HC Deb 10 June 1910 vol 17 cc989-1007

Paragraph 36.—(Qualifications of Alms-people and Pensioners.)—The almspeople and pensioners shall be poor persons of good character, who have resided in the city and county of the city of Norwich for not less than four years next preceding the time of their appointment, and who from age, ill-health, accident, or infirmity, are wholly or in part unable to maintain themselves by their own exertions.


moved to add at the end of the paragraph the words: "Provided that no person shall be disqualified on account of receipt of Poor Law relief, notwithstanding any rule of law laid down by the High Court of Chancery to the contrary."

Before I proceed with my proposal, I wish to explain why I have been compelled to put down this Amendment. An Amendment was carried in Committee omitting the words "who have not during two years before appointment received Poor Law relief other than medical relief." It might seem strange that after that Amendment I should seek to move the words on the Paper. I am given to understand, however, that in spite of the omission of those words in Section 36 and elsewhere, the position is practically as it was, and that the Charity Commissioners, in considering applications for benefit under this and analogous schemes, are compelled to rule out anybody who has received Poor Law relief. That is limited in some cases to a year from the date of application. If that is the position, such cases as those to which I refer cannot possibly be considered unless words such as those I propose are included in the Bill.


Does the hon. Member move the Amendment as it stands on the Paper or in another form?


It was suggested that I should slightly alter the Amendment, but I have not heard whether that would meet the views of the Charity Commissioners or not. The present position was very clearly defined by the hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Allen), in answer to a question in reference to another scheme. The operative part of that question was— 'whether he is aware that the Return of Endowed Charities (County of Wilts), made by order of the House of Commons on 9th August, 1901, and which was ordered by the House to be printed on 20th February, 1905, contains the provisions of the scheme of 1891, which was in force prior to that which has recently been submitted to a meeting of the ratepayers of the ancient parish of Lavington, and to which they take exception, and that the receipt of Poor Law relief is not made a disqualification in the scheme of 1891, and that it does not appear that there was any such disqualification in the bequest under Alderman Dauntsey's will. The answer was:— The scheme of 1891 was made under the Endowed Schools Acts, and did not affect the qualification of almspeople as prescribed in Alderman Dauntsey's will, which did not expressly disqualify persons in receipt of Poor Law relief. It has already been explained, however, that a rule of law laid down by the Court of Chancery disqualifies such persons, and that therefore the Commissioners consider that they would not be justified in removing the disqualifying provision from the new scheme. The rule can only be altered by legislation, as to the possibility of which I must refer the hon. Member to the Prime Minister. That is rather expanded in a reply given on the same subject by the Charity Commissioners to a gentleman who asked for information with regard to this scheme. In that letter the following passage occurs:— I am also to refer to the case of Attorney-General v. Leaze, reported in W.N. (1881) 167, and "The Times" of December 13th. 1881, following a series of decisions dated from 1744 onwards. That decision is one by Mr. Justice Kay and refers to a dispute about the parish of St. Luke's, Oripplegate. Referring to moneys left in trust for the poor, he said:— Such a trust it was well settled, was for such of the poor only as did not receive parish relief; that is, for those who took no part of the poor rate. That seems perfectly clear. Therefore, although the position is very different from what it was in 1881 with regard to the relation between charitable bequests and Poor Law relief, there now being another great agency for the relief of old age, namely, old age pensions, the Charity Commissioners are sheltering themselves behind a decision of the High Court of Chancery, which stands behind the dead and gone benefactors and the very people who in many cases most need these benefactions. I do not mean to imply that there is anything underhanded in the action of the Charity Commissioners. I am given to understand that they would be very glad to be free of the obligation imposed by this decision. In the case of the charity in Wilts to which I referred, Alderman Dauntsey's will was 400 years old. The money was left 300 years before any modern Poor Law was thought of, yet we have a decision that people who have been in receipt of any relief from the Poor Law are not to benefit under that will.

Turning to the Bill now under consideration, I find in the Schedule bequests dated 1558 and 1584, while there are quite a number in the seventeenth century and still more in the eighteenth century. Yet money left for the benefit of the poor under those bequests is entirely prevented from being used to any extent for the benefit of persons who have received any relief from the Poor Law. I do not think we can possibly do justice to this question or consider it properly without some reference to the present Old Age Pensions Act. That Act was not in existence when these Chancery decisions were given. I think I will be justified in referring to the fact that only the other day, on 8th April, the Prime Minister in this House, in the Debate which took place on the Prevention of Destitution Bill, referred in a somewhat pointed manner to the effect of the Old Age Pensions Act. Perhaps I may give the House the actual words of the Prime Minister:— Old Age Pensions enormously mitigate, if they have not completely transformed the problem so far as it relates to old age. That large provision which both parties are now absolutely agreed ought to be maintained, and, indeed, developed it must be by the removal of the Poor Law disqualification, has, at any rate, if not solved, gone some way towards removing one of the most dangerous, if not one of the most urgent aspects of the case. Therefore I hold, at any rate it seems to me to be quite out of the question, that we should allow ourselves to fasten a scheme of this kind—to be tied up, so to speak, by the decisions of a court of law at a time when this Old Age Pensions Act did not exist. It seems to me a strange thing that poverty, which is to be in 1910 no bar whatever to the receipt of an old age pension, shall be an absolute bar to a participation in this scheme which provides for not only pensions, but for that which is even more essential in many cases, lodgings. I made a reference just now to what the hon. Gentleman the Member for Stroud said when it was proposed by the Charity Commissioners, or by him on behalf of the Charity Commissioners, that I should slightly modify the form in which I have placed this Amendment on the Paper, and that if I do so it will meet their views. The suggested alteration is: "that provided that no person shall be disqualified on account of having received Poor Law relief prior to the time of his appointment, notwithstanding any rule of law laid down by the High Court of Chancery to the contrary."

So far as I am concerned, I am quite willing to accept that modification, because the only difference it makes relates to Clause 45 of this Bill, which provides that, "if people after having been appointed to an almshouse shall then"—possibly by some subterranean manner—"manage to get hold of Poor Law relief in addition to what they are receiving in the way of an old age pension from these charities that they shall be held to be disqualified." In putting that Amendment upon the Paper I noticed this Clause; but I did not propose any Amendment to that because I was satisfied, speaking roughly, that a man ought not to attempt to run with the hare and hunt with the hounds. If he is accepting charity from the Charity Commissioners, or other charity existing in Norwich, he would, I felt, not care to try in a subterranean manner to get something out of the rates in addition. It does seem to me, however, that there should not be an absolute point of disqualification to an applicant who in every other respect may be perfectly suitable as a recipient of this charity simply because he is receiving Poor Law relief.

Before I absolutely conclude my remarks I should just like to look at the question from the other point of view. I am quite aware that there are arguments to be put forward on the other side, and I should like if possible to anticipate at least one or two of them. It may be said that if we are to allow people to get the benefit of this charity and other similar schemes—in which I am perhaps more directly interested myself—it may be used to relieve the ratepayers, and that that was never the intention, and is not the intention, under this scheme or any law as it exists to-day, and interpreted by the Court of Chancery. Section 52 of this Second Schedule expressly prohibits it, and Section 45, which I have already referred to, and which I have no objection to whatever, says: "That any pensioner who receives Poor Law relief shall be removed from the almshouses altogether."

That being so, I think that this question of these charities being used as a relief to the ratepayers is fairly well safeguarded. In addition, I think that now we have the Old Age Pensions Act it is impossible to draw the absolutely hard and fast lines that used to be drawn: "that you can have either Poor Law relief or something from the charity, which you like, but you cannot have both." That appears to have been the old principle. It seems to be perfectly obvious that all agencies that provide for the old age of the poor must loosen to some extent their rules on this point. You cannot draw any I hard and fast lines, and I think that the preponderance of advantage is very strongly in favour of giving the Charity Commissioners a certain amount of latitude as to whom they accept as pensioners in these cases. I personally should be perfectly satisfied to leave it to them to say whether or not a man or a woman who seeks poor relief has made any effort to provide for bad times himself, or whether, on the other hand, their poverty is due to misfortune at the very eleventh hour. In that connection I think we are well safeguarded, because this same Section 36 of the Second Schedule provides the test of good character, of long residence, etc., in the city of Norwich. Besides that it provides that ill-health, accident, or infirmity, rendering people wholly or in part unable to maintain themselves by their own assertions, are qualifications. The circumstances must be well known to the Commissioners who decide these cases, for the applicants must be resident in Norwich and be people of good character. They have to answer all these tests. In such a case I wish to absolutely free the hands of the Charity Commissioners, and let them say that this acceptance of poor relief has been due to misfortune, to a bad chance, and is not due to any fault of the person who applies, and therefore he is none the less qualified to receive the benefits of the charity. I may be also told in passing that if the House passes this Amendment we shall be altering the law in respect to this one particular scheme. I admit that that is so; it is a valid objection, but my answer is that I have already thrown out more than one suggestion that perhaps the law might be altered in respect, not only of this scheme, but all similar schemes, that may now be portion of the other dozen that the hon. Member for Stroud may have to present to the House. In a supplementary question on the same day, 11th April, I asked the hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. C. P. Allen) whether, in view of the Prime Minister's declaration that both parties are agreed on the removal of the Poor Law disqualification for old age pensions, he would use his influence with the Prime Minister to facilitate the passage of a short Bill to enable the Charity Commissioners to remove the Poor Law disqualification from this and other schemes for the administration of charity. The reply was that the hon. Member's influence with the Prime Minister would be small. I am afraid mine would be absolutely smaller, and therefore, as the Noble Lord the Member for Oxford (Lord Hugh Cecil) said just now in connection with another Bill, we must make a beginning somewhere. I desire to make a beginning on this the very first scheme of the Charity Commissioners that has come before the House since I had the honour of becoming a Member of it. I cannot influence any legislation that might be of a more general character, but there seems to me to be nothing incongruous in advocating probably a small instalment of justice to the very poorest people in removing this Poor Law disqualification in respect to the Norwich charity—a disqualification that we are assured on the authority of the Prime Minister will be removed in connection with old age pensions in the coming year. If I may be allowed to alter my Amendment by the addition of the few words I have just read, it will be acceptable, I think, to the Charity Commissioners, and I should be very glad to be allowed to move it in the altered form, which is: "Provided that no person shall be disqualified on account of having received Poor Law relief prior to the time of his appointment, notwithstanding any rule or law laid down by the High Courts of Justice to the contrary."


I ask the attention of the hon. Member while I point out to him I am afraid the Amendment at this stage would be worth nothing. Perhaps he will kindly follow me. If he looks at Clause 1 of the Bill he will see "The said scheme is hereby confirmed." What is the "said scheme"? The said scheme is the scheme referred to at the commencement, in the preamble, "Whereas the Charity Commissioners for England and Wales, in their report to His Majesty of their proceedings during the year one thousand nine hundred and nine, have reported that they have approved a scheme." That is the scheme which, under Clause 1, is confirmed, not the scheme with the addition which the hon. Member proposes. Therefore if the hon. Member were to add his Amendment it would be null and void, because it would not be confirmed by Parliament. The scheme confirmed by Parliament would be the scheme that passed the Charity Commissioners. Therefore the addition he proposes to make would be valueless. What I suggest to him is that in Clause 1, after the word "scheme," he should insert the words "as amended." Then the Clause would read: "The said scheme, as amended, is hereby confirmed," and if the House will agree to the Amendment, then, of course, when we reach page 19, line 41—(the end of paragraph 36)—the hon. Member can add the words. I will put the question in that form.

Motion made, and Question proposed, after the word "scheme" to insert the words "as amended."


I beg to second the Amendment.


I intended to accept the Amendment of the hon. Member. I did not quite like it at first, as it opened up a large number of possibilities, but I accept it now.


Now I will put the hon. Member's Amendment to the Second Schedule.

Motion made and Question proposed, that at the end of paragraph 36 the following words be inserted, "That no person shall be disqualified on account of having received Poor Law relief prior to the time of his appointment, notwithstanding any rule of law laid down by the High Court of Justice."

Amendment agreed to.


I beg to move to leave out paragraph 55 of the Schedule:—

55. (Questions under Scheme.)—Any question as to the construction of this Scheme, or as to the regularity or the validity of any acts done or about to be done under this Scheme, shall be determined conclusively by the Charity Commissioners, upon such application made to them for the purpose as they think sufficient.

I am quite prepared to acknowledge that those interested in this matter have given it great attention and that the general outline of the schemes are, for all I know, quite satisfactory. The point which I wish to raise is one of far more constitutional importance than one relating merely to the City of Norwich. The scheme embodied in this Bill contains one more instance of a system which, in the words of a famous Resolution of this House, has increased, is increasing, and ought to be diminished: that is the practice of referring everything, legislative, judicial, administrative, to some of the Executive Departments of the Crown, making them omnipotent in their isolated bureaucracy. Let me read the Clause by which it is proposed to give certain definite limits to the powers of the Charity Commissioners. "Any question as to the construction of this scheme or as to the regularity or the validity of any acts done or about to be done under this scheme shall be determined conclusively by the Charity Commissioners upon such application made to them for the purpose as may be sufficient." Let the House observe that under the first Clause of the Bill the statutory powers of the High Courts of Justice and of the Charity Commissioners have already been secured, but something more must be done for the Charity Commissioners, something more than you are prepared to do in the case of the High Courts of Justice. You must not restrict them from stretching any charity whatever according to their discretion. I assert without fear of consequences that although this is power for which I daresay there may be precedent, and dangerous precedent, that this power is not in the interests of administration. I have no doubt that the Charity Commissioners are honest men anxious to do their duties on sound principles, but once you allow this uncontrolled, irresponsible power to increase, there is no saying what evil and injustice might not be done. More than that, I feel it is dangerous to constitutional principle. Are we to strip ourselves as a Parliament of the right to refer doubtful questions to the law courts, and then not be able to correct them in this Imperial Parliament? Are we to hand over one by one to the various Executive Departments of the Crown authority which is superior to that of the law courts, which is more elastic because it is less definite? This, I assert, is a danger, because it admits interference with that judicial authority of our courts upon which all our liberties rest. We know what the law courts are, and what their powers are, because they act upon tradition which has been built up by experience, constitutional wisdom, and the independent spirit of the Bar and local benches during centuries. In our law courts arguments are put forward on both sides by the most skilled experts, and nothing can alter the regularity of the procedure because the proceedings are conducted in full view of the public, and the judge must give his reason for his decision. In this way the evidence before the court is known to all the world, and the case is decided and tried by rules of law. How different is the case when you hand over this power. Here you hand over the whole of the rights of property, including the right of appeal, to a secret tribunal sitting we know not where, consisting of those we do not know, and proceeding upon rules which they lay down for themselves, receiving evidence from any source that seems to them suitable, and listening to evidence without the publicity given in a public court. Right hon. Gentlemen sitting on the Front Bench opposite may think they are assuming greater authority by these constant additions to the executive power, but that is not the case. These matters are not guided by them, but by some underling, and probably by an underling of an underling. In this way you are gradually divesting yourselves of an authority which you ought justly to exercise which belongs to this House and to courts of law.

What is this body to which we are handing over our traditional powers? One would imagine they would be modest in exercising such powers, and would be careful to keep within the four corners of the Statute. One would imagine they would be prudent even to timidity in not infringing the rights of the various claimants who will have to come before them. But what is the case with regard to this Department of the Government which now comes forward and boldly asks us to give powers so elastic and indefinite? What is its past judged by experience? I am not going to refer to any particular ease and I am not even going to discuss what may be the effect of the provision of this special scheme as regards Norwich. I do ask the House, before it passes a Clause like this, to consider what is the record of the Charity Commissioners, who come to us and ask for these extended powers. They run hard another Department of the Crown in their record before the law courts. A friend of mine stigmatised the Board of Education as "the home of lost causes and forsaken unbeliefs," but only last week two of His Majesty's judges made serious reflections upon the administrative capability of the Charity Commissioners. They were told by the Master of the Rolls and Lord Justice Farwell, in an action in the Court of Appeal, that their action astounded them. The Master of the Rolls said:— I cannot help expressing my astonishment that the Commissioners should have directed the payment out of the charity funds of £5,000 to the Bolingbroke Hospital without any scheme, and without even notice of intention to make such a payment. There has been no attempt to justify this. The words of Lord Justice Farwell were stronger still:— I give the Commissioners credit for desiring to do their best, but it is of great importance that their conduct should be in accordance with law. It is contrary to principle that a testator's wishes should be set aside, and his bounty administered, not according to his wishes, but according to the view of the Commissioners.… There is not a shadow of excuse for this payment, and it is alarming to find that a Government office is capable of such a misapplication of funds committed to its care. Is the House satisfied to entrust these dangerous powers to the very department of the Government which has been so stigmatised by His Majesty's judges? I am told that after all this is a small thing, and that it only relates to a few hundreds a year in one city. It is not a small thing that the broad principles on which our constitutional rights depend, and that the clear divisions between the executive, the judicial, and the legislative authority should be firmly maintained, and these, I contend, cannot be maintained if Parliament continues to depart from its own authority and to interfere in a dangerous way with the prerogatives of the Courts of Law and to constitute secret tribunals such as this Charity Commission, and to entrust them with powers as lavish as those contained in the Clause which I now move to omit. I am told that there are precedents. Possibly there are, but there has been far too much tendency of late years, and an increasing tendency, for this source of legislation. These precedents are dangerous and poisonous, and they ought to be cut out of our Statute Book. We can no longer trifle with this matter. We have over and over again remonstrated from these Benches against this tendency on the part of the present Government. Let us return the scheme with the omission of these Clauses to the unknown, obscure and irresponsible draftsman to revise. Let us tell the Commissioners that they are to act according to the powers already entrusted to them by statute, and if they have any doubt as to those powers—if any question arises as to the interpretation of them—the Law Courts are open to them, and they can go to them for a decision in the same way as other people. And if they consider that the verdict of the Law Courts presses somewhat hardly, or is inconvenient so far as practical working is concerned, then they may come to this House and ask for an alteration of the statute in some definite and distinct form, and not merely for a rough and ready way of cutting the Gordian knot. I may be told that it is expedient to grant these powers, and no doubt it is the fact that those who advise on these matters are ready to entrust such indefinite and unbounded powers in these cases to the Commissioners. It may be convenient in the sense of promoting what is expeditious, but in the long run expediency and expeditiousness are not always one and the same thing. It is not expedient to interfere with the straightforward action of our Executive Departments. They should not any more than any other class of citizens be free from the ordinary restraints of Statute; they should not be entrusted with powers so indefinite. The Charity Commissioners in this case may have acted wrongly: there may be some doubt as to the regularity and scope of their decision, and it will have to be decided whether they have acted without justification. Can any man in this House rise and defend this proposal? Can it be defended in the country when you go beyond this House? You may accept it in a bundle of a hundred clauses after twenty minutes' consideration by a Committee upstairs, but no one here has given any consideration to it whatever. Are you prepared to go on any platform and say these are the powers that we entrust to an Executive Department whose previous action is assailed in terms of unqualified condemnation by the very highest courts in the realm? I say, pass this scheme in all its essential particulars as regards the city of Norwich, but restrain these extravagant powers which are sought for in their own interests by the Charity Commissioners.

The insertion of this very provision affords another argument against the propriety of these Bills being dealt with as public instead of private measures. If they are dealt with as public Bills, does not the House see that they are arranged and drafted by and altogether relegated to the Charity Commissioners, and they, and not the local promoters of the measure, take care that their powers are extended to the very utmost limit. If this had been a private Bill promoted by private promoters of Norwich, do you think any reasonable man would have put in words so extensive and handing over powers so liberally and completely to the Charity Commissioners as this Clause does? No; I am convinced that this proposal is introduced by the Charity Commissioners in the interest of their own extended and unbounded authority. It is because they want to have one more precedent to refer to that they insert such provisions as those I am attacking in this Bill. I want hon. Members to consider this question carefully, not as a mere party one, nor as it relates to this particular Bill, but as a broad question of constitutional principle, and to ask themselves if they can defend it. I ask hon. Members in their own interests to look forward a few years when they are sitting here, and when it will become their turn to suffer from this exaggerated power which is being gathered into the hands of an executive department and form their own opinion. We object to it now, but then it will be their turn to do so, perhaps in more energetic terms. I ask them, therefore, without prejudice and without party feeling, to consider what they are doing and if there is not something in the argument I am raising. So little have I arranged this that I do not know if any Member will second this Motion, but if I can get anyone to do so, and to tell with me in the Lobby, I shall certainly carry this Amendment to a Division and take the opinion of the House upon it.


I rise to second the Amendment proposed by the hon. Member, and I believe that there are very few matters of more importance than that which is involved in the discussion of this subject. The real meaning of the provision as it stands is this, that everyone interested in this charity, either as recipient or administrator, has no longer the advantage of the protection of the law courts, which ought to be open to every subject of this realm. Surely there can be no reason whatever why in a case of this kind you should constitute the Charity Commissioners an irresponsible body, who themselves can conclusively determine the rights which arise under their scheme and in reference to which very difficult questions may arise in the future. If we look a little beneath the surface of a clause of this kind the context really comes to this point: Are you in the future in a matter of this sort to have the dictation of an irresponsible party, or are you to have the advantage which I say all subjects of the realm are entitled to of having the matter discussed and decided by well-known rules in the courts of law? In the early contests of our constitutional liberties the contest was between the aggressions of the Executive Government on the one side and the struggle of the subject to maintain his rights under the ordinary law upon the other. One of the earliest of our great charters says: "We are unwilling that the Executive should have a greater authority than it had in the past," because the whole principle of liberty in its true sense is that every subject should have the right of appeal to the courts of law against any aggressive action on the part of the Executive.

When we come to the particular question here it surely is more difficult to understand how a clause of this kind can be seriously proposed. We know that at present, under a rule ascertained by a large number of most important decisions, the control of the courts over the Charity Commissioners has been established to the extent that the Commissioners cannot go outside their legal powers. Of course within their legal powers the Charity Commissioners, as matters now stand, have full discretion, and what happened in the case to which the hon. Member who moved the Amendment referred was this. The courts held that the Charity Commissioners acted in a highly illegal manner, to the detriment of the rights to which certain parties were entitled under a particular trust deed. Take a case of that kind. Ought there not to be power in the courts of law to intervene in order to prevent an Executive Department like the Charity Commissioners acting in a highly illegal and improper manner? Why, in a scheme of this kind, is a right of that sort to be taken away? One knows perfectly well that the draft of this scheme is really the draft of the Charity Commissioners themselves. It comes from their office. Of course, as regards the general provisions of the scheme, it is in accordance with the regulations and with the wishes of the persons interested in the town of Norwich under these trust schemes and trust deeds, but the form of the draft is that of the Charity Commissioners. They have put the draft in such a form that they are to have absolute sovereignty and authority in the future, and that no one interested under the terms of this trust can have what he is entitled to as a right under the law as it stands—an application to the Courts to prevent the Charity Commissioners exceeding their statutory power. I appeal to the hon. Member for Norwich. He stated that the scheme was brought forward in accordance with the wishes of the people of Norwich, and he said in answer to my plea that local matters ought to have special consideration in this House. I want to know whether the people of Norwich, either those who are going to administer the trust or those who may be having benefits under it, desire that their right of appeal to the law courts, in order that the statutory powers may be properly carried out, should be abrogated and an irresponsible power of this kind given to a mere Executive Department?

I think no one can exaggerate what has been going on in recent years in the way of giving the control to irresponsible departments of matters which ought really to be regulated and decided by the law courts. Matters of trust are, above all others, matters in which the jurisdiction of the law courts ought not to be superseded. Trust questions raise technical matters of law and administration. Trusts of this character very often raise difficult points as regards those interested in the trusts, and as to whether they are improperly administered. In my opinion we ought to protest against the aggression of executive and official bodies which has taken place in recent years. I hope the hon. Member for Norwich, who must be familiar with the great legal difficulties arising in connection with the proper administration of these trusts, will get up and ask on behalf of the people of Norwich that they will not be deprived of the power of appeal to the law courts, which is the proper right of all the subjects of this realm. I beg to second the Amendment.

Mr. SOARES (Lord of the Treasury)

As an old Charity Commissioner perhaps I may be allowed to say a word in reply to the Mover and Seconder of the Amendment. I do not propose to answer the violent attack made by the Mover of the Amendment on the Charity Commissioners. It would not be in order for me to discuss that case this afternoon, but if it were, I should be very pleased indeed to deal with it, and I feel certain that I could satisfy the House and justify the action of the Commissioners in that case. The object of this Clause is for one reason only. It is to prevent the estates of charities being wasted in needless law suits. The hon. and learned Member who seconded the Amendment (Sir Alfred Cripps) knows that nothing is more lucra- tive for the legal profession than a good estate in which the costs of both sides are paid out of the estate funds.


I think the hon. Member will find that the cases in the courts in which the Charity Commissioners are interested are not numerous.


I know that cases where the costs of both parties are paid out of the estate are very lucrative indeed to the legal profession. The Charity Commissioners do not desire to encourage that class of ease in any shape or form. Two Charity Commissioners have always to be lawyers of ten years' standing, and therefore they ought to be able to decide cases which come before them where points of law are involved. I may point out that if at any time the Charity Commissioners do make a mistake their salaries are on the Estimates, and they can be attacked when the Vote is proposed. That, I think, is quite a sufficient answer to the statement that the general public have no means whatever of getting at the Charity Commissioners. They have just as much power of getting at the Charity Commissioners as at any other public department of the State. I sincerely hope, therefore, that the House will decline to consent to this Amendment, which is really put into the Bill with the object of preventing the charities being depleted by enormous law costs.


The defence to which we have just listened is the familiar defence of all bureaucrats. The claim is that bureaucracy stands above the law and knows better what is good for the people than the people do themselves, and that it is merely wasting time and money to obtain the decision of the tribunals of justice. No doubt the administration of the law is a costly thing, but on the whole it is very much better that you should have a certain expenditure of money and secure that justice is done than to leave matters of the utmost possible importance to the responsible decision of a public body. When we are told that this House has control of a public department it is obvious that people forget altogether that this House's control over a subject which does not excite very warm and general interest is of a most illusory character. We all know how Supply is conducted in this House. If an attack were made on the Charity Commissioners perhaps there would be a score of Members in the House and the Government Whips would be put on on the Division. But, as I am reminded, this Vote has not been discussed. It is not one of those things which are discussed year after year. But if there is a vote, if there is a Government majority at hand, everybody goes into the Lobby without knowing or caring to hear what the arguments on the subject are. How very different the procedure in a law court. There you have the matter argued by trained men. Every detail is inquired into, and you get the decision of an experienced and impartial tribunal. How far is this doctrine going to be pressed? Why should we require the security of the law courts at all for any purpose? Why should not the Local Government Board or the Board of Trade be entrusted with the supreme decision of all questions about property? In fact, why should not they publish a scheme altering the arrangement of your property? Very likely they know much better than individuals themselves how their property should be spent. Why is it necessary to have the interference of courts of law at all? The truth is Government departments love power. They love to have the chance given them to do things after their own fashion. But there is no greater danger to the rights of the subject than the growth of the power of public departments. No doubt this House is one great check on it. But this House is confessedly overworked. The House has not got the opportunity for dealing with minute points of administration, and is less and less able to discuss matters of this kind. Let us leave to the courts their proper jurisdiction. Let us give them the power, or rather leave them the inherent power which they have by the law of the land, of interfering between public departments and the individual, so that justice may be done and may prevail. The defence which has been made is altogether inadequate, and if my hon. Friend goes to a Division I shall support him.


My hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe (Sir Alfred Cripps) challenged me in regard to a matter on which I should like to say a word or two. I did not follow all my hon. Friend's arguments about the 200 Barons or the Constitutions of Clarendon. I do not quite understand what bearing that has on the subject. But when my hon. Friends rather challenged me with regard to the Clause itself, it seems to me there are many matters connected with charities which could be decided very much better under a Clause like this than by reference to the law courts, with the cost to all parties involved in taking that course. Speaking for myself I think it is a healthy sign that there should be such anxiety to give business to the courts of law, and I am glad to see that it is favoured by a learned lawyer as well as a layman; but I would respectfully suggest to the House that most of the matters which may arise on schemes like this—though I do not say questions may not possibly arise which would have to go to the law courts—on the whole would be better, both in the interests of the charities and of the poor, left to be disposed of under the administration of a scheme of this sort.


I wish to call attention to the particular form in which this unconstitutional power is attempted to be obtained from Parliament. It is not in the body of the Bill at all. The power which the Commissioners seek to obtain—it is admitted all round—is an extension of their existing Parliamentary powers, and it is a power which in this instance they give themselves. The scheme is their own; it is not the scheme of Parliament. They come before Parliament—I will not say in the hope—for I do not suppose they wish to keep anything back—but in order to get this proposal passed; but where you have a long and complicated schedule, and a large number of details, provisions are apt to escape observation, and they do not get the same attention which the operative part of the Bill itself obtains. Here we are going, if we pass this Bill, to sanction a course of action by the Charity Commissioners part of which is to increase their own general powers which have been given to them by Parliament. What is the only justification given by the hon. Member who represents the Charity Commissioners in this House? He said: "It is simply to save costs." Is that a reason for giving greater statutory powers to a body who, without going into concrete cases, have not, at all events, maintained a great record in the performance of those powers which they have

got? I submit that the reason given by the hon. Commissioner for this Clause would be as good a reason for making the Commissioners themselves the high court in all charity matters, instead of the High Courts of Justice of the United Kingdom. I cordially support the Amendment to strike out this Clause.


I think it will be perfectly clear to those who listened to the Mover and Seconder of the Amendment that there are very strong and weighty reasons why the Clause under consideration should be omitted from the Bill. Both the Bill and the Debate are very instructive to Members of this House—at least, as a new Member, I have found it particularly so. In the first place, we have apparently to deal with a Bill which is nominally a public Bill, but which is really a private Bill, and should have been introduced under the procedure peculiar to that class of Bill. There are various disadvantages apparently in dealing with a Bill of this character in this way. I think that this Debate has brought out in a very striking manner what those disadvantages and what the real dangers to the welfare of the community are. Apparently the Charity Commissioners, in the first instance, have under this procedure, to a certain extent, as it were, usurped the position of the Select Committee. At any rate, the House is asked, on the authority and recommendation of the representative of the Charity Commissioners and of the two hon. Members for Norwich, to accept the Bill. They apparently take the function which should properly be exercised by a Select Committee. Further than that, if this Clause is allowed, it will allocate to the Charity Commissioners the functions of the law courts in dealing with all questions arising in administration. On those grounds I think the House would be wise to insist on the deletion of this Clause, and I cordially support the Amendment that has been moved.

Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Schedule."

The House divided: Ayes, 95; Noes, 65

Division No. 70.] AYES. [4.50 p.m.
Addison, Dr. Christopher Benn, W. (Tower Hamlets, S. Geo.) Chancellor, Henry George
Allen, Charles Peter Birrell, Rt. Hon. Augustine Channing, Sir Francis Allston
Ashton, Thomas Gair Boland, John Pius Chapple, Or. William Allen
Atherley-Jones, Llewellyn A. Bowerman, Charles W. Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston S.
Baker, Joseph A. (Finsbury, E.) Bowles, Thomas Gibson Clough, William
Balfour, Robert (Lanark) Bryce, John Annan Collins, Stephen (Lambeth)
Barnes, George N. Burns, Rt. Hon. John Collins, Sir Wm. J. (St. Pancras, W.)
Beale, William Phlpson Byles, William Pollard Compton-Rickett, Sir J.
Corbett, A. Cameron (Glasgow) Joyce, Michael Scott, A. H. (Ashton-under-Lyne)
Crossley, Sir William J. King, Joseph (Somerset, North) Seely, Col. Rt. Hon. J. E. B.
Dalziel, Sir James K. (Kirkcaldy) Lyell, Charles Henry Shortt, Edward
Denman, Hon. Richard Douglas Macdonald, J. R. (Leicester) Soares, Ernest Joseph
Dickinson, w. H. (St. Pancras, N.) Macdonald, J. M. (Falkirk Burghs) Spicer, Sir Albert
Doris, William Macnamara, Dr. Thomas J. Strachey, Sir Edward
Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness) Mallet, Charles Edward Summers, James Woolley
Dunn, A. Edward (Camborne) Manfield, Harry Thomas, James Henry (Derby)
Edwards, Enoch Markham, Arthur Basil Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton)
Fuller, John Michael F. Marks, George Croydon Verney, Frederick William
Ginnell, Laurence Millar, J. D. Wadsworth, John
Greenwood, Granville George Morton, Alpheus Cleophas Walker, H. De R. (Lelcester)
Gulland, John William O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool) Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney)
Hancock, John George Pirle, Duncan V. White, J. Dundas (Dumbartonshire)
Harcourt, Robert V. (Montrose) Pollard, Sir George H. Whitehouse, John Howard
Hardle, J. Keir (Merthyr Tydvll) Price, Sir Robert J. (Norfolk, E) Whittaker, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas P.
Harvey. T. E. (Leeds, West) Primrose, Hon. Neil James Whyte, Alexander F. (Perth)
Harwood, George Pringle, William M. R. Wiles, Thomas
Henry, Charles S. Radford, George Heynes Williams, Aneurin (Plymouth)
Holt, Richard Durning Raphael, Herbert Henry Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)
Howard, Hon. Geoffrey Rees, John David Yoxall, Sir James Henry
Hudson, Walter Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)
Hughes, Spencer Leigh Roberts, Sir J. H. (Denblghs.) TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Sir F.
Jones, Sir D. Brynmor (Swansea) Roe, Sir Thomas F. Low and Mr. G. Roberts.
Jones, William (Carnarvonshire) Samuel, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Cleveland)
Acland-Hood, Rt. Hon. Sir Alex. F. Gastrell, Major W. Houghton Nield, Herbert
Adam, Major William A. Goldsmith, Frank Peel, Capt. R. F. (Woodbridge)
Arbuthnot, Gerald A. Goulding, Edward Alfred Peto, Basil Edward
Balcarres, Lord Greene, Walter Raymond Pollock, Ernest Murray
Banbury, Sir Frederick George Hall, Marshall (E. Toxteth) Rice, Hon. Walter Fitz-Uryan
Bathurst, Hon. Allen B. (Glouc. E.) Hamersley, Alfred St. George Ridley, Samuel Forde
Bathurst, Charles (Wilts, Wilton) Harrison-Broadley, H. B. Ronaldshay, Earl of
Brassey, H. L. C. (Northants, N.) Henderson, Major H. (Berkshire) Rutherford, Watson
Bridgeman, William Clive Hermon-Hodge, Sir Robert T. Sandys, Lt.-Col. T. M. (Bootle)
Carlile, Edward Hildred Hickman, Colonel Thomas E. Stanley. Hon. G. F. (Preston)
Castlereagh, Viscount Hill, Sir Clement L. (Shrewsbury) Stewart, Gershom (Ches., Wirral)
Cautley, Henry Strother Hillier, Dr. A. P. Tobin, Alfred Aspinall
Cecil, Lord Hugh (Oxford Univ.) Hills, John Walter (Durham) Tryon, Capt. George Clement
Chaloner, Col. R. G. W. Jackson, John A. (Whitehaven) Tulilbardine, Marquess of
Clay, Captain H. H. Spender Kerry, Earl of Williams, Col. R. (Dorset, W.)
Colefax, H. A. Kimber, Sir Henry Wood, Hon. E. F. L. (Yorks, Ripon)
Cooper, Captain Bryan R. (Dublin, S.) Law, Andrew Bonar (Dulwich) Wood, John (Stalybridge)
Croft, Henry Page Llewelyn, Venables Wortley, Rt. Hon. C. B. Stuart-
Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers- Lockwood, Rt. Hon. Lt.-Col. A. R. Younger, George (Ayr Burghs)
Duncannon, Viscount M'Arthur, Charles
Faber, George D. (Clapham) Martin, Joseph TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Sir
Fletcher, John Samuel Mooney, John J. H. Craik and Sir A. Cripps,
Gardner, Ernest Morrison-Bell, Major A. C.

Bill read the third time, and passed.