HC Deb 21 October 1908 vol 194 cc1147-51

I beg to ask the hon. Member for the Elland Division, as representing the Charity Commissioners, whether the Charity Commissioners, in framing the scheme for the Weir Hospital Charity, assume or allege that the directions of the testator are incapable of accomplishment, namely, the establishment within the parish of Streatham of a dispensary, cottage hospital, convalescent home, or other medical charity with the two freehold properties and the large fund left by the testator for that purpose for the benefit of the inhabitants of that parish and neighbourhood; whether by the terms of the will income only is to be used for the establishment and maintenance of the charity; if so, on what grounds the Commissioners justify their proposal to appropriate £50,000 of the capital and the income of the whole residue of the trust funds to another purpose in another parish; upon what authority, statutory or otherwise, do the Charity Commissioners rely in applying for the benefit of a hospital in another parish and borough, viz., that of Battersea, a fund which was left for the expressed purpose of establishing a charity in and for the parish of Streatham, in the borough of Wandsworth, which parish has a population of 101,628 and an area of 4½ square miles.


I must premise my reply to this Question by saying that, as I am no longer responsible for the conduct of the affairs of the Charity Commission, I should not be justified in entering into any discussion on the merits of the proposed scheme of the Commission. The final form of that scheme will have to be settled apart from my opinion. It is proposed by the scheme that a dispensary and also a nurses' home should be established in the parish of Streatham in the two freehold houses left by the testator, but the Charity Commissioners were of opinion that the whole of the charity funds could not properly be applied for these two purposes. It appeared to them that after providing for these purposes some other mode ought to be found for the application of the residue of the funds whether by way of capital or income, and they considered that the best means of attaining the testator's object of benefiting Streatham and the neighbourhood is that for which provision is made by the scheme. It appears to the Commissioners that the benefits reserved for Streatham and the neighbourhood under the scheme are considerably greater than the charity funds alone could provide for.


When will the scheme be laid on the Table?


The scheme is not of a character to be laid on the Table of the House.


I beg to ask the hon. Member for the Elland Division as representing the Charity Commissioners, whether he will state the grounds upon which the Commissioners refuse to publish the Report of the public inquiry respecting the Weir Hospital Charity or communicate it to the in habitants of Streatham, who are the beneficiaries under the testator's will, and will they lay it and the evidence and correspondence before the House, or supply a copy to the Member representing the inhabitants of Streatham; and whether the Charity Commissioners have received any, and what, protests, objections, petitions, or letters against the published draft scheme.


The report made to the Commissioners by their Assistant Commissioner of what took place at the Inquiry is confidential, and it is not the practice of the Commissioners to communicate such reports in the way desired by the hon. Member. The Commissioners have received numerous objections and suggestions with regard to the published Draft Scheme, all of which will receive their careful consideration.


wanted to know what was the object of a public inquiry if the report was not to be made public.


The object is to inform the Commissioners, and not the public.

*MR. SEAVERNS (Lambeth, Brixton)

asked whether as a matter of fact the Trust did provide that the charity should be established within the parish of Streatham.


That hardly arises out of the Question I have just answered.


I beg to ask the hon. Member' for the Elland division, as representing the Charity Commissioners, whether the sum of £5,000 which was paid out of the capital of the Benjamin Weir Trust Fund to the Bolingbroke Hospital in Battersea, before any scheme had been published by the Commissioners, was made to secure two legacies from other testators, and, if so, will he state what those legacies were, by whom they were left and the conditions upon which they were bequeathed; whether the authorities of the King Edward's Hospital Fund who are alleged to have advised union with Bolingbroke Hospital knew at the time of giving that advice of the purposes for which, and the terms upon which, the testator had left his property, and of the directions which he had given for the application of the funds of the charity; and whether they never expressed any opinion that the wishes of the testator could or could not be carried out in the manner expressed in his will, and never advised that the fund was insufficient for that purpose.


The advance of £5,000 was made to secure the promised donations of £5,000 and £900 respectively of which the trustees informed the Commissioners. The authorities of King Edward's Hospital Fund were consulted only as to the best method of employing a gift of about £100,000 for the purposes of a medical charity for the benefit of Streatham and the neighbourhood. The determination of the legal questions arising in the case is a matter for which the Charity Commissioners accept responsibility.


The hon. Gentleman has not answered my Question as to whether the authorities had expressed an opinion that the terms of the will could not be carried out as provided therein?


suggested that another Question should be put down.

MR. ESSEX (Gloucestershire, Cirencester)

asked when the £5,000 was paid out.


Notice should be given of that question.