HC Deb 18 May 1900 vol 83 cc542-65
MR. GRANT LAWSON (Yorkshire, N.R., Thirsk)

I rise to move the first portion of the Instruction which stands in my name in regard to the Birmingham Schools Bill. On Tuesday last a suggestion that I should not move the Instruction was made to me openly in this House by my right hon. friend the Member for West Birmingham, and I am sure that, in speaking on this subject, the right hon. Gentleman spoke as a Member for the City of Birmingham and not in his capacity as a Minister of the Crown. Whether as Member or Minister I have great respect for his opinions, except on the question of the Charity Commission, and that is the one subject in the whole world in regard to which I claim to have greater knowledge than the right hon. Gentleman. He has filled high offices, with distinction, but I do not know that he has ever aspired to be a member of the Charity Commission. I therefore feel that I am justified in disregarding his friendly advice on this matter. If I had not taken this opportunity of moving the Instruction, I should have enabled the promoters to take advantage of their own wrong-doing, in proposing to deal by means of a Private Bill with a matter which ought to have been dealt with in a Public Bill. Such a Bill could have been drafted in one clause. It would have been sufficient to provide that, wherever, in the protection clauses of the law affecting charitable trusts the words "England and Wales" appear, we should insert the words, "but not in Birmingham." However short that Bill might have been, it would at any rate have given an opportunity for discussion—under our cautious, constitution it would have afforded many opportunities for discussion of this matter, and it would not have permitted the Bill to be rushed through.


The question whether this matter ought to be dealt with by Public or Private Bill was open to be dis- cussed on the Second Reading, and was, indeed, discussed at length by the hon. Member who inaugurated the debate. But it does not now arise, and the hon. Gentleman must confine his remarks to the Instruction.


I was merely pointing out that, as the promoters had elected to proceed by the dark and devious ways of Private Bill legislation, I could not neglect the opportunity of attacking them when they came into the open. If the House had rejected the Bill in toto on Tuesday, the result would have been that the link which exists at present between the governors of the school and the Charity Commission would have remained unbroken. But both parties desire a separation on account of incompatibility of temper. The House last Tuesday granted the separation, and gave the custody of posterity to the Board of Education. I now ask the House to consider the specific points dealt with in the clause mentioned in my Instruction, and to say under what conditions control should in future be exercised. In spite of their ingratitude, in spite of their rather surprising denunciation, the Charity Commissioners are determined to do their duty by the foundation to the very last. We do not oppose Clause 24—the clause which transfers this fractious and ungrateful child from our keeping to that of the Board of Education. We only ask this House to affirm that those who have the future control of the corpus of the capital of the foundation should have the powers which the long experience of the Charity Commission has shown to be necessary for the purposes of that control. If this Instruction is carried what will be the position? The Governors will have, under the Board of Education, precisely the same powers of dealing with their property as are given to the trustees of any charity throughout the country by the general law. They will be able to grant leases up to twenty-one years without interference. They will be able to choose their own tenants, to evict them if ever that has to be done, and to make what terms with them they may think fit. They will be able to perform all the duties of a landlord, to pay for repairs and improvements, to collect their rents, and if any surplus is left after covering all expenditure, they will be able to devote it to the proper purposes of the trust. Under the Bill as amended, so far as dealing with their income is concerned, they will not be interfered with at all. But if they exceed their income, if they find it necessary to borrow, if they endeavour to alienate for long periods the property of the foundation, if they endeavour to mortgage the rights of the future for the temporary interests of the present, then under the Bill as I propose it shall be amended power will be given to pull them up. Is there any Member of this House who will say that they ought not to be pulled up under such conditions? It is suggested that this great foundation of governors ought to be masters in their own house. I reply to that that it is not their own house—they are merely the temporary occupants in trust for futurity. It will be said that the clauses as they now stand would retain an outside body with full powers to restrain the long alienation of the trust property. If that is so, then I am satisfied, and the result of passing the Bill in its present form will be that the governors will escape from the whips of the Charity Commission to fall under the scorpions of the Board of Education. It is no use their coming whimpering to this House to complain of the action of the Board of Education. That Board is protected by Government whips, and its spokesmen sit upon the Treasury Bench. The Charity Commission, on the contrary, has to rely on the justice of its case put foward in faltering accents from the back benches—it has to rely upon the unprejudiced intelligence of this House. The promoters of this Bill have had a very watchful eye upon this state of things. They saw the scorpions, and they took precautions in these clauses that the scorpions should not sting when they bowed their proud heads. They took care when they accepted control of the Board of Education that it should not be an effective control. They were ready that the rod should remain in the cupboard, but they took charge of the keys of that cupboard. What is the effect of the clauses referred to in my Instruction? The Board of Education are not to exercise their powers to restrain improvidence unless they are called upon to do so by three of the governors, who must have been present at the meeting at which a resolution was passed to dispose of any of the estates of the foundation. I may be told that there are outside governors who would exercise an independent judgment. No doubt these gentlemen would do good work from an educational point of view, but I question very much if, when they came to deal with estate matters, they would not be met with the query, "What do you know about these things? You dwell outside Birmingham." I am prepared to adopt with regard to these gentlemen any epithet, however complimentary, which the imagination of this House could suggest, but I do say it would be very hard indeed to find three governors prepared to put themselves in the unpopular position of appellants against their colleagues. And if they did appeal, look at the delay that would ensue. Consols might fall in value in the interval, and the blame for the loss thereby caused would be put upon the Board of Education, although I doubt if any credit would be given to it should the change in the value be favourable to the endowment. I do not ask that the Board of Education should use our methods, if they can devise better ones by which they can come to a decision on a complicated tissue of facts without delay. Of course, they might give their decision first, and collect and consider the facts afterwards, but I do not believe that the Board of Education will adopt that method of satisfying the requirements of a great city like Birmingham, although, as I shall show, we are blamed for not having adopted that course. It was specifically alleged the other day that the control exercised by the Charity Commission had caused great delay in the past. Let me state the facts without comment. It is said that we took six months to settle a certain matter. What are the facts? In January, 1899, the governors of this foundation asked leave to sell some corporation rent charges. We inquired simply: "Which do you mean," for they had many such charges of different amounts created by different debentures. From January until 15th July we could not get the details which it was necessary we should have before we could fill in the schedule to the order. On the 15th July, however, the details arrived, and the order of leave to sell was signed and sealed by the 1st August. The House will see, therefore, which is the right horse to saddle with the blame for the delay. These are but smooth pebbles from the brook with which I have to arm myself for a conflict like this. I ask the indulgence of the House while I say a word or two in defence of the most capable, willing, obliging, hard-worked, and hard-working permanent officials of my Department. They perform the very thankless office of the policeman, and, like him, they have a right to ask that they should be treated with respect. The work that they have to do is put upon them by Parliament, and surely Parliament will resent anything which would hamper them in the doing of it. If anything has been said in the heat of debate which could pain these officials by reflecting upon their fearless and impartial discharge of their duties, I am sure the House will refuse to believe that it has been said with deliberate intention. Perhaps I may be allowed to give the House one instance to show the overworked condition of the Charity Commission. Three or four years ago, on a Wednesday, early in the year, I had the honour of walking up Whitehall with a Cabinet Minister, and I had the pleasure of pointing out to him that, while all the other Government offices in Whitehall were dark and deserted, and their occupants gone home to a well-earned rest, the Charity Commission was still lighted up. It was the one bright spot of activity and light in a deserted official world. Unfortunately that Cabinet Minister was not the Colonial Secretary, or else I should have been tempted then, as now, to ask him in and show him round. In conclusion, I will state briefly what is the issue on which I ask the House to divide. This is a question which has nothing in the world to do with educational powers or educational management. Although hon. Members may have some confused idea that it is an educational matter, it deals merely with proper precautions for the protection of capital meant for all time. The Board of Education say that they can protect the capital with the limitations on their powers suggested in these clauses. I propose to remove those limitations, for the reason that the Board of Education have not the knowledge of the waywardness of the governors of this great foundation which the Charity Commission have had very painful ex-experience of. The Board of Education is young and hopeful; perhaps it is overconfident in its powers. The Charity Commission is not young, but it is ex- perienced, and I would ask the House to accept the advice of the older body, and to say that the frailties of human nature which exist everywhere else may exist also in Birmingham. We at the Charity Commission know that the powers which we have should be strengthened and not weakened if the governors are to be restrained from damaging for the sake of the present the inheritance of the future. I ask the House by its vote to repudiate the doctrine which has been laid down so openly and unblushingly that we can wash our hands of the future and leave posterity to take care of itself.

* SIR F. S. POWELL (Wigan)

I second this motion, because I have had an intimate connection with some of our grammar schools since the Act of 1869 was passed, and I am able to say that to my own knowledge the Charity Commission has done good work in connection with these schools, at any rate in the West Riding of Yorkshire. When it was instituted many of those schools were in a state of weakness and discredit. They are now strong, they are an honour to our county, and they are doing great service for the cause of education. The Commission has no doubt committed errors. It may have caused annoyance by paying coo great attention to pedantic details, and by insisting upon points not worth the time and trouble involved. But that is the worst that can be said of it, and I cannot see why Birmingham, great as it is, should have special and separate legislation in this matter. I contend that these institutions ought not to be allowed to alienate their property without the sanction of some central authority, I am sure that in bygone days much property has been alienated in an unwise and most inconvenient manner. I think I may venture to compare this great institution at Birmingham with Christ's Hospital and St. Paul's School. Both of those institutions are under the jurisdiction of a central authority as regards alienation, and many of our other public schools are also under like statutory limitations. Again, our municipal corporations cannot, under the Act of 1882, alienate a single yard of land without the consent of the Treasury, while the College Estates of Oxford and Cambridge are subject to the consent of the Board of Agriculture being obtained before there can be any alienation. In the case of clerical corporations, too, the sanction of a central authority has to be obtained, and I venture to say that it is desirable, in the interests of all institutions, that there should be no power to alienate property without the consent of some central authority. That, I take it, is the real point at issue to-day.

Motion made, and Question proposed,, "That it be an Instruction to the Committee on the Birmingham (King Edward the Sixth) Schools Bill [Lords] to omit Clauses 16 and 25."—(Mr. Grant Lawson.)


My hon. friend who moved this motion has referred to me as a Member for Birmingham, and he stated truly that when I speak on a Private Bill in which my own constituency is strongly interested, I speak simply as a Member for Birmingham, and do not commit the Government of which I happen to be a member. That amount of liberty has always, I believe, been allowed even to a Cabinet Minister. My hon. friend has appealed to me to repudiate the impression which appears to have been conveyed somewhere by what I said on a previous occasion, that I intended to make a disagreeable and critical observation upon the persons composing the permanent staff of the Charity Commission. I need hardly say that, whatever I might have said, I certainly did not intend to imply any personal condemnation of those gentlemen. In everything I have said, and in everything I have to say, I deal with the institution, and not with the individuals who, either as clerks or as Commissioners, may be concerned in its administration. I am surprised that any feeling should have been aroused by the remarks I made in reply to my hon. friend, because I have always thought that a corporation such as this which I have been criticising was for physical reasons quite incapable of resenting an injury of that kind. My hon. friend will recollect, I am sure, a saying of Sydney Smith's with regard to some gentleman whom he thought to be of a generally irreverential disposition, and of whom he said that he believed he would speak disrespectfully of the equator. My hon. friend puts mo in the same category; he believes I am capable of speak- ing disrespectfully of the Charity Commission. I admit the soft impeachment. I cannot help it; my experience has been such that even if the House has not had reason to complain of its procedure, the City of Birmingham certainly has. My hon. friend said that the Charity Commission was buffeted on account of its virtues, and its great virtue was that it restrained improvidence. How does he prove that? He proves it by showing that at three o'clock in the morning the Charity Commission was burning gas when every other office was in darkness. My hon. friend has referred to the previous debate, and has stated that he now has facts with reference to the case I cited as showing the great inconvenience caused by the interference of this body with the local affairs of Birmingham. I do not know who supplied him with the facts, but I can only say that my information is entirely distinct from his. The facts, as I am told, are that in January, 1899, application was made by the governors for the sale of certain rent-charges to provide funds for the establishment of a girls' school. It was not until August that, having considered the application of the governors, the Charity Commission approved of the transaction. They then came in with a theory of their own. They said, "You are going to build a girls' school at an expense of £35,000. We will not give our authority for this transaction, of which we have approved, but we will withhold our authority until you have agreed with us that this capital expenditure of £35,000 should be provided by an annual payment of about £1,100 to be continued for thirty years." The governors protested. They said this was capital expenditure, and that to take from the annual funds of the charity £1,100 per annum would either make it necessary to delay the establishment of this great girls' school or it would seriously limit the number of children who could be taught within its walls. That discussion went on for twelve months altogether. It arose also in another case, with the de-tails of which I will not trouble the House, known as the Jamaica Road property, and in the second case the matter was settled by the City Clerk of Birmingham taking it into his own hands, telling the Charity Commissioners they had gone absolutely beyond their powers and had no right to interfere, making the sale and paying the money over to the governors. Some twelve months after that action had been taken by the City Clerk, the Commissioners, who had refused all this time to bring the matter forward in a position in which an appeal could be had to the law courts on the subject of their authority, finally agreed to a compromise, which, I think, the governors very foolishly assented to, in which they agreed to pay, not £1,100, but £160 a year as a sinking fund. In the Jamaica Road case the Commissioners raised another difficulty, which caused a great deal of correspondence and a considerable expense to the charity. That was the sale by the governors to the corporation of a very valuable property. They got from the corporation a price which was considered by the estate agent who was consulted to be a very large price, and terms which were extremely favourable to the endowment. When that was sent up, the Charity Commissioners discovered what, of course, was open knowledge, that the property sold had an unexpired lease upon it, and that it was sold subject to that unexpired lease of a few years, which to that extent reduced the value of the property. They insisted upon having a separate survey and report to know what the value of the property would have been if it had been vacant. I ask any business man in the House, could anything have been more absurd? What on earth is the value of that hypothetical knowledge? What on earth was anybody profited by spending £50 out of the funds of the charity merely to inform the Charity Commissioners what this surveyor thought would have been the value of the property if it had been in a different position to that in which it was? I do not want to attach personal blame to anybody, but this is the necessary result of allowing business matters, which ought to be dealt with by persons who are thoroughly acquainted with them, and who are absolutely responsible, to be controlled by clerks in what is equivalent to a Government Office. I have one word more to say about the system adopted by the Charity Commissioners. We have got 700 or 800 leases, some of them very small, always going up for revision. Whenever a lease falls in the following procedure has to be adopted:—The surveyor of the governors negotiates with the proposed tenant and brings up the terms provisionally agreed upon for the approval of the Estate Committee and the governors. The Estate Committee approve of the terms, and then the governors follow the Estate Committee and confirm the approval. Upon that being done the proceedings commence for the Charity Commission. The surveyor has to forward the agreement with a special report to the Charity Commissioners for consideration. In about a month or six weeks time he receives the approval, subject to any discussion which constantly takes place in the meantime as to the terms of the letting. The Charity Commission then direct the proposal to grant the lease to be advertised twice in some local paper, and notices to be affixed to the door of King Edward's School and on the town hall of the proposal, such notice to remain fourteen days. At the end of that time the certificates of such posting and advertising, together with prints of the newspapers, are sent by the law clerk to the Charity Commission, and if no objection has been received, the Commissioners write to authorise the lease to be granted, subject to their approval. The terms of the lease are then gone into as between the law clerk of the governors and the solicitor of the lessee, and the draft having been finally settled between these persons, is then sent up for the approval of the Commissioners, who, after about throe weeks or a month, return it approved for engrossment. The engrossment and draft are then forwarded to the Charity Commission, together with a certified copy made by the law clerk for the Commissioners to preserve with their papers. After three weeks or a month's time, the Commissioners return the engrossments of the lease, which can then be finally completed. That may be a very necessary stereotyped arrangement for this great public body, but it is altogether very irritating, and, above all, very costly, when it is applied to transactions which are in the hands of the elected representatives of Birmingham, people to whom this House has granted the right of dealing with a revenue of £2,000,000 a year, and yet are not allowed to deal with this endowment of £47,000 a year without being put into leading-strings by gentlemen who, whatever their qualifications as men of learning and ability, have not the qualifications of men of business. I speak on this question entirely as one of the Members for Birmingham. In what capacity does my hon. friend speak? He speaks as representing the Charity Commissioners. But what have the Charity Commissioners to do with this motion? I really think they have absolutely no locus standi, and it is a most extraordinary and unprecedented proceeding on the part of any public body to intervene as they have done. Let the House understand the state of the case. My hon. friend spoke of the virtues of the Charity Commissioners and the advantages that certain bodies had in being placed under their control. That has nothing to do with the present question. No one suggests that this great endowment should be placed any longer under the Charity Commission. The governors of King Edward's School are glad to get rid of the Charity Commission, and the Charity Commission say they are glad to get rid of us. So we are both satisfied. What mandate has my hon. friend to speak for the Board of Education, the only body with which we are now concerned? It is proposed that this endowment shall in future be placed under the Board of Education, which has been specially established by the House to deal with secondary education. The educational management and, in a limited degree, the financial administration of the endowment will in future be under the Board of Education, and if anyone has a right to complain of the terms of the Bill it is the Board of Education, not the Charity Commission, which has never been asked by the Board of Education to utter a word on the matter. The promoters of the Bill consulted with the Board of Education. They made amendments in the Bill at the suggestion of the Board of Education, and accepted every suggestion made by the Board, and I have the authority of the Board of Education for saying that they offer no opposition to the Bill. Under these circumstances will this House allow the Charity Commission— which has done with us altogether, and which has evidently a certain animus towards the governors of King Edward's School, if I may judge from the language of my hon. friend—to interfere with an arrangement approved by the Board of Education, and which is satisfactory to the people of Birmingham?

MR. J. A. PEASE (Northumberland, Tyneside)

If animus has been shown by the Charity Commissioners towards any individual, I think at any rate the House will be in a position to judge if it is not the fact that more animus has been shown by certain of the governors of this foundation against the Charity Commission. We are not concerned as to whether or not the Charity Commissioners have failed to do their duty in the past. What we have to do to-day is to decide whether the governors of certain endowed schools shall be put in a particularly favourable position as compared with the governors of other endowed schools throughout the country. I believe there are only two schools in the whole of this country— Westminster and Eton—which are not subjected to some Government control in regard to their endowments. There are seven other public schools partially under the jurisdiction of the Charity Commissioners, while still other schools are absolutely under the control of some Government Department. There are Members on this side of the House who believe it is desirable that public money should be managed by public authorities under public control, and while I feel I have sympathy with that view, I say there is a difference between capital and interest, and that where a charitable donor has given a certain amount of property for the benefit of a certain object, it is but right that that corpus should not be frittered away or wasted by the governors. Yet under this Bill they would have absolute control over it. It is on these grounds I believe that the House will be acting wisely if it supports the Instruction of the hon. Member for Thirsk in the division lobby. We are asked to allow this trust to be taken from the control of the Charity Commission and to be placed under that of the Board of Education, and we are further asked to allow that transfer to take place without getting reasonable and satisfactory assurances that these public funds shall be properly administered in the future. I say there ought to be some check upon the governors.


An idea has occurred to me which may possibly help to solve the difficulty in which the House now finds itself. I think it must be felt by many that it is very desirable that there should be some controlling authority. My right hon. friend the Member for West Birmingham objects, and possibly not unnaturally, to the idea of the Charity Commission being the controlling authority, and to their powers being transferred in toto to the Board of Education. No doubt most Members of this House are aware of the fact that in the Court of Chancery resides a jurisdiction over all charities. It is true that, by the Charitable Trusts Act, that jurisdiction has been very much limited; but I do not think that it has been entirely abolished, and it might be a solution of the difficulty if a clause were inserted in this Bill which reserved to the Court of Chancery jurisdiction over the management and disposition of this great charity, such as it has always had, and which possibly it may yet have, even in the event of this Bill being passed. There seems to be some little doubt, I believe, as to whether the clauses of this Bill do not take away the inherent jurisdiction of the Court of Chancery, and it might, therefore, be desirable to set all doubt aside by inserting in this Bill a distinct clause to the effect that nothing contained in it shall oust the jurisdiction of the Court of Chancery. I think I might give an instance which will convince hon. Members of this House of the desirability of having a supervising authority. No doubt a great majority of the House are well acquainted with the Marylebone Cricket Club. A few years ago that club desired to purchase from the Clergy Orphan Corporation a piece of land adjoining its own in order to extend its property. It will be admitted that the managers of the club are capable business men, above reproach. They entered bona fide into an arrangement with the charity to which the land belonged, to purchase it for a sum of £16,000. It became necessary to obtain the consent of the Charity Commission to the transaction. That body, for some reason, thought the amount was not sufficient, and eventually, instead of £16,000, they got no less than £40,000 for the charity. The trustees of the M.C.C., I have no doubt, intended to deal perfectly fairly by the charity, and yet they had underestimated the value of the property by more than 100 per cent. I would again suggest that a proviso be inserted in this Bill retaining the jurisdiction which the Court of Chancery has always had.


May I say, by leave of the House, that the suggestion of the Chairman of Committees comes to me as an entirely new one. I have, however, consulted the promoters of the Bill, and I am informed that it is a reasonable one, and one which they are quite willing to accept.

SIR J. SAVORY (Westmoreland, Appleby)

The hon. Baronet who seconded the Instruction alluded to the case of Christ's Hospital. As chairman of that institution—another of King Edward's great foundations — I should like to tell the House how Christ's Hospital in London has suffered through the action of the Charity Commissioners. I will not detain it at any great length, but I will give one remarkable instance. Before Christ's Hospital came under the Charity Commissioners it had an annual revenue from governors who contributed, for the purpose of presentations, ,£15,000 per annum. At the present time the revenue from governors who purchase presentations does not reach £1,000 a year, thanks to the action of the Charity Commissioners. What we feel at the present time is that with a strong and capable board of governors, every little decision which has to be come to, every little lease that has to be granted, every sale that takes place, has to be submitted to the Charity Commissioners. We are now engaged in the arrangements for the removal of Christ's Hospital to its new site at Horsham, and every variation in detail has to be submitted to the Charity Commissioners, causing enormous delay and worry, and taking the very heart out of the governing body, who are capable business men, anxious to do their utmost for the best interests of the institution. Yet they are subject in every infinitesimal decision to the control of the Charity Commissioners. I feel it my duty, as chairman of Christ's Hospital, to say this in reference to the remarks of the hon. Member for Wigan.

* MR. STEVENSON (Suffolk, Eye)

I think that the suggestion of the Chairman of Ways and Means is, on the face of it, a reasonable one, first because, in dealing with a matter of this kind, it would insure due regard to the interests of posterity, and because, on the other hand, it appears to be the wish of those who are promoting this Bill that this change should take place. At the same time, I may express my grave doubts whether a swifter procedure will be secured by exchanging the authority of the Charity Commissioners for the Court of Chancery. I very much doubt whether there will be any benefit from the change, and regret that the change should not be effected by a general operative clause, instead of a particular scheme being singled out. If the principle is good, it should have a wider application throughout the country. It ought to apply to the Manchester Grammar School. But as the House has already voted on this issue, and the promoters seem disposed to accept the suggestions which were thrown out, I can only express my gratification to the right hon. Gentleman the Colonial Secretary for his explanation that when he said that the very able officials who constitute the Charity Commission were an incompetent body, he was not desirous of casting any reflection upon their personal capacity.


By the leave of the House perhaps I may be permitted to make a remark in answer to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Chairman of Ways and Means. The right hon. Gentleman asked what our locus standi was in this matter. It is the fact that until the Bill passes we shall control it, and it is our duty to see that control is passed to the proper authority. If the Chairman of Ways and Means, a former Charity Commissioner, thinks this clause meets the case, I shall not press the Instruction; but I hope that in future years the contrast between the action of the Court of Chancery and the Charity Commission will result in a better appreciation of the latter.

* MR. HUMPHREYS - OWEN (Montgomeryshire)

thought that it was quite obvious that the House accepted the principle that there should be an impartial external control over the authorities in question, and that it should not be in the power of any person to remove it out of that control. The scheme of the re transference of the school to the Court of Chancery for that purpose was accepted by the House. He desired to know by what means that re transference ought to be carried out. He apprehended that the machinery for so doing would have to be very much altered in order to carry out such a suggestion. He thought that, having regard to the importance of the questions involved, this matter ought not to be decided by the Chairman of Ways and Means as an ordinary unopposed Private Bill, and therefore, subject to his being in order, he begged to move that the Bill be referred to a Select Committee.

MR. HOBHOUSE (Somersetshire, E.)

said that, having regard to the importance of the question, he did not consider that the matter ought to be allowed to go to a division without some authoritative statement from the Treasury benches. The right hon. Gentleman the Colonial Secretary had pointed out that he had spoken only in his capacity as Member for West Birmingham, but the House ought not to be content to hear only the voice of Birmingham on a question like this, but should require some statement as to the general policy of the Government. The House had not yet been informed what the Committee which had sat to consider the matter had reported, or what course the Government proposed to take. He pointed out that they could not deal with this single case without considering all the schools in the country. He thought the matter was a matter for inquiry by a Select Committee. The proposal of the right hon. Gentleman the Chairman of Ways and Means was to retransfer to the Court of Chancery those powers of control which had been transferred from the Court of Chancery to the Charity Commissioners fifty years previously. Whatever the Charity Commission had done, it had administered charity endowments vested in it more impartially than they were administered under the Court of Chancery. Most reformers agreed that in regard to educational endowments the administration of the Charity Commissioners was more satisfactory and more expeditious than that of the Court of Chancery in old days. He regretted that the debate had been, made the opportunity for an attack on the Commission

SIR U. KAY- SHUTTLEWORTH (Lancashire, Clitheroe)

thought the suggestion that the proposed change should be made a subject of a special inquiry was worthy of consideration. He did not think that a question of this magnitude should be dealt with by a Private Bill. It was a question affecting not only this particular school but all the schools in the country, and that being so he trusted that the Bill would not be passed without a special inquiry by a Select Committee.

* SIR JOHN BRUNNER (Cheshire, Northwich)

was also of opinion that more consideration than it was possible to give to the Bill at this sitting was desirable. In other days all the charities were under the administration of the Court of Chancery, and most hon. Members knew, either by their reading or from recollection that that administration was both obnoxious and disastrous to the country. Most hon. Members were aware that hundreds of thousands of pounds of the educational assets of the country had been lost through that administration, and he did not think that that gave much encouragement to the House to revert to that system. It seemed to him to be a mistaken policy to revert to this old system. The House of Commons was the trustee of all charities, and he thought it was their duty to see that the funds of this charity were so managed as to preclude any chance of maladministration. He was himself a governor of many charities, and he was bound to admit that in any transactions he had had with the Charity Commissioners he had always been met with the greatest kindness and courtesy, and any information he required to do his business being freely given. He hoped that the House would not deal with this matter without a special inquiry. He concluded by moving the adjournment of the debate.

MR. HEDDERWICK (Wick Burghs)

seconded the motion.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned." —(Sir John Brunner).

* MR. MACLEAN (Cardiff)

We ought to have some pronouncement from the Treasury Bench on this question. It is proposed to change the law of the land for the benefit of one particular school in Birmingham. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for the Colonies said he was speaking merely as the Member for West. Birmingham, but he could not do that. The right hon. Gentleman is a powerful Minister, and what he says is accepted as law by a large portion of the House, unless there is some opposition to it on the Treasury Bench itself. We ought to know exactly what the Government thinks upon this point. I voted for the right hon. Gentleman the other day, when I was carried away by the torrent of the right hon. Gentleman's eloquence, and the fury of his denunciation of the Charity Commissioners. But to-day the right hon. Gentleman has come down and made an apology to the Charity Commissioners, and has abandoned the line he took the other day.


Order, order! That is not relevant to the motion.


It seems to me that we are left in a strange position by the action of the right hon. Gentleman, who has thrown over what he said the other day, and proposed a new course altogether. I wonder he did not propose that the matter should be referred to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, and that a new peer should be appointed to represent Birmingham.


Order, order! I do not think these observations are in order upon the question of adjournment.


I wish to know, if possible, the exact position in which we are. It appears to be acknowledged that this is a very important principle, which is being introduced for the first time in reference to one particular school and one particular endowment. Has the suggestion made by the Chairman of Ways and Means to the effect that the Court of Chancery should be substituted for the Charity Commissioners—


Order, order! The hon. Member has spoken already, and he is not entitled to speak again.


I think the House would act very wisely by adjourning this debate. A very large and important principle is involved in this question, as to which we have had no declaration from the Ministry. I hold that the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for the Colonies has spoken very properly as the Member for West Birmingham, and not in his capacity as a member of the Cabinet. Time should be taken to consider the question.


Under an Act which has previously been passed, there-is power by Order in Council to transfer the powers of the Charity Commissioners to the Education Department. In this particular case the suggestion, on the face of it, appears to be a reasonable one; but it will form a precedent for Orders in Council which are passed in future transferring the powers of the Charity Commissioners to the Education Department— that is to say, wherever these Orders are passed there will be a reservation to the Court of Chancery of the powers formerly exercised. It is of very great importance that this question should be carefully considered, not only with reference to this particular Private Bill now before the House, but also with reference to the general principle which ought to govern the action and policy of this country in the matter.

MR. COURTNEY (Cornwall, Bodmin)

I must say that I feel that there is a very strong case for adjourning the question now under consideration. We have got into rather a tangle, and we do not quite know what is the proposed solution of this unique case. It has been suggested by the right hon. Gentleman the Chairman of Ways and Means that a clause should be put into the Bill reserving, if not reinstating, the jurisdiction of the Court of Chancery. My right hon. friend the Member for West Birmingham, after what I think must have been a very hasty consultation with his legal adviser, said they were prepared to assent to this clause. I heard that statement with amazement, because it appeared to me that the proposal was to jump out of the frying-pan into the fire. If you are discontented with the control of the Charity Commissioners you would be much more discontented with the control of the Court of Chancery. Do not let us settle that all in a hurry. When I heard the proposal made by the right hon. Gentleman the fact that it was assented to so readily filled me with amazement. I do not know how the thing is to be carried out. I think we ought to have some light thrown upon the question, and nothing would be lost by delay. If the adjournment is carried, as I hope it will be with universal consent, it will be then competent for the promoters of the Bill to consult the Chairman of Ways and Means, who has thrown out the suggestion, and they may be able to devise proper machinery for carrying out the recommendation. We shall have it put on the Paper before the question comes up again, and we shall be able to consider what we are asked to assent to; but to dismiss the matter here on the suggestion made so hastily would, it appears to me, be a very unwise course, and I do hope the House will be persuaded to consent to the adjournment.

SIR HENRY FOWLER (Wolverhampton, E.)

I think there is some misapprehension as to the suggestion of the Chairman of Ways and Means, and perhaps he will allow me to put a question. A motion for the adjournment has been proposed, and the debate has gone upon the line since then that the Chairman of Ways and Means proposed that a clause should be inserted to restore the old state of things under the Lord Chancellor, which, of course, would be to jump out of the frying pan into the fire. There is some doubt whether the Court of Chancery retains its inherent jurisdiction over the trustees as such, and it should be made perfectly clear that the twenty-two trustees of the school would be subject to the supervision of the Court of Chancery at the instance of a person entitled to appeal to it. If I were to address the House on the general question I would have some strong things to say in regard to that machinery as exercised at the present moment. If that machinery is

simply to be transferred we shall get into an even more hopeless quagmire than the Charity Commission. I wish to know whether my view is the right one or not.


The right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Wolverhampton has quite correctly stated the view I laid before the House. I am informed that it is doubtful whether the inherent jurisdiction of the Court of Chancery is or is not taken away by this Bill, and I suggested that this doubt should be removed by the insertion of a proviso which should provide that nothing in this Act should take away from the Court of Chancery its inherent jurisdiction over trustees. If that were done no elaborate machinery would be required, and certainly to restore all the ancient rigmarole was far from my thoughts.

MR. HERBERT LEWIS (Flint Boroughs)

There is just one question I should like to ask in connection with this Bill. Clause 25 proposes to give three governors power to appeal to the Board of Education. I wish to ask what becomes of the appeal of the individual. [Cries of "Order!"]

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes, 136; Noes, 169. (Division List No. 126.)

Abraham, William (Cork, N. E.) Channing, Francis Allston Haldane, Richard Burdon
Allan, William (Gateshead) Coghill, Douglas Harry Hardy, Laurence
Archdale, Edward Mervyn Colomb, Sir John C. Ready Haslett, Sir James Horner
Ashmead-Bartlett, Sir Ellis Colston, Chas. Edw. H. Athole Hayne, Rt. Hon. Charles Seale-
Ashton, Thomas Gair Commins, Andrew Healy, Timothy M. (N. Louth)
Asquith, Rt. Hon. H. Henry Courtney, Rt. Hn. Leonard H. Hemphill, Rt. Hon. Charles H.
Austin, Sir John (Yorkshire) Crombie, John William Hill, Rt. Hn. A. Staveley (Staffs)
Austin, M. (Limerick, W.) Donelan, Captain A. Hobhouse, Henry
Baird, John George Alexander Doogan, P. C. Horniman, Frederick John
Baker, Sir John Duckworth, James Howell, William Tudor
Barlow, John Emmott Dunn, Sir William Humphreys-Owen, Arthur C.
Bethell, Commander Elliot, Hon. A. Ralph Douglas Hutton, A. E. (Morley)
Birrell, Augustine Ellis, John Edward Jacoby, James Alfred
Blake, Edward Emmott, Alfred Joicey, Sir James
Bond, Edward Evans, Samuel T. (Glamorgan) Jones, D. Brynmor (Swansea)'
Boscawen, Arthur Griffith- Evans, Sir Francis H. (South'ton) Kay-Shuttleworth, Rt. Hn. Sir U.
Bowles, T. Gibson (King's Lynn) Farquharson, Dr. Robert Kinloch, Sir John Geo. Smyth
Bramsdon, Thomas Arthur Ferguson, R. C. Munro (Leith) Kitson, Sir James
Bryce, Rt. Hon. James Fergusson, Rt. Hn. Sir J. Manc'r Lawrence, W. F. (Liverpool)
Buchanan, Thomas Ryburn Fitzmaurice, Lord Edmund Lawson, John Grant (Yorks.)
Burt, Thomas Fry, Lewis Lewis, John Herbert
Caldwell, James Gladstone, Rt. Hn. Herbert John Lonsdale, John Brownlee
Cameron, Sir Charles (Glasgow) Goddard, Daniel Ford Lowther, Rt. Hn. J (Kent)
Cameron, Robert (Durham) Gray, Ernest (West Ham) Lyell, Sir Leonard
Carmichael, Sir. T. D. Gibson- Greville, Hon. Ronald Macaleese, Daniel
Carvill, Patrick Geo. Hamilton Gunter, Colonel MacDonnell, Dr. M. A. (Queens C)
Causton, Richard Knight Gurdon, Sir William Brampton Maclean, James Mackenzie
MacNeill, John Gordon Swift O'Neill, Hon. Robert Torrens Stirling-Maxwell, Sir J. M.
M'Calmont, Col. J. (Antrim, E.) Palmer, George Wm. (Reading) Talbot, Rt. Hn J G (Oxf'd, Univ.)
M'Cartan, Michael Paulton, James Mellor Tanner, Charles Kearns
M'Crae, George Pease, Joseph A. (Northumb.) Tennant, Harold John
M'Ewan, William Pickard, Benjamin Trevelyan, Charles Philips
M'Ghee, Richard Powell, Sir Francis Sharp Wallace, Robert
M'Kenna, Reginald Rasch, Major Frederic Carne Wason, Eugene
Malcolm, Ian Reckitt, Harold James Weir, James Galloway
Mather, William Redmond, John E. (Waterford) Williams, J. Carvell (Notts)-
Mellor, Rt. Hon. J. W. (Yorks) Redmond, William (Clare) Wilson, H. J. (Yorks, W. R.)
Milbank, Sir Powlett Chas. J. Renshaw, Charles Bine Wilson, John (Govan)
Montagu, Sir S. (Whitechapel) Roberts, John H. (Denbighs.) Wilson, Jos. H. (Middlesbr'gh)
Morgan, J. L. (Carmarthen) Sandon, Viscount Wortley, Rt. Hn. C. B. Stuart-
Morley, Charles (Breconshire) Schwann, Charles E. Young, Samuel (Cavan, East)
Moss, Samuel Shaw, Thomas (Hawick B.) Yoxall, James Henry
Nussey, Thomas Willans Sinclair, Capt. J. (Forfarshire)
O'Brien, James F. X. (Cork) Smith, Samuel (Flint) TELLERS FOR THE AYES —
O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny) Soames, Arthur Wellesley Sir John Brunner and Mr.
O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool) Souttar, Robinson Hedderwick.
Oldroyd, Mark Stevenson, Francis S.
Acland-Hood, Capt. Sir Alex. F. FitzGerald, Sir Robert Penrose- Maxwell, Rt. Hon. Sir H. E.
Aird, John Flannery, Sir Fortescue Meysey-Thompson, Sir H. M.
Allsopp, Hon. George Fletcher, Sir Henry Middlemore, J. Throgmorton
Arnold-Forster, Hugh O. Garfit, William Milward, Colonel Victor
Arrol, Sir William Goldsworthy, Major-General Monk, Charles James
Baldwin, Alfred Gorst, Rt. Hon. Sir J. Eldon Moore, Arthur (Londonderry)
Balfour, Rt. Hn. A. J. (Manch'r,) Goschen, Rt. Hn G J (St George's) Moore, William (Antrim, N.)
Banbury, Frederick George Goschen, George J. (Sussex) More, Robt. Jasper (Shropshire)
Barnes, Frederic Gorell Goulding, Edward Alfred Morrell, George Herbert
Barry, Rt. Hn. A. H. S.-(Hunts) Gourley, Sir E. Temperley Morton, Arthur H. A. (Deptford)
Barry, Sir Francis T. (Windsor) Graham, Henry Robert Murray, Rt. Hn A Graham(Bute)
Bartley, George C. T. Gull, Sir Cameron Murray, Charles J. (Coventry)
Beaumont, Wentworth C. B. Halsey, Thomas Frederick Murray, Col. Wyndham (Bath)
Bhownaggree, Sir M. M. Hamilton, Rt. Hon. Lord G. Myers, William Henry
Biddulph, Michael Hanbury, Rt. Hon. Robert W. Newdigate, Francis Alexander
Bill, Charles Hanson, Sir Reginald Nicol, Donald Ninian
Bolitho, Thomas Bedford Heath, James Norton, Capt. Cecil William
Bonsor, Henry Cosmo Orme Helder, Augustus O'Connor, Arthur (Donegal)
Bowles, Capt. H. F. (Middlesex) Hickman, Sir Alfred Parkes, Ebenezer
Brassey, Albert Hoare, Sir Samuel (Norwich) Penn, John
Broadhurst, Henry Houston, R. P. Perks, Robert William
Brodrick, Rt. Hon. St. John Howard, Joseph Phillpotts, Captain Arthur
Campbell, J. H. M. (Dublin) Hozier, Hon James Henry Cecil Pilkington, R. (Lancs, Newt'n)
Carlile, William Walter Hudson, George Bickersteth Plunkett, Rt. Hon. Horace C.
Cavendish, V. C. W. (Derby) Hutchinson, Capt. G. W. Grice- Pryce-Jones, Lt.-Col. Edward
Cecil, Evelyn (Hertford, East) Jackson, Rt. Hon. W. Lawies Rankin, Sir James
Cecil, Lord Hugh (Greenwich) Jebb, Richard Claverhouse Remnant, James Farquharson
Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. J. (Birm.) Jeffreys, Arthur Frederick Rentoul, James Alexander
Chaplin, Rt. Hon. Henry Jenkins, Sir John Jones Ridley, Rt. Hon. Sir M. W.
Chelsea, Viscount Johnston, William (Belfast) Ritchie, Rt. Hon. Charles T.
Coddington, Sir William Johnstone, Heywood (Sussex) Robinson, Brooke
Cohen, Benjamin Louis Kennaway, Rt. Hn. Sir J. H. Royds, Clement Molyneux
Collings, Rt. Hon. Jesse Knowles, Lees Russell, Gen. F. S. (Cheltenham)
Corbett, A. C. (Glasgow) Lafone, Alfred Samuel, Harry S. (Limehouse)
Cruddas, William Donaldson Laurie, Lieut.-General Sandys, Lieut. -Col. Thos Myles
Cubitt, Hon. Henry Lawrence, Sir E. Durning -(Corn) Savory, Sir Joseph
Curran, Thomas B. (Donegal) Leighton, Stanley Scoble, Sir Andrew Richard
Curzon, Viscount Llewelyn, Sir Dillwyn-(Sw'ns'a) Seely, Charles Hilton
Denny, Colonel Lloyd-George, David Sharpe, William Edward T.
Dickinson, Robert Edmond Lockwood, Lt.-Col. A. R. Sidebotham, J. W. (Cheshire)
Dilke, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles Loder, Gerald Walter Erskine Sinclair, Louis (Romford)
Doughty, George Long, Col. C. W. (Evesham) Smith, Abel H. (Christchurch)
Douglas, Charles M. (Lanark) Long, Rt. Hn. W. (Liverpool) Smith, J. Parker (Lanarks.)
Doxford, Sir Wm. Theodore Lowther, Rt. Hn J W (Cum'land) Stanley, Sir H. M. (Lambeth)
Drage, Geoffrey Macartney, W. G. Ellison Steadman, William Charles
Fardell, Sir T. George Macdona, John Cumming Strachey, Edward
Fellowes, Hon. Ailwyn Edw. MacIver, David (Liverpool) Strutt, Hon. Charles Hedley
Fenwick, Charles M'Iver, Sir L. (Edinburgh, W) Sullivan, Donal (Westmeath)
Finch, George H. M'Killop, James Thorburn, Sir Walter
Finlay, Sir Robert Bannatyne Maddison, Fred. Thornton, Percy M.
Fisher, William Hayes Manners, Lord Edward Wm. J Vincent, Sir Edgar (Exeter)
Walrond, Rt. Hon. Sir W. H. Wills, Sir William Henry Wyvill, Marmaduke D'Arcy
Walton, Joseph (Barnsley) Wilson, J. W.(Worcestersh, N.) Younger, William
Wanklyn, James Leslie Wilson-Todd, Wm. H. (Yorks.)
Welby, Lt- Col A. C. E. (Taunt'n) Wolff, Gustav Wilhelm TELLERS FOR THE NOES—
Welby, Sir Chas. G. E. (Notts) Wrightson, Thomas Mr. Austen Chamberlain
Whitmore, Charles Algernon Wylle, Alexander and Mr. Lowe.
Williams, Jos. Powell- (Birm.) Wyndham, George

Resolution agreed to.

Original Question again proposed.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

  2. c565