HC Deb 13 August 1913 vol 56 cc2608-12

The Trustees of the charity shall as soon as practicable, regard being had to the obtaining of a fair' pirce, sell otherwise than by auction the advowsons and rights of patronage of the benefices specified in the Schedule hereto belonging to the charity. The Trustees may do and execute all proper acts and assurances for carrying the sales into complete effect.


I beg to move, to leave out the words "otherwise than by auction."

One of the purposes of this Bill is to sell thirteen advowsons which are now in the hands of certain trustees. I will not go into the reasons for that, but I may say something on the matter on the Third Reading of the Bill. I strongly object to advowsons being sold in any other way than by auction. First of all, unless they are sold in that way, you cannot be sure that you are going to get the best possible price. If trustees are to be empowered to sell to friends or the friends of friends, we may have jobbery, and if we have not jobbery, we shall have the possibility of it, and if we have not the possibility, we shall, at any rate, have the suspicion of jobbery. To all forms of jobbery I am opposed. The second reason why I object to sale otherwise than by auction is equally obvious and equally cogent. It is that we hope that as much money as possible will be obtained by the sale of these advowsons, and you cannot say that you have got the best possible price unless you advertise them well and put them up to auction. The trustees at present have about £8,000 invested in Consols, which is a fund for the purpose of advertising, and for the selection of candidates for the advowsons. They have far more than they need to advertise the sale in fifty papers. I, therefore, most strongly urge the Committee to consider this point, and I very earnestly hope that the Charity Commissioners will see that there is a great deal of substance in my point, and that they will accept the Amendment. If the hon. Gentleman (Mr. C. Allen) wants to have the thing fair, square, and above board, let us have open sale by auction. If he wants to have suspicion all the way round, and opportunities for jobbery, then he will stand by the Pill as drafted.


I hope that the hon. Member for Somerset (Mr. King) will not persist in pressing the Amendment. First of all, it is liable to complicate the Bill and to cause another stage just at the end of the Session. I hope he will understand that the Bill is the result of a long series of negotiations in which neither the Commissioners nor the other side have been able to get all they want, because we know, when we come down here, if anybody objects, we have no chance of passing the Bill. There may be some points in the Bill the Commissioners do not like, or which the other side do not like. It is only by careful negotiation that we ever get anything at all. Personally, I do not care for the buying and selling of livings at all, but we are in this Bill doing a certain amount of what may be evil in order that good may come.


I would remind the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Stroud that an Act was passed by this House long ago by which the sale of livings was forbidden under penalty. At any rate, the trustees will be able in this case to see that the person who buys a living will really use it conscientiously for the benefit of the people. You have no such guarantee if you sell by auction, and therefore it is really of importance that the living should be sold to a conscientious person who is going to do his best all round.


Under the conditions of sale references as to the character of the buyer are necessary before the advowson is conveyed to him.


I support the appeal made by my hon. Friend (Mr. Allen. I am rather surprised that my hon. Friend (Mr. King) should advocate the vulgar and debasing system of disposing of these properties by putting them up to auction without having any safeguards that the person buying should have some other qualifications than the mere ability to offer the highest price. I venture to say that by the method proposed by the Charity Commissioners there will be some opportunity of inquiring into the character-of the person. I appeal to the hon. Member to retrieve his good character by withdrawing the Amendment.


I was about to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment. I have some scruples, and I have also some character left in spite of what has been said by my hon. Friend.

Amendment., by leave, withdrawn. Bill reported without Amendment.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the third time."


I shall not oppose the Third Reading of the Bill, but it is so interesting and so illuminating in its story that it is impossible to allow it to pass away from this House without sonic tribute to its extraordinary character being given. The Bill has a curious history which shows one fact which is often denied by hon. Members on the other side of the House, and which is constantly asserted by those who know the truth, namely, that the Established Church has again and again robbed the poor for the benefit of the parson. The history of this charity is this: In 1691, a gentleman in Lancashire left large estates there for the poor students of Brasenose College that they might continue their education, and take the Master of Arts degree. That was the sole purpose of this trust, and for 100 years it was carried on on these lines. The estates then became very valuable, and they did not know exactly what to do with the money, so the clergy of that day came forward with plans which they brought before this House in the form of Bills. Bills were passed in 1760, 1770, and 1795, by which a large number of livings were purchased for members of Brasenose. College, and the value of those livings were augmented to a large extent out of the invested and accumulated funds of these charities left for the benefit of the poor students. They were given to the clergy for the rest of their lives so long as they held these livings. That is the history of what has been going on. I point that out in order that it may be realised that the sweeping assertions which have been made, and may be made again, that the Church of England has robbed the poor and has robbed education for the sake of the parson has got a great deal of ground in actual examples. I con- gratulate most heartily the Charity Commissioners who have had a great deal of trouble over this Bill. I think that if I had been a Charity Commissioner I would have obtained still more for education, and left less for the parson. But, still, I congratulate them on having made a settlement, and having got back an amount of money which had been in the hands of the clergy by selling these advowsons, and giving it back as scholarships. I may point out that in recent years they have not had a sufficient number of clergy coming forward as candidates to fill all these livings, but I merely mention these facts to show that this is a very remarkable Bill, and ought not to go without the House knowing something of the striking circumstances connected with it. I have great pleasure in supporting the Motion for the Third Reading.


I do not think that the House should accept without qualification the statement as to the history of this trust which the hon. Member for Somerset has given us. Under the trust the Hulme exhibitioners and the members of Brasenose must be chosen in fulfilment of the trust before they can go any further. Therefore, the choice of the trustees is circumscribed. It requires time to ascertain whether there is any man qualified under the terms of the trust, and delay has been occasioned by this inquiry. The livings are mostly in industrial centres with large populations, and it is very desirable that the area of choice should be enlarged as it is by this Bill, and also that the difficulties of the trustees should be reduced by the sale of a certain number of the livings.

Colonel GREIG

I desire to draw attention to what the Bill actually does. The money to be applied under this Bill arises from the sale, under the scheme appended to the Bill, of advowsons, the sale of superfluous benefices mentioned in the Schedule. In the next Section of the scheme there is power to the trustee of the trust to apply certain stock which is in their hands. I find in that Clause that they are dealing with the sum which represents part of £8,600 Consols retained by them to meet expenses incurred in connection with the ecclesiastical trust referred to. I then find in Section 6 the objects to which these proceeds can be applied. They are to be applied as if the same were part of the residue, mentioned in Clause 7 of the Board of Education (Hulme Trust Estates Educational) Confirmation Act of 1907, of the Brasenose College share of income of the foundation which is called the Hulme Trust Estates (Educational). I find that these funds are to be applied for the augmentation in number and value of scholarships, lectureships, and other offices of the college, payment for special duties in the college, and subsequent payment towards research by members of the college, whether graduates or undergraduates, payment by way of pecuniary assistance to any resident member of the college under the degree of M.A. who may, in the judgment of Brasenose College, be in need of such assistance, or payment by way of pension or contribution to the pension fund. I draw attention to this to point out that we should be careful of what we are doing with funds which were originally applied for ecclesiastical purposes, and now under this Bill are being applied to what are purely secular purposes.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill read the third time, and passed.