Committee what parochial charities are. The Solicitor General went on to say that it was not a question of law. If it is not a question of law, of course it would be absurd to press the matter further on the Solicitor General, for I quite understand that when he answers with the authority of the Government it means that his answer is confined to a legal point. On no other question is he prepared to say anything in this House. But, if we are not dealing with a question of law, might I appeal to the President of the Local Government Board on a matter not of law, but of common sense and fact? There must be some reason for believing that these charities are or are not included, and, if he will give me his opinion, I will put to him one very simple question. Do the Government consider that the 862 Dauncey Charity is excluded from, or included in, the proposal of the Member for Rugby?
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
I am much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for his answer. From this the Committee may now infer that every charity is excluded from the operation of this Amendment which is not strictly confined to a single parish. The moment it goes outside a parish it is excluded. A more inconsistent and absurd conclusion than that I have never heard. I will only ask the right hon. Gentleman one other question. What is the state of the case with regard to a charity which only deals with a part of a parish? Is that also excluded, or is a charity which deals with a part of a parish a parochial charity, or is a parochial charity one which deals exclusively with the whole of a parish? If he will give his opinion upon that point, then he will have completed the series of anomalies upon which we are asked to come to a decision.
§ MR. STANLEY LEIGHTON (Shropshire, Oswestry)
said, in his opinion the real difficulty of this question was the failure of the Government to schedule the charities and to distinguish between them. They were at sixes and sevens because they did not know to what the Government referred when they spoke of a parochial charity or a parish. He had in his mind the case of a temperance hall built for a particular parish by a friend of his who was a strong temperance advocate. The trusteeship had been placed in the hands of the clergyman and the Roman Catholic priest. The hall was for the good of the parish, but drunkenness prevailed in the parish, and the publican influence was very strong. As soon as this Bill passed the Parish Council would place a majority of trustees on the temperance hall trust, and these trustees would be elected by the publican interest.
Order, order! I must point out to the hon. Gentleman that it is the Amendment to the Amendment we are now discussing.
§ MR. STANLEY LEIGHTON
said, on a point of Order, he would like to be put right. He understood the Question was, whether the words "parochial charities" should stand part of the Bill, and he was directing his argument to that point. He hoped he understood he was in Order, and that he was entitled to show reasons why those words should be left out. There was, then, the case of a cottage hospital and an endowed parochial school of £300 a year which had been turned into a school for elementary and technical agriculture. On the board of management of the school were experts in agricultural matters, but as soon as the Bill passed the experts would be swamped by a large number of persons connected with the locality possessing little or no knowledge of agriculture. There should be a local element represented, but not in a majority. Then, again, what about parochial charities founded and partly supported by voluntary subscription? He should be very glad to hear the whole question of charities discussed. [Cries of "Divide!"] He did not think Members should be impatient; they should not prevent discussion of so important a question. How could they deal with the charities to the advantage of the donors? In his opinion they were striking a blow at the benefits which donors intended should be reaped by the parishioners themselves, and they were demoralising the parishioners by destroying the beneficent way in which up to this time those charities had been administered. He asked this question: If the persons who were appointed by the Parish Council were not in agreement with the Parish Council of the following year, would they not have a conflict between the Council and the trustees? On the other hand, if they made these men permanent trustees they would derive no power from the Council for the time being to act on behalf of the Council. He did not say what they were going to do. The right hon. Gentleman had not said what he was going to do, or how he was going to deal with the question, and he hoped he would tell them, so that they might clearly understand what was going to happen in the management of these charities.
§ Question put.864
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 187; Noes 141.—(Division List, No. 365.)
*SIR M. HICKS-BEACH (Bristol, W.) rose to move to insert in Mr. Cobb's Amendment, after "in the case of every parochial charity," the words—
The benefits of which are confined solely to inhabitants of the parish.
He said, notwithstanding his appeal, supported by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. A. J. Balfour), and endorsed by the right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Mr. J. Chamberlain), they could not ascertain from the Government what they meant by a parochial charity. A clear answer to that question was most essential for the proper discussion of this sub-section. In replying to the right hon. Member for West Birmingham, the President of the Local Government Board made sundry short statements from which he had gathered something of the intention of the Government, and he thought his Amendment would be consistent with what he understood to have fallen from the right hon. Gentleman as his definition of "parochial charity." The Amendment he now moved was obviously necessary, for, as the sub-section stood, Parliament would give a predominant voice on the boards of trustees of these charities to persons elected by the Parish Council, or by the ratepayers, or voters in a single parish, although the benefits of the charity extended to parishes outside that particular parish.
Amendment proposed to the proposed Amendment,
After the words "parochial charity," to insert the words "the benefits of which are confined solely to inhabitants of the parish."—(Sir M. Hicks-Beach.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ MR. COBB
said that, so far as he was concerned, he accepted the Amendment of the right hon. Baronet, for if, as he understood it, it meant that his Amendment should apply to charities for the benefit of the inhabitants of a particular parish, including any of the inhabitants, it carried out the object he had in view.
§ SIR R. PAGET
asked whether it followed, as the necessary result of accepting the Amendment, that the Government would insert the words of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bristol wherever the phrase "parochial charity" occurred in the Bill; and he pointed out that the phrase occurred in Sub-section 2 of the clause which had already been adopted.
§ MR. H. H. FOWLER
We accept the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bristol, as it practically carries out our will. I promised to put in the Bill a definition of "parochial charity" before it passed through Committee. Of course, a parochial charity is a charity for the benefit of a parish. We never intended that the Bill should apply to roving charities extending over several parishes, and we have, therefore, no objection to the words. There are some cases in the North of England in which a parish consists of two or three parishes joined together under one Vestry and one set of parochial officers, but we will deal with those cases later on.
§ SIR J. GORST (Cambridge University)
said, the right hon. Gentleman did not quite appreciate the question which had been put to him. What the hon. Baronet had asked was, whether the introduction of the words in this one subsection would not imply that in other subsections the phrase "parochial charity" would have a more extended meaning, such as that its benefits extended to the inhabitants of other parishes.
§ MR. H. H. FOWLER
The Government have accepted those words of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bristol, and immediately afterwards two hon. Gentlemen on the same side of the House get up and practically complain of the words. I quite understand that they are to a certain extent limiting words. Possibly, there may be parochial charities not confined to particular parishes, but that matter will come up again on the Definition Clause.
§ MR. COURTNEY (Cornwall, Bodmin)
said, the point was whether, as the words of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bristol would be in Subsection 3, but not in Sub-section 2, which had already been passed, there would be any advantage in Sub-section 2 that was not in Sub-section 3? He thought the 866 words should be put into the Interpretation Clause, so that they would extend to "parochial charity" wherever the phrase occurred in the Bill.
§ MR. STOREY (Sunderland)
said, he had not interfered in these discussions, because charities did not trouble them much in the North of England, but he should deprecate the action of the Government in accepting the definition of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bristol. The Government must have overlooked the fact—though it had not been overlooked by hon. Gentlemen opposite—that in the future, owing to this Amendment, any person who desired to leave a charity to be administered by the Incumbent or Churchwarden, had only to leave it to the parish he wanted it to go and to some other little parish 300 miles away, the inhabitants of which could not come for its benefits. The charity ceased, under these circumstances, to be a parochial charity, and the Incumbent might be freely appointed to administer it.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I only desire to express, on behalf of my hon. Friend sitting near me, our gratitude for the frank and clear exposition of the policy of the Government made through the lips of the President of the Local Government Board. I think there is a simple solution of the difficulty which has been raised, that the phrase "parochial charity" will have a more limited meaning in this subsection than in the other sub-sections in which it occurs. I suppose that the words of my right hon. Friend the Member for Bristol will be added to the phrase "parochial charity" wherever it occurs in subsequent clauses, and that they will be added to Sub-section 2 of this clause when it comes before the House again on the Report stage. I do not say that that will obviate the necessity of a Definition Clause, but it will make the sub-section clear, showing that the Government have no intention or desire to touch in the smallest degree any of those charities which extend, however small a distance, beyond the parishes which they primarily affect.
§ MR. H. H. FOWLER
I desire to point out, in reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, that we have still to put in the Definition Clause. The Member for Rugby has frankly told the Committee, in accepting the Amendment 867 of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bristol, that his intention was only to deal with charities confined to the particular parishes in which the charities are distributed. We agree with that view, and we accepted the words, though perhaps it would have been better to have waited for the Definition Clause. But I want to get on with the Bill. If we raise difficulties in this way at every point and stop to soothe objections we will never get on with the Bill. I admit that to a certain extent the words do limit the clause; but I hope we will be able to meet the views of all parties when we come to the Definition Clause, in which we will include a definition of "parochial charity."
§ MR. STRACHEY (Somerset, S.)
said, that if the definition of "parochial charity" had come earlier these difficulties would have been avoided. Cases of several parishes joined together happened in the West of England as well as in the North of England. He knew of a charity in Somerset in which five parishes were interested, and each parish had a proportional representation according to its share of the charity. He ventured to think that it would be most unfair to exclude—as the Amendment just accepted by the Government would exclude—the Parish Councils of these particular districts from having representation according to the present representation of the parish on that trust of that particular charity.
§ SIR C. W. DILKE
said, there were difficulties in this matter which he hoped his right hon. Friend would bear in mind before the Definition Clause was reached. He should first say that he did not agree with his hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland that there was a danger with regard to future charities, because he was perfectly certain that a future testator could if he choosed keep his charity outside the scope of the Bill in other ways than the way which had been suggested by his. hon. Friend.
§ SIR C. W. DILKE
said, that if a testator wanted to do that he ought to be able to do it. He had never been able to attach the same importance to the future as some of his hon. Friends did. But with regard to the future they ought to 868 be very careful. The hon. Member for Somerset had mentioned a case which ought to be met as soon as possible. That charity, although nominally one, was really a group of charities. Then, there were other cases. One was the case of a parish in which the great majority of its inhabitants had been taken away by the Divided Parishes Act. The other was the case of a charity which was essentially parochial in its nature because always parochially governed, though belonging to two or more parishes. He hoped that no words would be adopted which would exclude these cases from the operation of the Amendment of the hon. Member for Rugby.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
MR. GRIFFITH-BOSCAWEN (Kent, Tunbridge) moved in the proposed Amendment—
In line 1, after "charity," insert "which is vested in private trustees, other than the Incumbent of the parish, or the minister or representative of any religious denomination, either solely or conjointly with other persons and.
The object of the Amendment was to exclude from the Amendment of his hon. Friend the Member for Rugby all those charities in which a minister of any denomination or an Incumbent was a trustee. He should like to draw the attention of the Committee to two important considerations. The first was that they were no longer dealing with only those charities vested in Churchwardens and Overseers. They were dealing now with all charities that came under the definition of parochial charities, and, therefore, all charities which might be vested in the Vicar and Churchwarden, or the Vicar alone, or the Vicar together with private individuals; and they were dealing also with all charities vested in the minister or the representative of any other religious denomination. The second consideration was that they were not dealing wholly with eleemosynary charities. If they were dealing only with eleemosynary charities there would not be so much opposition to the clause; but they were dealing also with all those charities which were not doles, and which were not included in the definition of ecclesiastical charity in Clause 58. He agreed with the hon. Member for Somerset that if they only had these definitions earlier such
difficulties as now confronted them would have been obviated. Parish rooms, for instance, which were used for general purposes and not specifically for religious purposes would come under the operation of the clause unless they were safeguarded by his Amendment. He could quite understand the Committee to say that public officers like Churchwardens and Overseers were not purely ecclesiastical officers, and that the charities under their secular control should be transferred to the Parish Councils. But how could it be contended that a charity left to an Incumbent and a private trustee was left to public officers? It was preposterous to say so. If a man wished to have a charity to be administered by public officers in parishes where there was a choice of such officers, why should he limit the trust to the Incumbent and some other Churchman? He would give one instance. In a certain village in Bedfordshire in 1876 the interest of £150 was left to the Rector and other private trustees to keep the national schools in order. That did not come within the definition of an ecclesiastical charity; and unless his Amendment were adopted, a majority of the Parish Council would be added to the trust of the charity. In the interest not merely of the Church, but of all religious denominations, and in the interest of religion itself, it would be a most monstrous thing if trusts left to specific persons should have their trustees swamped by the representatives of the Parish Council. Surely, it was never intended that the Bill should interfere with private trusts. The inclusion of private trusts in the Bill was an entirely new thing. He therefore appealed to the Government to accept his Amendment, because otherwise he felt sure that a great act of injustice would be done to Churchmen and Nonconformists alike.
Amendment proposed to the proposed Amendment—
In line 1, after the word "charity," to insert the words " which is vested in private trustees, other than the incumbent of the parish, or the minister or representative of any religious denomination, either solely or conjointly with other persons and."—(Mr. Griffith-Boscawen.)
§ Question proposed, " That those words be there inserted."
§ MR. COBB
said, he hoped the Government would not agree to the Amend- 870 ment, for if it were accepted it would exclude 53 of the 107 cases of charities to which he had already referred—namely, 31 in which the Incumbent alone was the trustee, and 22 in which the Incumbent and others were trustees.
§ SIR R. TEMPLE
said, the reason given by the hon. Member for Rugby was considered by him and his colleagues to be the very worst that could be advanced for bringing conviction to their minds. It only showed to their entire satisfaction how very objectionable the Amendment of the hon. Gentleman was, because he had proved that in more than half of the cases which he contemplated it would mean what in their eyes was nothing short of unblushing spoliation. There might be some reasons for applying this Amendment of the hon. Member for Rugby to Churchwardens and Overseers and persons who might be described in some degree as a public officer; but how could it apply to private persons and private trustees? He had a room in his parish very much like that described by his hon. Friend who moved the Amendment. He had a building upon his own property that was used partly as a school, partly as a chapel, and partly as a meeting house. He gave part of the money and his friends gave the rest, and the building was used occasionally for Divine service, and addresses were delivered in it upon the week-days. He himself had sometimes delivered addresses in it for the benefit of the farm labourers, and he had contemplated setting up an infant school, the only reason he had not done so being that the building was constructed of wood, and he understood such a building would not come under the authorisation of the new rule made by the Vice President of the Council. The control of this building which, with the assistance of friends, was erected for the benefit of his poorer neighbours, was vested in the Vicar of the parish, though he supposed he might be considered a joint trustee. Did the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. Cobb) expect him to admit that, after the passing of this Bill, the Parish Council should have the right to add an additional trustee to control a trust he had established on his own property for the benefit of the labourers upon the property? According to the interpretation put upon the Amendment 871 by the hon. Mover himself, this very room would come under the scope of the Amendment, and he would ask the President of the Local Government Board whether he expected them to submit to this kind of treatment which, in the eyes of gentlemen on the Opposition, amounted to an unblushing spoliation? It might be done by a majority upon this Committee stage, but did the right hon. Gentleman reckon the stages this Bill would have to pass through before it could become law, and did he calculate the chances there were of ever passing a Bill that inflicted such an injustice?
§ MR. H. H. FOWLER
said, the speech just made was another speech on the controversy that had been raging for some days, a controversy between ecclesiastical and non-ecclesiastical charities. Though the hon. Baronet might say that Churchmen who held his opinions would never submit, he (Mr. Fowler) might say there was a very large mass of friendly opinion amongst the clergy and laity of the Church of England, men who held different views to those of the hon. Baronet, who did not recognise these charities as part of the Church property, who repudiated the terms "spoliation and robbery," and though they considered it would be carrying out more liberally the founders' meaning if no such change took place, they nevertheless repudiated the views the hon. Baronet had expressed. This was the question over again. [Cries of "No, no!"] He thought it was, but he was not going to weary the Committee by repeating the arguments he had so recently used. The position of the Government was, and the decision of the Committee had been, that all parochial charities were public charities. [An hon. MEMBER: The parish room.] He was not going to fall into the trap: that was a question they would deal with when they came to ecclesiastical charities. They were now dealing with public charities of the parish, and the position they had taken up was that these charities were not ecclesiastical, they were public, to be administered the best way possible for the public advantage, and in respect of these charities they claimed that the principle of popular representation and popular election should be applied, and therefore they could not advise his hon. Friend to accept the Amendment.
§ SIR R. WEBSTER (Isle of Wight)
said, he must enter his respectful protest against the view maintained by the right hon. Gentleman that they were trying to discuss over again the question of ecclesiastical charities. The observation of the right hon. Gentleman himself was a refutation of that assertion, because when asked if the case of a parish room would be included he said he was not going to argue that; that would come on when they discussed ecclesiastical charities. The point they were now discussing, he said with all respect to the right hon. Gentleman, was this: Supposing there was a charity not an ecclesiastical charity, but one which was vested in private trustees—Brown, Jones, and Robinson; that it was a case in which the intention of the donor would contemplate not that there should be ex officio trustees, not a minister, but private trustees. Was that a case to be dealt with by the Amendment of the hon. Member for Rugby? He would remind the learned Solicitor General of the unfortunate confidence with which he spoke the other night when he ridiculed the idea of the officials and officers of a Church being placed in the position of trustees. He ventured to tell the hon. and learned Gentleman there were charities in the nature of eleemosynary works. They had been given three instances to-night, and when they suggested they might be the officers of a particular Church they were, courteously, but still they were laughed at by the Solicitor General.
§ SIR R. WEBSTER
said, he must remind the hon. and learned Gentleman that when they asked if the Church was to be treated the same as other denominations he told them the reason the distinction was drawn was that in the case of Churchwardens they held an official position, whereas in the case of the Denominational Bodies there were no corresponding officers.
§ SIR J. RIGBY
said, he was using "office" in its legal sense, and there were no officers, in a legal sense, belonging to any Nonconforming Body.
§ SIR R. WEBSTER
said, that if that was the sense in which the hon. and learned Gentleman used the word "office" 873 then to a certain extent he was answered, but he thought it was a great deal too subtle for the common sense of the House of Commons, who looked to the spirit rather than the letter of the matter. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bodmin (Mr. Courtney) gave cases, and pointed out that the term wardens, deacons, and officials of a particular Church was used. They might not be officers in the legal and strict sense of the word, but it was not like the usual candour of the hon. and learned Gentleman to say that he meant to convey that meaning. To his mind, the hon. and learned Gentleman conveyed the meaning that he was speaking of an official in a similar position to the Churchwarden. However, the advantage of this discussion was that they had elicited from the learned Solicitor General an explanation of a statement that took them all by surprise—to a statement that led to practical revocation. They were satisfied there were charities which, apart from the technical meaning of the word "office," stood in the same position with reference to trusteeship and beneficiaries though given to Denominational Bodies and not to the officers of the Church. As had been pointed out, they were not discussing what should or should not be an ecclesiastical charity, but they were entitled to ask the Committee whether they wished a limitation in the powers of trustees, as suggested by the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. Cobb), to be applied to the case where the donor had nominated individuals other than private trustees— whether there was to be an equality between the Church and Nonconformist Bodies on this subject?
§ MR. ROBY (Lancashire, S.E., Eccles)
said, he hardly knew what the meaning of the Amendment was, especially in the light of the interpretation the hon. and learned Gentleman had just given. As he understood it, the Amendment proposed by the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. Cobb) was cut down to the case only of charities vested in private trustees. Then they went on, according to the Amendment, to take out of the clause those in which the Incumbent of the parish, even alone, was a member. All those were taken out of the clause, but in all other cases private trustees were subject to the Amendment of the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. Cobb.)
§ MR. GRIFFITH-BOSCAWEN
said, he had also cut out charities vested in the Incumbent and other private trustees, and charities vested in the minister of any other religious denomination, either alone or in conjunction with others.
§ MR. ROBY
said, that was exactly what he was endeavouring to explain. The Amendment of the hon. Member would come in after the Amendment introduced by the right hon. Gentleman opposite, which would not make very good sense. At any rate, the Amendment was badly drawn, and would not properly come in where it was proposed; and he denied altogether that a charity, which might be doing the utmost mischief, should not be brought under public control because one of the trustees was an Incumbent or a Nonconformist minister. He entirely opposed the Amendment, which he thought to be wrong, nonsensical, and utterly ungrammatical.
§ MR. J. G. TALBOT (Oxford University)
said, the last speaker had thrown down the challenge, and had told them that because some charities were abused others should not be preserved. Leaving altogether aside for a moment the interests of the Church of England, he wished to call the attention of the Committee to other Religious Bodies, and on this subject he would make a parenthetical remark. They had been schooled by the Solicitor General, but they had never heard of the Attorney General, and he wished to know if there was any significance in this? He knew that the Attorney General belonged to a community that had strong notions about religious endowments, and if the Attorney General were here he thought he would rather agree with them than with his colleagues. Another observation he would like to make, by the way, was that the Amendments upon this part of Bill were defeated by much narrower majorities than they were before, and the minorities were composed largely of Members who came from Ireland.
§ MR. J. G. TALBOT
bowed to the ruling of the Chair, but he was going to refer to ministers of other denominations. Without reference to the particular denominations of Members in the House, he might say the Roman Catholics were 875 an influential body in this country, and he would ask whether they, having founded parochial charities, were to be swept into this net? Perhaps the Solicitor General would tell him whether almshouses were parochial charities?
§ MR. J. G. TALBOT
said that, supposing an almshouse founded by Roman Catholics for the benefit of poor Roman Catholics—he was not drawing a fancy picture—was established in a parish, was it intended the Parish Council was to be allowed—nay, not merely allowed, but instructed—to put a majority of trustees on the management of that? He might pause for a reply. He cared not whether it was his own Religious Body or that of others; but if that was the measure of justice meted out to living donors, all he could say was that it was an entirely new departure from the undertaking given in the earlier stages of this Bill. Of course, they were under a difficulty in debating matter that came up upon another clause; but when they raised it upon the proper clause they would be told they should have debated it on Clause 13, and that must be their apology for all these interminable discussions. Of course, they were lengthy, but the right hon. Gentleman had brought it upon himself by departing from his original undertaking, and making this Clause 13 entirely different to what it was before. Clause 13 had become almost a new clause because of this addition of the Amendment of the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. Cobb). In fact, it was a new clause, and there could be no objection to their discussing it; and they said that to include modern donations, in which the donor had clearly defined how they were to be vested and managed, to introduce a majority of other trustees was an imposition.
§ MR. J. GRANT LAWSON (York, N.R., Thirsk)
said, he desired to move an Amendment to that of his hon. Friend— namely, to leave out the words "which is vested in private trustees" for the purpose of inserting "those dealt with in Sub-section 2, and not being vested in the Incumbent," so that the clause would read—In the case of every parochial charity other than those dealt with in Sub-section 2, and not being vested in the Incumbent of the parish, or 876 the minister or representative of any religious denomination, either solely or conjointly with other persons and.It was quite plain what was meant by the Amendment, though the terms of it had been altered in conformity with the suggestion thrown out by the Clerks at the Table. His hon. Friend meant to limit the operation of the Amendment of the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. Cobb) to private trustees—that was, where the trustees were non-official persons, for the obvious reason that where those trustees were official persons they had been dealt with already. The second part of the Amendment was where the clergyman of the parish or minister of any religious denomination happened to be the trustee, that in those cases the Amendment of the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. Cobb) was not to operate. He thought that was the plain sense and intention of the Amendment, and by adding to and altering the words as he suggested they would be able to discuss it with a better knowledge of what it meant. He begged to move the Amendment.
§ MR. GRIFFITH-BOSCAWEN
said, that as there seemed to be a confusion about his Amendment, he would ask leave to withdraw it so that the question might be disposed of in the definite form suggested by the Amendment of his hon. Friend. The confusion was caused in consequence of his having had to alter the Amendment in order not to include those that had already been dealt with.
§ MR. H. L. W. LAWSON (Gloucester, Cirencester)
On a point of Order, Sir, may I ask if it is competent for an hon. Member to move an Amendment to an Amendment to an Amendment?
Amendment proposed to the proposed Amendment,
To leave out the words, "which is vested in private trustees, "and insert "those dealt with with in Sub-section 2, and not being vested in " —(Mr. J. Grant Lawson.)
§ Question proposed "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the proposed Amendment."877
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
I think the Committee will entirely agree with you, Sir, that it is most inconvenient to have to discuss Amendments to Amendments to Amendments, and, of course, it would be equally in Order to continue that indefinitely, and there might be 20 or more of them. But there is an easy way of getting out of the difficulty. The hon. Member asked leave to withdraw the Amendment just now; under a misconception hon. Members behind the Government refused that leave. I would point out that if they continue to refuse leave, the result of the inconvenience rests with them. I would suggest, in the interests of the order of the proceedings, that the hon. Gentleman should be allowed to withdraw his Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. J. GRANT LAWSON
proposed as an Amendment to the proposed Amendment—In line 1, after the words last inserted, to insert the words " other than those dealt with in Sub-section (2), and not being vested in the incumbent of the parish, or the minister or representative of any religious denomination either solely or conjointly with other persons, or.He said, that having limited the operation of the Amendment of the hon. Member for Rugby to trusts in which the trustees were private persons, they came to a question whether that Amendment should operate on trusts where the incumbent or minister of any denomination—
§ MR. J. GRANT LAWSON
said, then he had misunderstood a gesture of the hon. Member, which he understood to be an assent to the proposition. He begged to move the Amendment.
Amendment proposed to the proposed Amendment,
In line 1, after the words last inserted, to insert the words " other than those dealt with in Sub-section (2), and not being vested in the incumbent of the parish, or the minister or representative of any religious denomination either solely or conjointly with other persons, or."— (Mr. J. Grant Lawson.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be inserted in the proposed Amendment."
§ SIR J. GORST
observed that this was a case in which it was extremely difficult for the Committee to make up its mind, in the absence of a little more light as to the future definitions of parochial charities. There was a question asked by the Member for Oxford University as to the meaning of ecclesiastical parochial charities on which he should like some information. Take a case of this kind. Suppose a charity was invested in the Rabbi of a Jewish Synagogue for the benefit of the Jewish poor of a parish, would that be a secular or an ecclesiastical trust? He was under the impression that a charity confined to members of a particular religious persuasion would be an ecclesiastical trust that would not come under the definition of a parochial charity, which meant a charity the beneficiaries of which were the inhabitants of a parish generally, not restricted to any religious denomination. If a parochial charity included a charity left to members of a particular religious persuasion, say Roman Catholics, or Jews, or other religious denomination, it was quite clear there was a very strong claim to have the minister, or incumbent, or representative of that religious denomination secured in the administration of such charity because in the case, say, of a Roman Catholic charity it would be a monstrous thing if an intensely Protestant parish were to be allowed to put a majority in the management of that charity and overrule the priests and ministers of that particular denomination. Such a procedure would be both inconvenient and unjust. He was, therefore, in a difficulty and would not know how to vote on the particular Amendment unless they received a little more light on the subject of what was a parochial charity. If the Government would let them know whether the case mentioned by the Member for Oxford University came within the definition of a parochial charity or not it might tend to shorten the discussion.
§ SIR R. TEMPLE (Surrey, Kingston)
said, the meaning of the Amendment of the hon. Member for Tunbridge was thoroughly understood by his friends near him, and also by the Member for Rugby. The object was to exempt from the 879 operation of the Amendment of the hon. Member those charities or those parochial works which were vested in the incumbent of the parish, the minister of any Religious Body, or any private trustees. There never was the slightest doubt as to the meaning of the Amendment. It was equally understood by the Opposition and by the hon. Member for Rugby. He would put this concrete case to the Minister in charge of the Bill. If he and his friends gave their lands and their money for the construction of a building for their own retainers and dependents for the purpose of holding an infant school, or Divine service on Sunday, and vested the control of the building in the minister of their own Church for purposes according to the doctrine and discipline of that Church, were they not to consider themselves wronged if the control of that trust were taken from them? He appealed to the Government whether they thought, in inflicting such an injustice as that upon them, they were likely to pass the Bill into law?
§ MR. HENEAGE (Great Grimsby)
said, they could get no information from the Government as to the definition of a parochial charity, and now they had words sprung upon them with regard to part of this sub-section. Personally he was satisfied with the clause as it stood, and with the pledges given by the President of the Local Government Board on the Second Reading, and he should not have given one vote against it, but he did think this new sub-section was a gross breach of faith on the part of the Government. He had given a pretty steady support to the Bill in most of its provisions, and he had no objection to this clause particularly, but he did object to the attempt which was now being made to swamp all existing trustees. The right hon. Member for the University of Cambridge just now brought out one of the strongest cases that had been put before the Committee—namely, the question of the Roman Catholic priests. There was no denomination which might suffer more under this clause than the Roman Catholics. He believed that Churchmen and Nonconformists would be able to take care of themselves, but he did not think Roman Catholics would be in the same position. Take the Northern Counties particularly. Donors might 880 have left trusts for the benefit of Roman Catholics, the administration of which they had placed in the hands of certain trustees. As far as he could see, the only chance of such trusts being exempted from the operation of the Bill would be if the priest was one of the trustees. But such donors did not usually leave the priests as their trustees; therefore, he did not think this proposal would in any way benefit the particular case the hon. Member for the University had brought forward. He should desire very much to relieve them from the burden of this clause; but he really did not see how this particular Amendment would help them, or indeed, anybody, in any way. Therefore, however much he might be inclined to destroy this particular subsection, he did not feel inclined to vote for the Amendment.
§ SIR J. GORST
Have the Government any objection to say whether a charity confined to members of a particular religious denomination is a parochial charity or not?
§ MR. H. H. FOWLER
I do not consider it any discourtesy to the right hon. Gentleman to resist his cross-examination across the Table. He has been very severe upon me to-night. I have stated the views of the Government as clearly as I could on this clause, and I have nothing to add.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 64; Noes 125.—(Division List, No. 366.)
§ SIR M. HICKS-BEACH
said, he desired to move, after the first word "the," in the second line of the proposed Amendment, the words —Charity Commissioners stall frame a scheme, providing that the " Parish Council, &c.He said, that so far as he was aware, without exception, when it had been thought advisable to make changes in private trusts of this kind, these changes had been made by the operation of some body like the Charity Commissioners or the Endowed Schools Commission, who were capable of dealing properly with the varying circumstances of each case, and yet were able to make these changes uniform throughout the country. They would be 881 governed in their action just as the Parish Council would be governed in their action by the concluding words of this clause, which provided that the majority of the trustees should be elective trustees. He thought it was obvious that unless some such proposal as he suggested were accepted in cases in which schemes had already been framed for the management of these trusts, the existing body of trustees which had been fixed by the Charity Commissioners and found to be a sufficient number would have to be added to by the Parish Council in order to carry out the intention of this subsection. If his words were adopted the Charity Commissioners would have power to frame a new scheme which, while carrying out the intention of the hon. Member for Rugby, would limit the number of trustees to a manageable body. Again, the question might arise as to what was an elective trustee and what was not, and matters of that kind could not be interpreted by the Parish Council alone. He ventured to suggest to the Government that it would be infinitely better for the proper working of this sub-section that the matter should be put in the hands of a body like the Charity Commissioners, who were accustomed to deal with these matters, and were responsible to Parliament for dealing with them, than that they should be left in the hands of the individual Parish Council, which might be extremely puzzled how to carry out the intention of the clause. The matter was one simply of procedure. He begged to move the Amendment.
After the first word "the" in the second line of the proposed Amendment, to insert the words "Charity Commissioners shall frame a scheme, providing that the."—(Sir M. Hicks-Beach.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be inserted in the proposed Amendment."
§ MR. H. H. FOWLER
thought that this would be introducing a complex organisation into a rather simple affair, and considering the number of charities to be dealt with it would create great interference with the work of the Charity Commission. One point which had been mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman would be worthy of consideration 882 if the House should adopt the Amendment as a whole—namely, that the Charity Commission should have some power to reduce the number of trustees, preserving the proportions. He was not aware whether, under their existing powers, the Charity Commission had the power to reduce the number of trustees, but the question would be considered, and he would confer with Sir Henry Longley on this point. He thought that if they were to accept the Amendment they would be imposing an organisation and machinery which would be very dilatory, and perhaps not very effective. As to the other point about reducing the number of trustees whilst reserving the proportions, he would inquire if that could be done in accordance with some general rule which could be laid down for the working of this clause. That was a matter that should, at all events, be considered.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ SIR F. S. POWELL
proposed, as an Amendment to the proposed Amendment, in line 2, to leave out the word "shall," and insert the word "may." He said, the object of the Amendment was to give this clause greater elasticity, and to allow the trustees a larger discretion. The Government said they trusted the Parish Council, and now he asked them to show by their adoption of this Amendment that they really had trust and confidence in them. It would be a great mischief if this discretion were not to be allowed. The trustees of any parochial charity might be perfectly content with a trust as it now existed, or they might be satisfied with a moderate extension not so wide as to alter the majority of the trust. On the other hand, those who received benefit from the trust might be perfectly satisfied and might not desire any change. He (Sir F. S. Powell) believed such was the case, and he considered it was a great hardship on a locality that it should not have the power he ventured to seek for it. The point had been made that the majority might render the trusts so large that proceedings might become inconvenient and cumber- 883 some. He did not think large bodies were the best for executive work. They did not require a large body to discharge such work. He believed it was much better that the trust should be in such a form that the trustees would be their own executive, and that they should not delegate the duty. He had no faith in discharging duties of this character by delegation, and when he was Chairman of Police and Sanitary Committee he impressed this view upon the committee, and not altogether without success. He Relieved they should have a limited executive; when they had that, we would have a concentrated responsibility. Every member of the body, in such a case, felt that he was personally responsible for the work; he rose to his task, and he did his duty, because the duty belonged to him as an individual. They knew there was an old saying that what was everybody's business was nobody's business. The work performed by a limited number was the work of each individual member of a committee or of a body, and each did his work because it was the work that was appointed him as his task and duty in life. He was of opinion that that system was highly advantageous to a trust, because it gave life and force and vitality to it, and the duties were performed in a better manner than could otherwise be done. There was one point which had been brought out by the right hon. Gentleman — namely, that the Charity Commissioners might have power to reduce the number of those committees. For his part, he ventured to say that he agreed with the principle of representation. He had proved himself to be a friend of representation in connection with the Committee of 1886, and his views had been confirmed by his personal experience as a member of the Governing Body; but he felt that, while the whole of the representation should be in a small compass, they should not have representation by one elected body, but by more than one. He would not go at length into his reasons from holding that view.
§ SIR F. S. POWELL
said, they would not divide yet. The interruption came from an hon. Member who was given to such interruptions, and who seemed to 884 think the Debates in this House were for the purpose of allowing him to make himself inarticulate in that respect. He did not wish to detain the Committee by repeating the views he had already pronounced. His object was to make the representation really representative. The clause was one of very great interest to him, as he had to deal with the subject referred to, both in private life and in other capacities.
Amendment proposed to the proposed Amendment,
In line 2, to leave out the word " shall," and insert the word " may."—(Sir. F. S. Powell.)
§ Question proposed, " That the word 'shall' stand part of the proposed Amendment."
§ Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; Committee counted, and 40 Members being found present,
§ MR. COBB
said, he was sorry he could not agree to the Amendment of the hon. Baronet. It was impossible to accept it, because it struck at the very root of the proposal which he made last night, which was that in the case of every charity which was not an ecclesiastical charity the majority of the trustees should be elective. That, as he understood it, was the principle which was accepted in the eloquent speech of the Prime Minister, and he sincerely hoped the Government would not give way, but would support him in resisting the present Amendment. He might say that if the Amendment were negatived the decision would also dispose of the principle of the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham. [Mr. E. STANHOPE: No, no.] The right hon. Gentleman opposite said "no," but the principle of the two Amendments were the same, though that of the hon. Baronet would deny any elective element whatever; whereas that of the right hon. Gentleman would allow one trustee to be elected. If the Amendments were carried it would, or, at all events, it might not only destroy the effect of his Amendment, but also of Sub-section 2 of the clause which under the operation of the Amendment would be compulsory. If Sub-section 2 and the sub-section he proposed were permissive, two things might happen. Take first a case where there were six co-optative trustees in any parish—six 885 men who had no legal right whatever to be trustees, who had been appointed simply because other trustees had died, and who had, without any consent of the Charity Commissioners, been appointed and were acting as trustees. In that case Sub-section 2 would not apply; and under his Amendment, if it were amended by the Amendment of the hon. Baronet, the Parish Council need appoint no one at all. The six co-optative trustees would remain; and under the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham, as he read it, they need only appoint one trustee. Therefore, it was obvious that the principle he was advocating, that there should be a majority of elective trustees on every parochial charity, would be entirely defeated. There was also the case of the charity where the incumbent alone was the trustee. Of course, if the Amendment of the hon. Baronet were carried, the incumbent might still be left alone; but that was not what he (Mr. Cobb) intended. He intended in the case where the incumbent was the sole trustee of a parochial non-ecclesiastical charity that the Parish Council should be compelled to elect two elective trustees so that the elective element might be in the majority, and the incumbent should not have it all his own way as he had had. But he would point out what appeared to him to be a much more serious objection to the Amendment of the hon. Baronet the Member for Wigan. The object of Sub-section 2 with regard to Overseers and Churchwardens might be absolutely nullified, and this result would ensue, or might ensue: that the people of the parish might be worse off with regard to the elective element on the trusteeship of the parish charities than they were under the existing law. Under the existing law the Vestry practically (they were subject to the veto of the Justices who, however, did not often interfere) had the appointment of the Overseers and of one Churchwarden, and thus they got three trustees in cases which arose under Sub-section 2 of the Bill. But, if the Amendment of the hon. Baronet were carried the Parish Council need only appoint one, and thus they would be worse off than they were now. The people in the parishes might lose even the small right they had now and get fewer elective trustees than at present. He need not point out that 886 that would cause great dissatisfaction. As against what he was saying it might be said—and he could quite understand it—" Why do you not trust the Parish Councils?" It would be said—" You have no right to dictate to a representative body like the Parish Council; why can you not trust them?" [Sir R. TEMPLE: Hear, hear!] "Hear, hear!" said the hon. Baronet; but hon. Members opposite said the same thing when they were fixing the hour at which the parish meeting should be held. "Why not trust the people?" was the cry. He would tell the Committee why they did not leave it to the parish meeting to appoint the hour at which it should meet; because they recognised that the people in the parish meeting when they were called in to hold up their hands to decide, for instance, whether they should not meet at half-past 11 in the morning, instead of after 6 in the evening were not entirely free agents. ["Oh, oh!"] Yes; that was so. That was the sole reason for not giving them the power, because it was felt that those who dominated the villagers might have proposed a resolution, against which the labourer would feel great difficulty in holding up his hand. He would apply the same thing to the Parish Councils to some extent. It would be said—" Why do you not trust them?" Well, he would say this, and he would be confirmed by those who knew what small agricultural villages were—what even small towns, which were enlarged villages, were—that these Parish Councils would be small bodies acting in a small area. They were not in the least like Town Councils or County Councils, and it would not be an agreeable thing for them, by their own will and without any direction, to say to the existing trustees— " We are not satisfied with you; we do not like the way you have managed the charities, and we are going to appoint a sufficient number of trustees to control your action." He had some right to speak for the people in the villages, and he was not ashamed to say that in this respect—especially at first—the Parish Councils would require strengthening. He might even say that they would require protection. [Laughter.] Hon. Members laughed, but he was going to put a case. Take the case of an agricultural village 887 where the trustees of a parochial charity were six farmers elected by co-optation. Could they expect a Parish Council, composed, say, of five labourers as bold and independent as such men could be—and it was often difficult for men in such a position to be independent at all—to act with thorough independence? He would put it in a milder form: Would it not make it easier for them to do what they knew to be their duty—namely, to appoint a majority of elective members on the Board of Trustees if they were placed in the position of being obliged to say— "Well, it is not our own individual and voluntary action; we have no choice in the matter; the Act of Parliament says we must do it?" It was in order to place the men on the Councils in this position that he had put the Amendment on the Paper. He had to see that they did what the villagers reasonably demanded. It might be said that if the villagers were so servile that they dared not, without the direction of an Act of Parliament, appoint even trustees to be a majority over six co-optative trustees they would be controlled by others in the appointments they would make, and that they would select those they did not wish to select. But in justice to both parties he must say that he did not believe this matter would be treated as a Party one. If the elective element was to be infused into these bodies of trustees he believed that whichever political Party was in the ascendancy on the Parish Council it would not appoint members of its own body exclusively. Even if the Parish Council appointed trustees against the interests, practically, of the majority of the people, he would rather have it so than that there should be no elective element at all. He always believed in the effect of public opinion. He believed that those appointed as elective trustees to whatever party they belonged would do their duty. He believed that they would be amenable to public opinion very much more if they were elective than if they were co-optative. There was another reason why the clause should be compulsory. It seemed to him that unless it was it would not have the same effect in the future on the action of the Charity Commissioners. There were many hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House who agreed with him that the action of the Charity Commissioners, 888 to put it in a mild form, was not always satisfactory; but if the Bill became law with his Amendment all future schemes of the Charity Commissioners must surely contain a provision that there should be an elective majority upon the trusteeships of all charities. That, surely, in itself would be a gain. The Charity Commissioners, in a Report they had just issued, and an extract from which he had read last night, had almost invited the House of Commons to tell them what they were to do. He asked the Committee to tell them that in future they need have no doubt or difficulty, but that in every scheme they sealed the elective element should be in the majority if the charity was not an ecclesiastical one. He trusted the Government did not mean to accept the Amendment to his proposal.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
The hon. Member for Rugby has addressed the Committee in what I may call a quasi- Ministerial position. He appears to think that because he is the author of the original Amendment it is for him to say whether or not any alteration shall be accepted. Well, of course, that is not the case. It does not matter a bit whether the hon. Member for Rugby accepts or refuses any Amendment that is proposed; what does matter is what view the Government take of the question. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board is the real arbiter and dictator in the matter, and it is to him, therefore, I appeal, and not to the hon. Member for Rugby, in reference to the Amendment just moved. At the same time, I recognise the importance of the speech to which we have just listened. It is a typical and representative speech. I cannot say that I have listened to it with surprise, but I have listened to it with deep and increasing sorrow. I understand now why it is that some of my hon. Friends are unwilling any longer to extend to me the title of Radical, because it appears that modern Radicalism consists of an endeavour to compel somebody or other to do something they do not want to do. That is the position to which the Liberal Party has reduced the liberty of the subject. What is the case now? We have been engaged in the creation of a Representative Body, which in every parish is to revivify local life, which is to have far-reaching results upon 889 the future happiness and welfare of the rural districts, which is to be substituted for everything in the nature of rural government to which we have hitherto been accustomed, and which is to be infinitely superior to it. Having got that body, having created it in the very shape and form which the hon. Member for Rugby and his friends desire, we are told by the hon. Member for Rugby that it cannot be trusted, and that it must be compelled in regard even to the minutest details of its administration to do, not what it wishes to do, but what the hon. Member for Rugby thinks that it ought to do. Well, Sir, I cannot conceive anything calculated to make more ridiculous that great historic tradition of Liberalism, which I am quite as much inclined to venerate as the hon. Member for Rugby or any of his Party. Just let us look at this matter from a practical point of view. The hon. Member for Rugby is good enough to give us an illustration of what is going to happen. He takes the case of a charity in which there are six co-optative members, and he says—
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
I think the hon. Member had better not interrupt me. Does he mean to suggest that we are to compel the 13,000 Parish Councils in England and Wales, because it may happen that one of them will do something which the hon. Member does not like? I imagine it is a general weakness; that it is probable it will take place in a vast number of cases, or else he would not ask us to compel the whole of these Councils. He suggests the six co-optative members may be at the present time managers of a trust. He says, without reason, and incorrectly, that they would have no legal status. If they had no legal status they would not be trustees.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
They would be appointed according to law and according to the terms of the trust. If they were illegally appointed there would be a legal remedy. The hon. Member, who belongs to the Legal Profession, ought to know that for every legal wrong there is a legal remedy. It is a perfectly ridiculous interposition. Why on earth, if the Parish Council 890 think that the six co-opted members happen to be the very best managers, should the Parish Council be compelled to supplant them in order to carry out some theory of the hon. Member for Rugby? He explains to us he knows a great deal about villages. I really do not know whence his knowledge of village life is derived. I should have thought he knew more about the parish of Lincoln's Inn Fields than about our rural parishes. But, granting his knowledge, I ask him what is the kind of Parish Council which he anticipates, if they found their elected members were thoroughly unsuited to the work, would not have the courage to replace them with others? Sir, if there be such a Parish Council, does the hon. Member think that his Amendment would force them to substitute for the elected members other members who would be less open to objection? What is the theory of the hon. Member? Is it that the Parish Council, after all the trouble we have taken to put political spirit and independent life into the villages, will be of such a miserable character that it will be absolutely unable to call its soul its own? There is apparently to be some person in the village of such superior influence and overpowering weight that the Parish Council will be wholly in his hands. But if that is so, will not the Parish Council be in his hands on its own nomination? How absurd it is to suppose that the Parish Council which is not independent enough to decide whether it shall elect any members at all will be independent enough to elect the right members. According to the view of the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. Cobb), the idea of the hon. Member, and I am afraid of some of his colleagues, is that everywhere in this country in the 19th century there exists a tremendous coercive action, and that against that, more than against anything else, all the legislation of Parliament ought to be directed. What is it, then, the hon. Member proposes? For this indirect coercion, which he dreads, he proposes to substitute the direct coercion of this House. He proposes to centralise all we have done, and to say, in effect, that nothing shall be settled by these Councils which we have created, but that everything shall be settled for them by the House of Commons, and 891 perhaps even against the will of the Parish Councils. Why, I never in my life listened to such reactionary observations. If popular representation is not to be trusted, what is the good of setting up these independent bodies? and what a ridiculous proposition it is that we should waste weeks and even months in the consideration of this Bill, and then be told that the Parish Councils cannot be trusted with the elementary work given to them, and that we must dictate what they are to do! Let the Committee carry that out. If they cannot be trusted to say whom they will elect upon charity trusts, in which they will have an individual and a personal concern, we ought to dictate to them in regard to every detail of parochial administration. Are we going to leave to the labourers, who are at present more or less politically uneducated, and who have not had any administrative experience, the determination of the question whether or not they will undertake for their villages a pure supply of water? Well, Sir, I do not know anything more difficult to enforce, even upon educated people, than the necessity of securing a proper supply of water. I know people who have had a university education who have shown the greatest annoyance at having a well stopped by the Sanitary Authority, because they say that they and their ancestors had drank the water for 80 years or more without feeling any ill effects from it. If that is the attitude adopted by educated people, à fortiori, it will be difficult to get these labourers to adopt measures which we believe to be necessary for the safety of life. Well, if weare not to trust them to work out their own salvation on these points, this House will have to say what these Village Councils are to do. What, then, is the beautiful result that will be obtained by the active interposition of the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. Cobb)? Why, Sir, the Parish Councils set up by this Bill would be reduced to the status of Gladstonian Members. They will be delegates, not daring, to call their souls their own. I protest against the language used by the hon. Member, and against the spirit in which he has opposed the Amendment of the hon. Baronet. There is probably no man in this House who has had a larger experience of local government than my right hon. Friend the Pre- 892 sident of the Local Government Board (Mr. H. H. Fowler). It is true that his experience, like mine, is connected with the administration of our great boroughs, but both he and I know what an educative influence popular representation has had, and how, beginning with very little things, and beginning by making very grievous mistakes, these great Municipalities have gone on and improved the character of their administration until now they deserve the admiration of all who take an interest in the subject. I am one of those who are sanguine about the result of the Parish Councils Bill. I believe you will secure in the villages the same results as have been achieved in the Municipalities if you are patient and trust your own creation; but if, as desired by the hon. Member for Rugby, you are going to put the Parish Councils into leading strings, I can only say that your Bill will not be worth the paper on which it is written.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
This attack on the Gladstonian Members. My right hon. Friend has made this discussion an opportunity of making a personal attack on the Government.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
I beg to remind the right hon. Gentleman that I never said a word about the Government. I did not know that the hon. Member for Rugby was a Member of the Government.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
I will correct my phrase, and say the Party to which the right hon. Gentleman belonged in his Radical days. He will not deny the accuracy of that definition. However, I am not going to imitate the spirit shown by the right hon. Gentleman. This is a very simple Amendment. The question is merely whether one direction is to be followed in all cases, or whether it is to be varied in different places. We think it is one of those directions which ought to be constant in all cases. We lay down the general principle that the elective element on all trusts ought to be in a majority, and we think that ought to be the universal rule, applicable in all cases. That is the whole case on this Amendment. I 893 am extremely surprised that the right hon. Gentleman, who has had some municipal experience, should be so ignorant of Municipal Law. He argued that a community could do what it liked about water, and that it would be a monstrous thing to impose a compulsory law on any community with respect to water supply. It so happens, however, that water supply is one of those things in which there is "shall" and not "may," and if I had wanted to choose an example which would have refuted his argument, it would have been the very one he himself has used. For the benefit of Birmingham I should like to call the right hon. Gentleman's attention to the 399th section of the Public Health Act, which provides that where complaint is made to the Local Government Board that the Local Authority has made default in providing a proper supply of water, and it is shown that the complaint is well founded, the Local Authority is compelled to provide such a supply, or else the Local Government Board will step in and do it. That is the right hon. Gentleman's example of what he calls leaving it to the community to decide what it should do. However, the principle on which we stand in this case is a very short, plain, and simple one. That principle is that in all cases, in the administration of these parish charities, the elective element ought to be in the majority. Holding that principle, of course we cannot accept the Amendment.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
I did not wish to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman; but I desire to make an observation on what he has just now said. I did not give the illustration of a Local Authority which complained of a water supply. What I said was that if the view of the hon. Member for Rugby were accepted it would have to be extended to a vast number of other cases, such, for instance, as that of the closing of wells, and I illustrated the difficulty of securing correct action on the part of the Local Authority in regard to closing of wells from my own experience respecting highly educated people. I said that this was a matter in which the Local Authority would be even more likely to go wrong than in the case taken by the hon. Member for Rugby, and that, therefore, if you were going to adopt the compulsory system, you would 894 have to adopt it with regard to sanitary and other provisions of the measure. Therefore, the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman about Municipal Law are altogether beside the purpose. I would also say that I did not appeal to the right hon. Gentleman. I appealed to my right hon. Friend (Mr. H. H. Fowler) in charge of the Bill, who, as I admit, knows quite as much about municipal affairs as I do myself, whereas the Chancellor of the Exchequer knows nothing at all about them. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has stated that his object in getting up—and I admit that that was a reason why he should get up rather than the President of the Local Government Board—was to lay down a principle. The object of the Chancellor of the Exchequer is always to lay down principles, and in the course of these discussions he has, I should think, laid down as many principles as would serve anyone but him for a life time. His principle on the present occasion is a very unfortunate one. It is that this is a case in which compulsion is absolutely necessary, that that is the decided opinion of the Government, and that they are absolutely wedded to it. Well then, how comes it that I read here on the Papers an Amendment in the name of the President of the Local Government Board, in which the words used are—That the Parish Council may appoint additional members.It is perfectly evident that only a few days ago the principle of the Government, as represented by the President of the Local Government Board, was to leave to the Parish Council some liberty and discretion, of which the Chancellor of the Exchequer makes it a principle now to deprive them.
§ MR. E. STANHOPE (Lincolnshire, Horncastle)
I do not know what was the object of the interposition of the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the Debate. I only know what its effect will be, because the effect of the right hon. Gentleman's interpositions during the last few days has always been to add three or four hours to a Debate. I believe that this clause could have been finished by the Committee on Tuesday last, but for the intervention of the right hon. Gentleman. I am certain that but for it we should not have had the introduction of heat into these Debates, and 895 we should have been able to discuss the question before the Committee with some chance of arriving at a reasonable compromise, which, after all, in every Bill of this sort, must be arrived at if measures are to be passed. Since the Government gave up the conduct of this portion of the Bill to the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. Cobb), they seem to me to have been going from bad to worse. The hon. Member has no faith whatever in parochial government. He does not think that Parish Councils can be trusted. I did not think that any Member of the Government would rise after the hon. Member without repudiating completely the sentiments he had put forward as being contrary to democratic feelings of which we have heard so much. Let us see how the matter stands. Here is a Parish Council elected by ballot on a popular franchise. If the electors think that their representatives are likely to be subjected to pressure surely they need not choose the men who are likely to be subjected to pressure; they can choose the men who in their opinion are most likely to promote their interests. They have the protection of the ballot, and they can choose whom they like. Is it reasonable, then, to say that you cannot trust the Parish Council?
§ MR. E. STANHOPE
The very expression now used by the hon. Member shows his distrust. He says the Parish Council will want protection. Here is a body to be elected under the protection of the ballot by popular suffrage, and he says it will want protection. The thing is too ludicrous to argue upon, and I do not propose to argue on it. You must trust these bodies, which will have been popularly elected for carrying out certain purposes. The Parish Council is not to be trusted in personal matters, but only in public matters. That is a distinction which I, for one, am hardly able to draw. Let us see how the question stands. We have to entrust the Parish Councils with certain powers, and, among others, the power of choosing persons to act on Boards of Trustees. But why should they not have liberty of action in the 896 matter? There are parishes where at the present moment the parish charities are administered to the complete satisfaction of the parish, and why is the Parish Council to be compelled not to recognise that fact? Why is it to be compelled, whether it like it or not, to ignore public sentiment, and to elect a number of trustees—whether qualified or not—to overrule the existing trustees? The thing will not bear argument. It is absolutely ridiculous, and I do not believe the Government would propose it unless compelled by their Radical supporters. I do not hesitate to say that I am prepared to stand on any platform in any agricultural district, and denounce any Government and any Member who would for a moment propose to adopt such a preposterous idea.
§ MR. STOREY (Sunderland)
said, he should like to make a practical suggestion to his hon. Friend the Member for Rugby. He would say, first of all, if the people in the parish were possessed of so miserable and mean a spirit as he would have them believe, they ought to have no Parish Council at all. But the Committee well knew that they had already got a vote, and had used it well. [An hon. MEMBER: Under the ballot.] He would ask the hon. Member for Rugby if he would gain more by having "shall" than "may?" He wondered why he considered it worth while to trouble the Government and waste the time of the Committee by insisting on the word "shall." What would be the result of the change? If the majority of a Parish Council were in favour of the views held by the hon. Member for Rugby, they would, of course, elect a majority of trustees to a charity, but if they held adverse views they would elect a majority opposed to his views. That was what would occur if the word "shall" were insisted on. But if the word "may" were substituted, they would still, if a majority of them concurred with the hon. Member, see that a majority favouring his views were elected on the Trust Body, while if the majority differed from him, they would either elect no trustees at all, or would elect a majority opposed to him. In either case, the result would be the same under these circumstances. He could not understand why his hon. Friend persisted in the Amendment. They still 897 had a long road to travel; they had many clauses to pass, and the abandonment of the Amendment which he recommended in the interests of common sense would greatly expedite the progress of the Bill by rendering unnecessary the discussion of a considerable number of other Amendments.
§ MR. JEFFREYS (Hants, Basingstoke)
said, the hon. Member for Rugby had given them a long dissertation on parish life which had very much astonished him. He had lived in a country parish all his life; he had served as a Poor Law Guardian, both elected and ex officio; he had been a Churchwarden, and he had held other offices, and he had never till that evening heard that the Vestry were overawed by certain people in the parish. He knew one thing, and that was that it was generally most difficult to secure a quorum at a Vestry meeting, and those who did attend were certainly not subjected to any overawing influence. One man was just as good as another. It was, too, most difficult to find men with leisure to undertake the duties of trustees of charities. He was connected with a very large Friendly Society for working men; and although the men took the greatest interest in it, and it numbered tens of thousands, yet in the various villages there was the greatest difficulty in getting men who would serve on the committees.
§ MR. JEFFREYS (continuing)
said, it was well managed, but it was managed by the people the hon. Member distrusted. That was a very general experience, and he was perfectly certain that though the hon. Member wished to strengthen the Governing Body of the parish charities, he would do no good by his Amendment, because it would weaken them by causing dissension between the members of the Governing Body. The hon. Member had asserted that the people were dissatisfied with the administration of charities. He was surprised to hear that. His experience was that they were not dissatisfied with the management, and it was shown by the fact that they would not take the slightest trouble to attend meetings for the election of Governors.
§ MR. JEFFREYS
said, the fact remained that they never tried, and that showed that they were not dissatisfied with things as they were. He would not object to give Parish Councils a permissive power to elect trustees to counterbalance any undue influence, but it was quite unnecessary and uncalled for to give them a compulsory one.
§ MR. LOGAN (Leicester, Harborough)
said, he wished, on behalf of the agricultural labourers whom he represented, to ask the Government to stick to the clause as it stood and to invite the majority of the Committee to impose it as a duty upon Parish Councils to elect a majority on all Boards of Managers of parochial charities. He appreciated as fully as anyone the desire that those who formed the Parish Councils should be allowed to exercise a free judgment; but he believed the time was not ripe for that. With his experience of rural life, he said that agricultural labourers through a large portion of England would be deeply grateful to the Government for the protection which this clause would afford them. The men they were seeking to benefit by the Bill, the men whom they desired to see taking a part in village life, were not to-day free men, much as they regretted the fact. The action of the Opposition showed that the Church intended to fight for the privileges she now possessed in our villages, that the parson in the village would fight like a demon to retain the patronage he now had; it was more than probable the farmer would side with him; and he said, without fear of contradiction, that the agricultural labourer who ventured to put this clause in operation, if it were a permissive one, would be a marked man. The existing grievance was no sentimental one. In a village in the Division he represented there were 36 county electors, and the charities were worth £189 a year. Of that sum £112 was devoted to maintaining almshouses. That was a charity of all others of which the Parish Council should have full control. He regretted to say that owing to the size of the place, and the purely agricultural nature of the occupations carried on, they had the very regrettable fact that the wives of large numbers of the agricultural labourers might some day, owing to 899 the munificent wages which their husbands received, be compelled to be mendicants for a place in one of the alms-houses. [Laughter.] Hon. Gentlemen opposite might laugh, but the miserable wages which they allowed the agricultural labourers compelled them to seek the shelter of almshouses.
§ THE CHAIRMAN (Sir J. GOLDSMID)
Order, order! We are not discussing the question of agricultural labourers' wages. We are discussing whether the word "may" shall be put into the Amendment instead of the word "shall."
§ MR. LOGAN
said, he admitted that the argument in favour of complete trust in the Parish Councils was at first sight a taking one, and might be entitled to weight if the Parish Councils had existed for a number of years and had given proof of their independence. But the House was only now endeavouring to lay the foundation of the future management of his own affairs by the villager, and however humiliating the admission might be to Englishmen, it could not be denied that in a great number of districts the agricultural labourer was not yet a free and independent man. Under those circumstances he believed that the Parish Councils would not, in many cases, take advantage of the clause, if it were merely permissive and not compulsory.
MR. BRYNE (Essex, Walthamstow)
said, he had listened with surprise to the argument of the hon. Gentleman. That argument was that the Parish Councils would not be composed of people sufficiently free and independent to exercise their judgment—
In a large number of cases; and that, therefore, it would be right to devolve upon those who were not able to exercise a free judgment the right of appointing from amongst their own number trustees who, as trustees, might continue to display their inability to exercise a free judgment. He did not think that an absurd argument of that kind would appeal to any section of the Committee. Let the Committee contrast the last speech and that of the President of the Local Government Board with the calm dignity of the Church of England with regard to the Bill.
said, he rose principally to express his cordial agreement with the Amendment on the ground that a hard, mechanical rule compelling the appointment of trustees was opposed to the whole theory on which the Charity Commissioners had acted, for in giving to Elective Bodies the appointment of a majority of trustees they had exercised a wise discretion in saying that in certain cases the rule should not apply. Now, in practically substituting the Parish Council for the Charity Commission—for that was what it came to—the Parish Council was to be left absolutely without discretion to consider the circumstances of the case. In one case, with a population of 500, you might have a charity of the capital value of £5,000, and in another, with a population of 5,000, the capital value of the charity might be only £500. Were they to refuse to give to the Parish Councils, to whom they had entrusted great powers, the discretion of saying that in a particular charity, according to its circumstances, a majority of the trustees should or should not be elected. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had said that this was a question of principle, and the principle which the right hon. Gentleman laid down was that they must have in all cases an arbitrary and hard-and-fast rule that there must be a majority of elected trustees upon every parochial charity. He ventured to say that that was a very false and a very wrong principle for the Government to act on. If they gave powers to these Parish Councils they must give them discretion in the use of these powers also. If the Parish Councils were fit to be trusted with the other powers this Bill would give them, they were fit to be trusted with discretion in this matter, to be exercised in perhaps 10 per cent. of the total number of cases in which it would be wrong to interfere with continuity of action by the specially fitted persons who now had the management of the charities. There was one matter on which he thought the Committee might fairly ask to be informed. The Amendment of the hon. Member for Rugby made it absolutely necessary that the Parish Council should elect the majority of the trustees. 901 Suppose they did not do so, was there any remedy? It might be said that they would have a mandamus if anyone took the trouble to put it in force. But suppose the Parish Councils refused to elect, how could legal action be taken by the trustees on behalf of the charity in any action whatever. The trustees could not take legal action under such circumstances, because their full number would not exist; and paralysis would inevitably ensue. Therefore some discretion should be given to the Parish Councils in the matter.
§ MR. JESSE COLLINGS
said, the Government had got themselves into this difficulty because it had given itself away to the extreme and doctrinaire section of a certain party. He believed that if the President of the Local Government Board had been left to himself he would have carried the Bill through on the principle of " give a little and take a little"; but the Chancellor of the Exchequer popped in from time to time, threw over the President of the Local Government Board, and then went out again. It was not right for the Chancellor of the Exchequer after being in his room for awhile, agonised by the apparition of his coming Budget, to come back to the House and throw over the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill, and then go away again. If a great loss of time had taken place within the last two days the Government and their followers must accept the blame. The Opposition were only contending for the Amendment which the President of the Local Government Board himself had put on the Paper, and that, surely, was a very reasonable Amendment. He had been amazed at the speech of the hon. Member for the Harborough Division. He hoped that speech would be widely reported in the Press. The hon. Member said he voiced the opinions of the agricultural labourers, but he could hardly believe the hon. Member voiced the opinions of the labourers when he declared that the labourers should have the power to degrade themselves; that they should be compelled to admit that they were not fit to be trusted; and that they were not free and independent men—
§ THE CHAIRMAN
I called the hon. Member to Order at that point of his 902 speech. The right hon. Gentleman, therefore, cannot pursue it.
§ MR. JESSE COLLINGS
said, he did not mean to pursue the matter further, but he thought it was worth emphasising. The hon. Member for Rugby also professed to speak for the villagers. If the hon. Member knew anything about the inner and domestic life of the labourers he would trust them a little more, and would not hold them up as such incompetent and dependent people. The hon. Member only followed in the footsteps of the hon. Member for North Beds., who had described the agricultural labourers as worse than slaves and base serfs. That he emphatically denied. The hon. Member for Rugby stated that the labourers could not be trusted because they would be made tools of by some persons in the parish whom the hon. Member declined to name, but who, no doubt, were our old friends—the parson and the squire. But this Bill gave those poor creatures, the labourers, powers for the compulsory acquisition of land belonging to the squire, or to some one else high in authority in the parish. And if the labourers could not be trusted in the matter of the election of trustees of charities, were they likely to stand up and decide on taking the squire's land by compulsion? Unless this Amendment to the sub-section of the hon. Member for Rugby were adopted the labourers would, in effect, be told that though Parish Councils had been granted to them they were not to be considered as worthy of confidence; that they were lacking in independence, and were poor, miserable creatures unworthy of any trust. It would be well if some of those hon. Members, who boasted that they voiced the opinions of the labourers, visited a village occasionally, and lived a little amongst the labourers, for then they would get to know what a very independent class the labourers were, and they would not move Amendments which, to say the least, were most insulting to the agricultural labourers of the country.
§ MR. F. S. STEVENSON (Suffolk, Eye)
said, he supported the retention of the word "shall" for reasons different from those which had been urged by his hon. Friends. He did not think that the parochial electors would be wanting in independence in voting, or that they would be unable to take care of their interests. But his reason for opposing 903 the Amendment was that by retaining the word " shall " the Committee would secure uniformity and simplicity in the arrangements. If "may" were inserted in the sub-section a greater breach of continuity would be created than if the original words were retained, because at one time the Parish Council might elect a majority of trustees, and a few years after they might change their minds and do the very opposite. There was one point to which reference had been made, but which appeared to him to be too important to be overlooked. He cited the case where there were six non-elective trustees of a charity. As the Amendment now stood the Parish Council would then have to elect seven trustees in addition, in order to secure a majority of elected trustees on the charity. This would create an unfortunate state of affairs, especially in small parishes, because there would be great difficulty in finding suitable trustees. He suggested the adoption of a later Amendment to omit the word "additional" occuring in a subsequent line of the subsection so as to some extent to meet the difficulty. He did not think that in such a case where there were six non-elected trustees in whom the people had every confidence, that the people should be compelled to elect seven additional trustees, and he hoped the Government would at the proper time give their favourable consideration to the Amendment which he had pointed out.
§ MR. RANKIN (Herefordshire, Leominster)
said, he doubted whether there would be greater unanimity under this arrangement, because parishes with a population under 200, which would have no Parish Councils, would be free to act as they liked in the matter of the election of trustees; and, again, those parishes which were urban parishes would not have the disability contained in the Amendment of the hon. Member for Rugby placed on them. It seemed to him to be a strange anomaly that the great mass of rural parishes in the country should be compelled to act in this manner, while the small parishes, with populations under 200, and the urban parishes were free to act as they liked. His experience of rural life had been much happier than the experience of the hon. Member for the Harborough Division. He did not believe that the 904 agricultural labourers or the farmers were afraid to express their opinions; but he did believe that it would be perfectly safe and wise to trust them with full liberty of decision in a matter of this kind.
§ MR. EVERETT (Suffolk, Woodbridge)
said, he supported the retention of the word "shall" in the Amendment of the hon. Member for Rugby. He had listened with remarkable interest to the animated address of the right hon. Member for West Birmingham on this matter. It had often been said that it was an edifying sight to see Satan rebuking sin; and while he listened to the right hon. Gentleman denouncing that blessed word "compulsion " his thoughts went back to the first political meeting he had attended in London after becoming a Member, and which was addressed by the right hon. Gentleman.
§ THE CHAIRMAN
I must remind the right hon. Gentleman that that is not the question before the Committee.
§ THE CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member must not discuss political meetings of long ago, which have nothing to do with this Amendment.
§ MR. EVERETT
said, he had listened with surprise to the right hon. Member for West Birmingham denouncing compulsion.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
The hon. Member of course misrepresents me. I did not denounce compulsion in the abstract. I denounced compulsion as applied to popularly-elected and Representative Bodies.
§ MR. EVERETT
said, the right hon. Gentleman had once referred to compulsion as "that blessed word ' compulsion'"; but the right hon. Gentleman seemed to think now that whether it should be regarded as a blessed word or as a word of a different character was to be decided by the object to which the compulsion was to be applied. That was no doubt right. For his part, he did not see any harm in applying compulsion in order to secure that there should be a majority of popularly-elected representatives on all those parochial charities. The Committee would only be acting in harmony with all past legislation in definitely fixing the number and origin of 905 the trustees of all parochial charities. Parliament might fitly insist that they should have on their trusts a majority of popularly-elected representatives. Compulsion in such cases should be indeed described as a blessed word. He owed his seat in the House to the votes of the agricultural labourers. He had therefore made up his mind to try to look at all questions from the point of view of the cottage rather than from the point of view of the farm-house or the mansion. He desired so to look at this question. Undoubtedly there were villages in which the labourers would feel a certain amount of cautious fear in acting in the presence of the owner of the whole parish and in the presence of the farmers who were masters over their cottages and who were their employers. While he believed that they had no worthier class of men in the country than the labourers, he thought that if the power should be made permissive only, the labourers in many places being poor, and therefore to some extent dependent, would he unwilling to vote for the addition of a majority of elected representatives to a body of trustees lest by so doing they should annoy the owner of the parish and the farmers who gave them employment. It required a great deal of moral courage to induce men to oppose persons on whom their homes and their employment depended. He had addressed many village meetings, and over and over again he had been told not to ask for a show of hands. "The people here are all right" it had been said," but if their employers are at the meeting they do not care to be put to the test of having to hold up their hands." Therefore, as he wished to place the least possible strain on the moral courage of the labourers he would support the retention of the word "shall."
§ MR. J. GRANT LAWSON
said, he desired to point out the curious circumstance that one Radical Member for Suffolk had been rebuking another Radical Member for Suffolk on this subject. The Radical Member for the Eye Division of the County had declared that the agricultural labourer was well able to take care of himself, and shortly afterwards up rose another Radical Member for the same county and said the agricultural labourers were quite incapable of looking after their own interests. Another curious thing was that hon. Members who supported 906 the retention of "shall" had not evidently taken the trouble to read the first sub-section of the clause the Committee were now discussing. They would find the word "may" in it. It laid it down that trustees "may" transfer their property to the Parish Council. Again, the right hon. Member for Rugby seemed to have imagined that the word "may" was not in the second sub-section of the clause. If the hon. Member would read the sub-section he would find the word there. He thought it very ridiculous to say that while the Parish Councils were sufficiently resolute and self-possessed to manage their own affairs, they were not sufficiently resolute and self-possessed to say whether or not they wished to exercise this power of electing a majority of representatives on the parochial charities. It was said by the hon. Member (Mr. Everett) that the labourer would not have the independence to do his duty fairly and honestly in the Parish Council—and he would not be able to hold up his hand in the presence of the farmer or the landlord. If that were so, what was the use of granting Parish Councils. He (Mr. Lawson) repudiated the suggestion, and he did not think the hon. Member would say so to the labourers themselves. Having heard the speeches of the hon. Member for Suffolk, and the hon. Member for the Harborough Division, he was really thankful that he was born in Yorkshire, where the people were not of the character these hon. Members seemed to think prevailed in their counties.
§ MR. STANLEY LEIGHTON
said, he rose to protest against the statement that the agricultural labourer was not able to do his duty towards the Parish. The agricultural labourer, he thought, might be trusted to do his duty. But they wanted some real argument as to why they should use the word "shall" instead of "may." What would be the effect under the word "shall" if it happened that the Parish Council was badly administered? This had not been suggested, so far as he had heard. The right hon. Gentleman proposed to change the trustees of charities; they were asked to make a great change in the whole system and principle upon which their parishes were governed, and that was to be done, under this sub-section, by the Parish Councils. If they were to make 907 that change he thought they should first make some inquiry. The proposal as it stood would place the whole of the elective element under one Elected Body. It was said they wanted uniformity and consistency. Yes; they wanted that if the conditions were the same; but, as they knew, each parish differed from the other, and they could not apply the same rules to all. They had not yet heard the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill on this question. He would like to hear what he had to say why they should not adopt "may" instead of "shall."
§ Mr. Luttrell (Devon, Tavistock) rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put;" but the Chairman withheld his assent, and declined then to put that Question.
§ Debate resumed.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR (Manchester, E.)
I thought the hon. Member was about to address himself to the Amendment, and I would remind him that, as the discussion will terminate shortly, time would hardly be saved by putting the Committee to the trouble of two Divisions. Well, Mr. Mellor, I understood that this was a Radical House of Commons discussing local government. I have, therefore, listened to the Debate with astonishment, because the principle which appears to animate this Radical House of Commons is an intense objection to local liberty and an intense desire for universal uniformity. These are the new animating doctrines which inspire the Radical Party when they are dealing with the extension of what they are pleased to term at other moments local liberties to rural districts. That is an astonishing condition of affairs. And how is it justified? There are two arguments—there is the cowardice argument advanced by half the Party who object to the Amendment, and there is the uniformity argument which is accepted by the Government. One of the principal exponents of the cowardice argument is the hon. Member for the Woodbridge Division of Suffolk (Mr. Everett), who has informed the Committee that he came to the House of Commons not to represent the farmhouse or the mansion, but the cottage. I confess I have always thought that the 908 business of a Member of Parliament was not to represent a class or section of his constituents, but his constituents as a whole. Speaking for myself, I would be ashamed to say that I represented the workmen only in my constituency, or the capitalists or employers only. A gentleman who says he does not represent the whole constituency, but only a section, even though that section may, perhaps, be the most important class in it, understands but half his duty. What does this hon. Member who represents but half his constituency say? He told the Committee that he had been to a large number of political meetings, and the estimate he had formed of the labourers in Suffolk was that they could not be trusted under the eye of the squire and the farmer to carry out the objects most dear to their hearts.
§ MR. EVERETT
said, he did not say that. He said that again and again he had been asked not to put men to the trial of a show of hands, as it would be unpleasant for them to have to put up their hands in the presence of the squire and the landlord or those who represented them.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I do not desire to misrepresent the right hon. Gentleman, but I confess that, after hearing the explanation, it appears to me that I have expressed his meaning with somewhat more conciseness than the hon. Gentleman himself. What it comes to is that the hon. Gentleman desires the House to compel the agricultural labourer to do that which he desires to do, but which if he were allowed the opportunity he would not dare to do, because he would be afraid to offend those from whom they took their cottages or on whom they depended for employment. That is a very poor opinion to have derived of the agricultural labourer, and I frankly confess that I do not believe that the labourer in Suffolk is so different from the labourer in other parts. I do not believe in this timidity in expressing his opinions. This is not a case of a show of hands on the part of the agricultural labourer. It is a case of the action of the Parish Council, and is the House to be told that the members of the Parish Council would be so timid that they would not carry out their own views, and the views of those who elect them? Is that the view of the hon. Member for 909 Suffolk? If so, he ought to vote against the Bill. If he and the hon. Member for Leicestershire think the agricultural labourers are not yet to be trusted, but that in 10 years they might acquire the courage of men, then, when the Bill comes on for Third Reading, they ought to move that it be read a third time this day 10 years. For my part, I think better of the agricultural labourers, and I know that in other parts of the country they are not the mere slaves which they appear to be in Suffolk, according to the hon. Gentleman. So much for the cowardice argument. Now, I come to the uniformity argument, which has been advanced by another hon. Member for Suffolk. The hon. Member for the Eye Division (Mr. F. S. Stevenson) said his whole object was to obtain uniformity. The hon. Members for Suffolk differ from one another on this subject of the courage of the labourers, for the hon. Member for the Eye Division thinks that the labourers would do what they believed to be right, and that the elected members of the Council would carry out, the wishes of their constituents; but he desires general uniformity. Does not the hon. Gentleman know that in this world people have to choose between one of two things? If they desire centralised government they can have uniformity; if they desire local self-government, they must put up with diversity? Diversity is the very life-blood of local institutions. If a man says that he was passionately attached to local self-government, and, above all things, desires to see absolute uniformity in every district of the country, I tell him that his own theories were quite inconsistent and his wishes mutually destructive. The hon. Member has said something of diversity between parish and parish. I will not argue the general question whether diversity is desirable or not. But I will put this question—What, however, could diversity do in this particular case? Suppose half the parishes in the hon. Gentleman's division decided in favour of carrying out the Amendment of the hon. Member for Rugby, and the other half did not, and took the Bill in the imperfect and futile form originally proposed by the Government, what objection could be urged against it? Would that produce any confusion of administration? Would it lead to any practical objection? Would 910 it lead to any evil that could be formulated? The hon. Member forgot to say what the application should be in such circumstances. I do not see that there would be any evil result in a county, or in a district of a county, where various parishes might come to their own decision upon these matters. Well, Sir, we still retain the old-fashioned doctrine that there is some connection between local government and liberty, and some connection between local government and diversity. I shall certainly support my hon. Friend if, as I hoped he will, he goes to a Division.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
;I do not rise to argue this question any further, though I may say that the speech we have just heard from the right hon. Gentleman might have been heard 10 years ago. I rise to suggest that the Committee might now take a Division on this Amendment, so that the Government may fulfil their pledge to report Progress in order to proceed with the Indian Loan Bill.
§ Question put, "That the word 'shall' stand part of the proposed Amendment."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 135; Noes 95.—(Division List, No. 367.)
§ Motion made, and Question, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again,"—(Mr. H. H. Fowler,)—put, and agreed to.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow.