HC Deb 22 March 1898 vol 55 cc617-23
MR. E. STRACHEY (Somerset, E.)

moved— That in the opinion of this House it is desirable that parochial charities, not being ecclesiastical charities, should be under the control of the parish council or parish meeting where there is no parish council. He said: By the Local Government Act of 1894 popularly elected bodies were set up in every parish in the country, and during last Parliament those of us sitting below the Gangway attempted to introduce into the Local Government Bill a provision whereby every parish meeting had the control of its own parochial charities. I think, Mr. Speaker, that the essential plan is this—to declare by this House that the time has come for handing over parochial charities to popularly-elected bodies such as parish councils. Therefore I beg to move the Resolution standing in my name.

*MR. C. J. MONK (Gloucester)

I was under the impression that by the Local Government Act of 1894 all parochial charities not of an ecclesiastical nature were placed under the control of parish councils. [A VOICE: "No, no."] Well, I speak from some little experience.

An Hon. MEMBER called attention to the fact that there were not 10 Members present. The House was counted, and Mr. SPEAKER announced that there were 40 Members present.


I think this Resolution ought not to be adopted without some explanation. I was saying that the charities, which were partly ecclesiastical and partly non-ecclesiastical, have been separated under the Local Government Act, of 1891. I am aware of charities which are partly ecclesiastical and partly non-ecclesiastical. The Charity Commissioners are empowered under that Act to declare what part is ecclesiastical, and that part is left under the control of the ecclesiastical authorities. The non-ecclesiastical half of the charities, on the other hand, is placed under the control of the parish council. I have known instances in which it has been done. Therefore I am at a loss to understand the grounds of this Resolution. If I am wrong in my contention I hope the hon. Gentleman will explain in what way. Of course, it is most desirable that all non ecclesiastical charities should be under the supervision of the parish council. It has been done in many instances, and certainly in one instance with which I have been concerned, the parish council of which I am chairman appointed new trustees for the non-ecclesiastical part of the charities which have been separated in the way I have mentioned without any ill-feeling, or any strain on the part of the original trust. I rise simply for the purpose of asking the hon. Member to explain the grounds on which he has brought forward this Resolution.


The subject of my hon. Friend's Motion is one not only of great importance, but of considerable legal difficulty, though I, as a Scotch Member, do not propose to embark on the discussion at all. But I wish to point out that up to the present moment not a single representative of the Executive Council has been present in the House to hear the arguments of my hon. Friend or to take the responsibility of the deliberations of this House. I have never known, in all my experience of this House, such a state of affairs. I do not think it is treating the House fairly that the Government should abdicate its functions as it has done to-night. A great deal has been said about this being a Session of counts-out, but what is less creditable than counts-out this Session is the inattention of the Government of the day to its responsibilities in all matters of discussion brought before this House by private Members. Not only does the Government not keep a House, but, apparently, it prevents a House being kept; and when, in spite of its efforts, a House is kept, there is nobody present on the Ministerial Bench to tell us what the opinion of the Government is of any question brought before the House, or to give the House that guidance it is entitled to demand from the Government. I think it is a most extra-ordinary state of things, and I feel justified in calling attention to it.

MR. A. CROSS (Glasgow, Camlachie)

I must concur with the remarks which have fallen from the right hon. Gentleman in respect of the fact that there is no Member of the Government on the other side of the House. I do not, however, blame the Government for this state of affairs so much as those Members who stand in considerable numbers outside the door and will not take their places. It is private Members who are abdicating their functions by taking such a slow interest in the business of the day. I do not want to press the point, but I must express my regret that subjects of such, great importance find so little response from the private Members of the House as to induce them to remain on the threshold of the House and allow for the peril of a count-out. I agree with the expression of regret that has been made.


I think a point has been treated by the last two speakers, apart from the subject before the House, which is no doubt of some interest, I can understand anyone who was a Member of this House in 1893 or 1894 not being desirous of resuming a discussion on the subject. It was discussed in this House and in another place on no less than 26 nights in 1893–94; it was discussed here, there, and everywhere. The question before the House is whether the charities should be handed over to the control of the parish councils. Exactly the same question was before the House in 1893, and after innumerable Amendments were proposed and accepted, or rejected, the House came to the decision that the question should be left as it now stands in Clause 14 of the Parish Councils Act. That clause is administered by the Charity Commissioners, of whom I am one; and I am here to say in the name of the Commissioners that the clause is causing no dissatisfaction. We have no serious complaints from the parish councils; we get on admirably with them. It is not the parish councils—judging, at any rate, by letters addressed to our office—which have compelled my hon. Friend to raise this Motion. What arguments the hon. Member used in support of his Motion I cannot say, because, although an hon. Member brought me word that the hon. Gentleman had risen, he had finished his speech before I reached the House, and I should fancy his argument did not extend over the space of 60 seconds. I came into the House as another hon. Member was seconding the Motion by simply moving his hat. That was all the argument. The fact as regards two-thirds of these parish charities is that where the testator has nominated churchwardens and overseers as trustees parish councils have substituted nominees of their own. In the case of two-thirds of the parochial charities the parish councils have already control; and what is this one-third to which this Motion is addressed? These are cases in which the pious founder did not put any representative persons on the body of trustees as he created them. It might have been argued that the pious founder not having left the administration of the trust to representative persons, we should not come in at this time and say that representative persons should be put on that board. That might have been argued in 1893, but not now, because by the deliberate action of this House, where there is no representative trustee, the parish councils are allowed to appoint representative trustees, but not to exceed the number allowed by the Charity Commissioners. We take all the circumstances of the case into consideration. It is impossible in all cases to appoint a majority large enough to swamp the present trustees. Why should we take off the present trustees; why wipe them off the trust? In some cases there are 12, 13, or 14 trustees for a small local charity of £5 or £6 a year. Are we to say to the parish council that they must have 13 more, so as to have 25 trustees for a matter of £5 or £6 a year? This question has been considered by two Committees of this House—one in 1884 and one in 1886—and neither decided how many representative trustees it was desirable to put on these trusts. I am uncertain whether the argument of my hon. Friend has been that the parish council should be allowed to put on a majority of representatives. There is another possible suggestion. It may be suggested that the trust should be handed over as a whole to the parish council. That, Sir, is a suggestion that cannot be met with any favour at all. To hand a charity over to a corporation would be going back upon what has been

the policy of the House during the present century. A corporation lacks a certain aptitude for the work; its members have not the same sense of personal responsibility. I should like to read to the House the opinion of one whose name will be received with respect on the other side of the House. This is what Mr. Gladstone says in the year 1893— The arguments in support of the Motion do not require to be dwelt upon at any length. We object to the proposed transfer to the parish councils for various reasons, one of which is that parish councils are fluctuating bodies, and are not, therefore, well adapted to carry out a permanent purpose. But another and much stronger reason is that they are under no personal liability for the misuse of the funds. These, we think, are conclusive objections, and we are obliged on that account to resist the Motion. Well, now, Sir, I think I have shown the House one or two reasons why this Motion should not be accepted. The present system, laid down after careful discussion so recently as December, 1893, is working well, is not causing irritation; in the country, and, I have no doubt, will be maintained.

The House divided:—Ayes 65; Noes 128.

Abraham, Wm. (Cork, N. E.) Hayne, Rt. Hon. Chas. Seale- Randell, David
Allan, William (Gateshead) Healy, Maurice (Cork) Reid, Sir Robert T.
Allen, Wm. (Newc-under-L.) Healy, Timothy M. (N. Louth) Roberts, Jno. H. (Denbighs.)
Asher, Alexander Hemphill, Rt. Hon. Chas. H. Shaw, Thomas (Hawick B.)
Ashton, Thomas Gair Holburn, J. G. Spicer, Albert
Balfour, Rt. Hn. J. Blair (Clackm.) Holden, Sir Angus Sullivan, Donald (Westmeath)
Brigg, John Jordan, Jeremiah Sullivan, T. D. (Donegal, W.)
Brunner, Sir John Tomlinson Kilbride, Denis Tennant, Harold John
Caldwell, James Kinloch, Sir Jno. Geo. Smyth Thomas, Alf. (Glamorgan, E.)
Commins, Andrew Knox, Edmund Francis Vesey Wedderburn, Sir William
Curran, Thomas (Sligo, S.) Lambert, George Whittaker, Thomas Palmer
Daly, James Logan, John William Williams, Jno. Carvell (Notts)
Dalziel, James Henry Macaleese, Daniel Wills, Sir William Henry
Davies, M. Vaughan- (Cardigan) M'Ewan, William Wilson, John Durham, Mid)
Dilke, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles M'Ghee, Richard Wilson, John (Govan)
Doogan, P. C. M'Leod, John Wilson, Jos. H. (Middl'sbrough)
Ellis, Thos. Ed (Merionethsh.) Mappin, Sir Frederick Thorpe Woodhouse, Sir JT. (Hud'rsf'ld.)
Farrell, Jas. P. (Cavan, W.) Montagu, Sir S. (Whitechapel) Woods, Samuel
Flavin, Michael Joseph Morgan, J. Llovd (Carmarthen) Yoxall, James Henry
Flynn, James Christopher O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)
Hammond, John (Carlow) O'Kelly, James TELLERS FOR THE AYES—
Harcourt, Rt. Hon. Sir Wm. Oldrovd, Mark Mr. Strachey and Mr. Barlow.
Harwood, George Parnell, John Howard
Arrol, Sir William Banbury, Frederick George Bond, Edward
Ashmead-Bartlett, Sir Ellis Bartley, G. C. T. Brassey, Albert
Atkinson, Rt. Hon. John Barton, Dunbar Plunket Brodrick, Rt. Hon. St. John
Bagot, Capt. J. FitzRoy Bathurst, Hon. Allen Benj. Brookfield, A Montagu
Bailey, James (Walworth) Beach, Rt. Hn. Sir M. H. (Brist'l) Bullard, Sir Harry
Baillie, Jas. E. B. (Inverness) Begg, Ferdinand Faithful Cavendish, R. F. (N. Lanes.)
Baird, John Geo. Alexander Bentinck, Lord Henry C. Cayzer, Sir Charles William
Balfour, Rt. Hn. A. J. (Manch'r) Bhownaggree, Sir M. M. Chaloner, Captain R. G. W.
Balfour, Rt. Hn. Grld W. (Leeds) Blundell, Colonel Henry Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. J. (Birm.)
Chamberlain, J. Austen (Worc.) Hall, Sir Charles Nicol, Donald Ninian
Chaplin, Rt. Hon. Henry Hanbury, Rt. Hn. Robt. Wm. Purvis, Robert
Coghill, Douglas Harry Hanson, Sir Reginald Richardson, Sir Thos. (Hartlpl.)
Collings, Rt. Hon. Jesse Hare, Thomas Leigh Ridley, Rt. Hn. Sir Matthew W.
Cotton-Jodrell, Col. Ed. T. D. Heath, James Robertson, Herbert (Hackney)
Cox, Robert Hill, Rt. Hn. LordArth. (Down) Royds, Clement Molyneux
Cross, Alexander (Glasgow) Hill, Sir Ed. Stock (Bristol) Russell, T. W. (Tyrone)
Cruddas, William Donaldson Howard, Joseph Rutherford, John
Curzon, Rt. Hn. G. N. (Lanc S. W.) Hutton, John (Yorks., N. R.) Savory, Sir Joseph
Dickson-Poynder, Sir John P. Jenkins, Sir John Jones Sidebotham, J. W. (Cheshire)
Dixon-Hartland, Sir Fred Dixon Lawrence, Sir Ed. (Cornwall) Sidebottom, Wm. (Derbysh.)
Dorington, Sir John Edward Lawrence, Wm. F. (Liverp'l.) Smith, Abel H. (Christchurch)
Drucker, A. Lawson, John Grant (Yorks.) Smith, Jas. Parker (Lanarks.)
Duncombe, Hon. Hubert V. Llewelyn, Sir Dillwyn- (Swnsea) Smith, Hon. W. F. D. (Strand)
Finch, George H. Loder, Gerald Walter Erskine Stephens, Henry Charles
Finlay, Sir Robert Bannatyne Loyd, Archie Kirkman Stone, Sir Benjamin
Fisher, William Hayes Lubbock, Rt. Hon. Sir John Strutt, Hon. Charles Hedley
FitzGerald, Sir R. U. Penrose Lyttelton, Hon. Alfred Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)
Flannery, Fortescue Macdona, John Cumming Thorburn, Walter
Fletcher, Sir Henry Maclure, Sir John William Tomlinson, Wm. Ed. Murray
Flower, Ernest M'Arthur, Chas. (Liverpool) Wanklyn, James Leslie
Forster, Henry William M'Killop, James Warr, Augustus Frederick
Forwood, Rt. Hn. Sir Arthur B. Maple, Sir John Blundell Welby, Lieut.-Col. A. C. E.
Fry, Lewis Martin, Richard Biddulph Wharton, Rt. Hon. Jno. Lloyd
Garfit, William Massey-Mainwaring, Hn. W. F. Whiteley, George (Stockport)
Gedge, Sydney Milward, Colonel Victor Whitmore, Charles Algernon
Gibbons, J. Lloyd Monckton, Edward Philip Williams, Colonel R. (Dorset)
Godson, Augustus Frederick Monk, Charles James Williams, Jos. Powell- (Birm.)
Goldsworthy, Major-General Montagu, Hon. J. Scott (Hants.) Wortley, Rt. Hn. C. B. Stuart-
More, Robert Jasper Wylie, Alexander
Gordon, Hon. John Edward Morrell, George Herbert Wyndham-Quin, Major W. H.
Gorst, Rt. Hn. Sir John Eldon Murray, Rt. Hn. A. Grhm (Bute)
Goschen, George J. (Sussex) Murray, Charles J. (Coventry) TELLERS FOR THE NOES—
Gray, Ernest (West Ham) Myers, William Henry Sir William Walrond and
Greville, Captain Nicholson, William Graham Mr. Anstruther.

Bill read a second time.