§ It shall not be lawful to make any appeal to the public for donations or subscriptions in money or in kind to any war charity as hereinafter denned, or to raise or attempt to raise money for any such charity by promoting or taking part in any bazaar, sale, entertainment, or exhibition, or by any similar means, unless the charity is registered under this Act and the approval of the Committee or other governing body of the charity has been obtained, and if any person contravenes the provisions of this Section he shall be guilty of an offence against this Act:
§ Provided that this provision shall not apply to any collection at Divine service in a place of public worship nor to any charity which may, subject to any Regulations made under this Act, be exempted by the registration authority from the provisions of this Section.
§ Mr. PENNEFATHER
This Bill is one with which I am entirely in sympathy, but I think it is rather too weak in some places and rather too strong in others, and for that reason I beg to move an Amendment—
§ Mr. PENNEFATHER
I beg to move to leave out the words "money for any such charity by promoting or taking part in any bazaar, sale, entertainment, or exhibition, or by any similar means, unless the charity is registered under this Act, and the approval of the Committee or other governing body of the," and to insert instead thereof the words "collect or receive money or goods for any such charity unless it has been registered under this Act, or for any person to solicit or receive goods or money for or promote or assist in promoting any bazaar, sale, exhibition, or entertainment on behalf of any war charity unless the approval of the governing body, or committee, or sub-committee, or official, or agent of such."
808 It may appear at first sight that there is very little difference between the wording of the Bill and the wording of my Amendment. As a matter of fact, I do not think there is much substantial difference in intention. In the wording of the Bill as it stands the same offence is committed and the same penalty may be exacted from the person who collects money for a charity which is not registered as from a person who good-naturedly sings a song at a concert on behalf of a charity without the organisers of that charity having obtained the permission of the controlling body. I think the Committee will agree that there is a vast difference between those who take upon themselves the responsibility of appealing for money and collecting money, of handling, and spending, or administering the money, and those who are really contributors to that charity by giving their time and talents to assist to some extent. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman, after consideration, will come to the conclusion that it is advisable that the wording should be correctly fitted into the right place.
We all want to get hold of the rogue who is exploiting these war charities for his own benefit, and we all want to check and control people who are carelessly administering these war charities, or perhaps administering them extravagantly, with the result that a very large percentage of the money collected is spent and wasted, and does not finally reach our soldiers and sailors. But I am sure we none of us wish that the general public should be discouraged from taking part in these various endeavours to raise money innocently and properly for the benefit of our soldiers and sailors, and I suggest that if this Clause as it stands remains in the Bill many people of the general public will be discouraged from taking any part in assisting those war charities, because they will feel that, for all they know to the contrary, they may be subject to a fine of £10C or three months' imprisonment with or without hard labour. I think if that idea got about the country that people who bonâ fide assisted in these matters, and were not responsible for the promotion or organisation, might be severely penalised, I am sure that the people in common prudence would say, "We had better keep clear of this and not assist. We are sorry for the soldiers and sailors, and we would 809 like to do many things, but there are pains and penalties on anybody who takes part in any bazaar, sale, entertainment, or exhibition." Therefore, I have endeavoured to devise my Amendment in such a manner that there are established three clear offences. The Bill itself says that the consent must be obtained of the committee or other governing body of the charity, but many of these charities have branches in nearly every town in the Kingdom. They have sub-committees and local committees, and m smaller places they have not even a real committee, but they have some person who acts as an official. In my Amendment I suggest that no person shall be liable to these pains and penalties for doing any of these things on behalf of a war charity if they have obtained the approval of a governing body or a committee or sub-committee, or an official or agent of such charity.
§ Mr. J. SAMUEL
I think there is a very great deal of substance in this Amendment, especially that part of it which deals with the possibility of somebody who has taken part in a bargain sale or entertainment being prosecuted. I think that is a very grave danger, because, after all, the responsibility should be upon the persons who promote it, and not those who take part. A person taking part in a function of this kind may be quite innocent whether the charity or concert had the approval of the registration authority. Therefore, I think, there is a very great deal of substance in what the hon. Member has said. There is one part, however, of his Amendment which I do not quite comprehend, and that is the second part dealing with anyone who collects anything. I think that is going beyond the terms of the Clause, because they should not get authority to collect unless it is the authority of the local body.
§ Mr. J. SAMUEL
In that case I think there is substance in what has been proposed. Otherwise there might be grave danger that this proposal would check the free work now given by a great many people who assist at our concerts in favour of war charities, and that would be the case if these people are liable to be prosecuted. I hope, for these reasons, the Government will accept this Amendment.
§ Mr. J. MASON
I think what is desired might be done in a much simpler way. It is suggested that people who attempt to raise money for charities shall be made liable, but that those who take part in concerts should be protected. I think that can be perfectly well done by leaving out the words "promote or takeing part," and inserting instead the words "to raise or attempt to raise." That would cut out the people taking part in the concert and would only affect those who are attempting to raise the money.
§ Mr. ANDERSON
I feel quite certain that the Amendment will not achieve its object, although I am convinced that some Amendment is required. The words "taking part in" are altogether too wide, and I would suggest that the Under-Secretary should consider this matter before the Report stage, and see what can be done. What has been asked for in the Amendment is an entirely reasonable thing. It is quite reasonable that people merely taking part in a concert shall not be held liable like the promoters.
§ Mr. BRACE
I could not accept the language used by the hon. Member for Windsor, because I gather that he proposes to leave out the word "promote." If the Committee are satisfied with taking out of the words "or taking part in" I think that would relieve the situation very considerably. We do not want to embarrass any charitably disposed people from attempting to raise funds for a great object, but we do certainly wish to close the door to a continuation of the exploitation of the public by people who think only of war charity as a secondary consideration. If it will meet the case, I should be prepared to agree to leave out the words "or taking part in." I shall be glad to move that.
§ Mr. PENNEFATHER
If it had been such a very simple matter as the hon. Member for Windsor says, with respect to the object of my Amendment, as cutting out the words "or taking part in," I should have been very glad to assent. As a matter of fact that was my idea, but I only abandoned it because it would still have left a weakness in the drafting of the Clause, which you will find, if you read it, imposes a penalty for collecting money or soliciting money for a society which is unregistered. There is also a penalty for getting up a bazaar or entertainment without the authority of the governing body of the charity. But there is nothing in the 811 Bill to prevent anybody from soliciting money on behalf of a charity without the authority of the charity. Therefore, if my words seem to be rather ambiguous, it is because I have endeavoured to follow the words of the Bill as far as possible, and merely to strengthen and back those words where they appeared not to be strong enough and to soften them where they were too harsh. A private Member like myself would not be guilty of the impudence of starting off his own bat to redraft the Clause. Any ambiguity which may appear in the words I propose arises from the fact of my having tried to keep as closely as possible to the words of the Bill. I do not like to press this Amendment on such short notice, but if the hon. Gentleman takes this matter into careful consideration between now and the Report stage probably he may be able to move a Government Amendment covering the points raised.
§ Mr. RAWLINSON
The Amendment of my hon. Friend goes far further than the proposed Amendment of the hon. Gentleman, which raises points which should be considered before the Report stage. We cannot do the Amendment full justice without seeing it on the Paper.
§ Mr. PENNEFATHER
And there is the point of the committees also. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Amendment made: After the word "promoting" ["promoting, or taking part in"], leave out the words "or taking part in."—[Mr. Brace.]
§ Mr. J. SAMUEL
I beg to move, after the word "sale" ["bazaar, sale, entertainment"], to insert the word "flag-day"—
§ Mr. J. SAMUEL
I have discussed the matter with my hon. Friend, and I wish just to explain it to the Committee. I think it is very important that flag-days should be cited in the Bill because there is no form in which any of our towns are raising more money than by the sale of flags. [HON. MEMBBBS: "Make the Amendment: "Sale of flags!"]
§ Mr. POLLOCK
On a point of Order. May I ask if the hon. Gentleman has considered the words at the beginning of the Clause—
"It shall not be lawful to make any appeal to the public for donations or subscription, in money or in kind."
Why does that not cover an appeal on flag-days? If it does not, will the hon. Gentleman explain what "flag-day" means?
§ The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr. Dickinson)
I do not understand that that is a point of Order. I understand the Amendment is to add the word "flag-day" to "bazaar, sale, or entertainment."
Mr. H. SAMUEL
I am proposing to say "flag-day." It is a common expression. With regard to the point of the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Pollock), it does not follow that because you make an appeal to the public for donations and subscriptions that the sale of flags means "subscriptions or donations." It does not mean that you may have donations and subscriptions and moneys received from the sale of flags. I think it is very essential that it should be made clear, so that anybody who desires to have what is termed a flag-day for any charity arising out of the War should have to obtain consent and to register what is the object of such a flag-day
I certainly think there is a very large amount of money raised in the streets in all parts of the country, and we hear a very large number of complaints. I am given to understand that in London no day can be set aside for the sale of flags unless the consent of the police at Scotland Yard is obtained. In the provinces that cannot be done, unless it is by the mayor's advisory committees. Very often they are ignored, and I think it should be specified that flag-days should come within this Bill so that we can prevent any fraud in this direction.
Mr. T. WILSON
On a point of Order. I submit that this Amendment limits the operation of the Bill. If we put in "flag-day," we must have "rose-day," "geranium-day," and all the rest of them. I suggest that the word "sale" in the Clause covers them all.
§ Mr. PETO
I desire to point out that there is no question that when any of the 813 charitable public purchase a flag in the street they get very little value in the way of the sale, and that all that is not covered by the actual cost of the flag must be a donation, and absolutely covered by the first lines of the Clause. I do not believe there is any substance whatever in the Amendment which has been moved, and I hope the hon. Member who is in charge of the Bill (Mr. Brace) will not accept it, and that the House may proceed to the next Amendment.
§ Mr. BRACE
I am advised that the point raised by my hon. Friend (Mr. J. Samuel) is really covered by the Police Act—that is the question of street collections—and that there is no necessity for including it in this Bill. Even if we were to accept the Amendment we should have to use very different language from that suggested, and it would have to be in the form of a Schedule which would include rose days, button days, and all the rest of the days. The Committee would be well advised to accept the broad language of "sale" used in the Bill.
§ Mr. J. SAMUEL
I put the Amendment down simply in order to obtain a public declaration on the part of the hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill on the subject. I ask leave to withdraw it.
§ Leave withheld.
§ Mr. POLLOCK
It would be unfortunate if the Under-Secretary's observations were not limited in their scope. What he said seemed to imply that all sales on "flag-days" or other "days" are not within the Bill but are within the Police Act. Such a statement from the Front Bench might have an unfortunate result. I have read the Bill, and think I shall be supported by other lawyers in the Committee. The point raised by the hon. Member opposite (Mr. T. Wilson) is a good one. It is covered by the first two lines of the Bill. It would be unfortunate if we were to leave out the very large proportion of flag-days and other days from the Bill we are now passing.
§ Major WEDGWOOD
I should like to know whether, in the opinion of the Under-Secretary to the Home Office, the 814 question of flag days and button days is included in the Police Act or not? The hon. and learned Member (Mr. Pollock) thinks they are included in that Act and ought to go into this Bill.
§ Mr. POLLOCK
They are included in this Bill. I am not sure whether they are included in the Police Act.
§ Major WEDGWOOD
Are they not included in the words "subscriptions in money or in kind"? [An HON. MEMBEK: "The word 'sale' is in."]
§ Mr. J. W. WILSON
Scotland had an Act which applies to flag days, and the Committee on War Charities recommended that that Act should be extended to England. That extension was made a few weeks ago in the Police Act, which received the Royal Assent. That removes it from the direct jurisdiction of this Bill. It may be covered by this Bill, but it is already covered in another way.
§ Question, "That the words 'flag days' be there inserted," put, and negatived.
§ Mr. ANDERSON
I beg to move, after the word "means" ["or by any similar means"] to insert the words "or use or disburse money already raised.'
I want to be quite sure that this control is not only going to extend in respect of future appeals for money, but is also going to be exercised for the large accumulations of charitable money already piled up in these various organisations. I am not quite sure that my words are the best, but that does not matter. What I want to be clear about is the principle behind it. There is a definition of war charity in a later Clause—any fund or institution which may have been started either before the passing of this measure or after it. If that is so we want to be sure that the Act is going to extend to all the money accumulated before the passing of the Act, and I want a definite assurance of that kind because I think it is very important. Many charities do not require to raise any more money till the end of the War. They have raised all the money they need to raise. In many cases they have an income for life, so that I think supervision over existing funds is absolutely essential, and we want to be sure that the control which is to affect any money raised in future equally holds good in regard to money already raised. Unless that is done you open the door to all sorts of almost diversion of funds from the purpose for which they were originally 815 proposed. The Act itself will be of very little good if it is not going to be retrospective to that extent because the great bulk of the war charity money has already been raised. It is not going to be raised between now and the end of the War. It is in hand already, and I want a most definite assurance that this control which we desire to establish is going to be equally stringent over funds now in hand as for any future appeal which may be made.
§ Mr. SALTER
What does the hon. Member propose shall be done with the money in such a case? Here you have a body of people who have collected a large sum for some charity. If it does not get registration it becomes a crime to hand the money to it. What is to become of the money?
§ Mr. ANDERSON
That is already dealt with in the Bill. The money will be held up, and it will automatically pass into public control I gather.
§ 11.0 P.M.
§ Mr. BRACE
The Amendment made by my hon. Friend is one of great substance. To all intents and purposes it is an attempt to make the operation of this measure retrospective, so as to include all the funds which have been raised for war purposes since the commencement of the War. That is not the intention of the Bill. The Bill has been drafted to deal with war charities in the future. It is not so easy to deal with war charities of the past. That question was under consideration, and it is because it was impossible to get evidence of a character that would enable the authorities to deal with those war charities of the past that this Bill was made necessary. What is proposed is that all charities should be registered. If a charity will not register, then it can make no further appeal for money. I frankly confess that I should have been glad to have dealt with that phase of the war charity problem which my hon. Friend has raised, but it is because I am advised by the authorities that that is at present impossible, that I am unable to accept the hon. Member's Amendment. I hope he will not press it. If any of these charities in question attempt to make any further appeal for funds after the passing of this Bill, then we shall be able to get at their funds and at their methods of administration, and to deal with the matter effectively, and, at any rate, to put an end to 816 the scandal which my hon. Friend complains about. Suppose they will not register, then they will keep the money they have. If I saw my way clear to introduce an effective Clause in this Bill for dealing with the problem, I should be very glad to do so, but it is because I am advised that it is quite impossible to successfully grapple with that difficulty that we have introduced the Bill in its present form. I ask my hon Friend to take it from me that this is not the first time that we have dealt with this matter. It has been the subject of many conferences. We shall deal with the problem by compiling a register. If they register it gives us the opportunity to inspect and examine their books. If they will not register, then that fund must become defunct, and the problem is dealt with in that way.
§ Mr. J. SAMUEL
I hope that my hon. Friend will reconsider this point, because I think it is a great weakness in the Bill. We have read the report of the committee which was presided over by my right hon. Friend (Mr. J. Wilson), which dealt with the frauds committed all over the country by those who raised large sums of money for war purpose, and spent very large sums in expenses. I think it is very important that all these funds should be registered. It is a very simple matter to issue notices in the Press or otherwise, calling upon all these charities to register. For whatever war purpose they have collected money we ought to have a census and a return for the money raised, so that we can put this money, in a sense, under lock and key, and see that it is spent in a proper way. I think the Committee is indebted to the hon. Member for raising this point. Unless this Amendment or something like it is carried, I am certain that the great, purpose of this Bill is defeated, because if these people in future will not register for new collections, they will not come under the Bill. One of my hon. Friends says that they have already collected large sums of money, and can continue paying their expenses without requiring to register in order to collect further money. Therefore that part of the argument falls to the ground. I hope that before the Report stage the Home Office will consider this question in spite of the report which has been presented to the House, and that we shall have the existing charities registered and made liable in the same way as the others under the Bill.
§ Major WEDGWOOD
I wish that the report of my right lion. Friend (Mr. Wilson) had come earlier, and that the Government had legislated earlier. It would then have been easier to deal with these charities. But as matters stand it does seem to me, in spite of the very pointed arguments of the Under-Secretary, that it would be a good thing to introduce these words into the Bill. We cannot make an Act of Parliament water-tight No doubt there is a certain number of societies which would not register, and might not be caught, but we have never passed an Act of Parliament which has caught everybody. If we make it an offence, and put the responsibility on the offenders to register or become liable to punishment, we are doing all we can. It does not seem to me to be so very difficult to catch societies that have already raised charitable funds. The committee over which my right hon. Friend sat has got ample evidence about existing societies, and the appeals in the Press, and very often the local appeals can be discovered very readily at present without any extravagant trouble on the part of the Home Office. This Bill was based on the report of that committee. It was introduced to deal with the difficulties and scandals which that committee exposed, and I think that we should be failing in our duty to pass the Bill as it stands if we fail to deal with all those more or less fraudulent charitable concerns that have blossomed out in the War. I cannot see that we should be imposing undue difficulty on the Home Office or should risk an undue number of societies escaping the penalties prescribed if we pass this Amendment. If we insert this Amendment in Committee, and if afterwards the Home Office find that the form of words is not the best to effect the object in view, it is perfectly easy for the Home Office with their legal draughtsmen before the Report stage to find a better form. We can never insure that an Act of Parliament will be carried out fully by the Department concerned, so that we need not be frightened away from this Amendment by being told that it is difficult to put it into execution. As long as we make it a crime for a society which has already collected funds not to register we have done all we can in an Act of Parliament.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I hope that the Under-Secretary will adhere to his resolution because it is quite impossible to go back two years and include all the 818 societies which have collected money during that period. If that were done what would happen? Clause 3 says that charities registered under this Act should comply with the following conditions— they shall be administered by a responsible committee of the local body, consisting of not fewer than three persons, minutes shall be kept of meetings of the committee, and proper books shall be kept. Take the case of a charity started two years ago, a perfectly lawful charity in which there was no fraud, and which collected a considerable sum of money.
§ Major WEDGWOOD
It only deals with charities which have not dispersed their money, and the majority of those to which the right hon. Gentleman refers have dispersed their money.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
They have dispersed some of their funds, but not the whole of them. If this were carried they would have to get out back accounts and appoint a committee and go to any amount of trouble and worry when they had been perfectly honest and had already given a great deal of their time and had gone to a great deal of trouble for a charitable object. That alone is sufficient argument to show that the Under-Secretary was right in his refusal to accept the Amendment. If there has been any fraud they can be prosecuted and punished under the present law. If they come forward and ask for further money they will come under this Bill, but we ought not to ask societies which do not intend to appeal for further money to go back a year or two years and produce accounts which very likely are not in existence, and to set up the committees and frame the regulations and rules required under this Bill. It would cause a tremendous amount of trouble and worry to people who after all have only done their best to meet the grievances and serve the interests of other people.
§ Sir RYLAND ADKINS
I am not impressed by the argument of the right hon. Baronet. If you bring in so-called charities which have previously existed, it by no means follows that you need have detailed accounts from the very first day in the way in which it becomes necessary after they have become registered and are brought within the purview of the Act. The argument that if they have committed fraud they will be punished, and if they have not they ought to be left alone is inconclusive, because you want to find out 819 how they have dispersed the money which has been asked for month after month, as to which no balance-sheet may have appeared, and as to the management of which the public are entirely ignorant. It is not suggested that there is fraud, certainly not conscious fraud, but surely if you pass this Bill you ought to pass it in such a form that any society or individual who has been publicly advertising and requesting support for a war charity ought to be brought in and made to disclose what proportion of the takings have gone in expenses, and what has been the general conduct of the charity so that public confidence may attach to it. Is it too late? I submit that it is not. I shall support the Amendment, though it appears to me to require further Amendments giving the Registration Authority power to call upon any individual or society which has been asking for subscriptions or donations since the beginning of the War for war purposes, either to show that the charity has ceased altogether and that all the money has been dispersed, or to come forward and get registered. The object of this Bill is to satisfy public opinion, which is naturally and properly aroused, and that public opinion will not be satisfied if you limit the operation of the Bill merely to those charities which continue to ask for money. There are very few Members of this House who profess to be able at a moment's notice to draft three or four Amendments, but I am confident that it would not be impossible to give to local authorities power to inquire into any charity and bring it into line with those which are affected by the Bill because they continue to ask for money. I know of no other way of advancing that object at this moment than by voting for the Amendment. Voting for Amendments in opposition to the Government is an unprofitable pursuit, although occasionally it does lead to the results desired. I do ask the Under-Secretary when he meets his advisers to make it perfectly clear is, as I believe it to be, that the Bill ought to be extended in this way. It really would be a scandalous thing if the Government draftsman could not devise some way of bringing all those charities which are known to the public within the purview of the Registration Authority in order to see what sort of balance-sheet they can produce, and satisfy the public that the money has gone in proper proportions for the objects for which it was obtained.
§ Mr. POLLOCK
I am in broad sympathy with the hon. Member (Mr. Anderson), but I do not think it is possible to carry out all he desires, and I think a great deal more is done by the Bill than attention has been called to. By Clause 9 "The expression 'war charity' means any fund, institution or association, whether established before or after the commencement of this Act." If that be so then all the charities established before the passing of the Act have got to conform to its terms.
§ Mr. POLLOCK
If there is any fraud they will probably want to make an appeal, and if they have exhausted their money, and if they are registered, all the powers under Clause 3 would apply, and by that all moneys collected have to be paid into a separate account at such bank as may be specified. By Clause 5 they can be removed from the register if the charity is not carried out in good faith or if the conditions imposed are not complied with. Thus you have with regard to any charity, whether before or after the Act, very considerable powers. It is really very little use having a sort of inquisition, as to how the money collected has been already spent, and will involve a considerable amount of trouble, and will not result in anything.
§ Mr. POLLOCK
With regard to all charities which do appeal or come under the Act you can probably get all the hon. Member desires, but I do not think you can get to the point under discussion. It would be quite impossible to do so under Clause 1, and would require a special Clause to come on at a later stage.
§ Mr. J. W. WILSON
I wish to emphasise the point that has just been referred to by the hon. Member (Sir R. Adkins). The Committee did not contemplate a final Clause with regard to retrospective or moribund societies. It was too much to expect that to be undertaken now. The recommendation was concentrated on preventing more money being taken from the public without proper safeguards. We had a great many cases submitted to us, and except in one or two, and I have one in mind that probably has some money left, with the great 821 number of them the money that has been obtained on false pretences has been already misappropriated, and would not be got back again by any such provision as this. The machinery of the Act is based on the first line: "It shall not be lawful to make any appeal to the public." That was the definite point we could emphasise and protect for the future. But if it is to be retrospective and to necessitate an inquiry as to what has become of the funds, whether there is any left or not, I submit that that should be the subject, if not of a separate Bill, at any rate of a separate part of the Bill, it could not well be included in this Clause, however much the Committee might desire it. I am glad to find that Members in their keenness go even further than we were able to recommend in our report, but I do not think their desire could be carried out by the same machinery. If these societies appeal for another shilling they render themselves liable to prosecution if they appeal without being registered. The great bulk of the societies will be brought in from what we saw. I do not believe there is any large number that have any money that could be recovered by any penal Amendment. Therefore, I think the Under-Secretary is right on this point.
§ Mr. A. WILLIAMS
The right hon. Gentleman has said that he thinks there are some societies, although perhaps very few, that have any money in hand, and therefore will not need to appeal again, but will be able to disburse the money they have in their own illegitimate way. It seems to me that that is a just point in this Amendment, because if some such words were adopted they would enable the authorities to get at the small number of societies of which the right hon. Gentleman has spoken. I agree that it is not possible to make all the societies that have collected during the War give accounts. That is not the proposal. But I think the right hon. Gentleman's statement is really an argument in favour of the Amendment, and I hope that between now and the Report stage the Under-Secretary will consider whether some such words could not be introduced.
I think the sense of the Committee is that if it is at all possible the Under-Secretary ought to meet the point raised by the Amendment. I believe the proposer of the Amendment was entirely right when he said that in a great many cases large sums had already been 822 collected in connection with these war charities, and that many societies and organisations, which are perfectly legitimate and genuine, will not need to make further appeals to the public. I would suggest that many of the difficulties raised in this discussion have not really any substance at all. If it were a question of the Home Office or even the Charity Commissioners themselves having to deal with the registration in the first instance, I could understand that it would be practically impossible for them to hunt up all the various charitable organisations that have been at work during the past two years. But there is no point in that difficulty, because the registration authorities are the local authorities up and down the country, whose members will be perfectly familiar with what goes on in this connection in their own district.
The point is raised that practically a good many of these charities have been practically wound up, and have no money left, so that there is no real reason why this Bill should be extended to them. I entirely agree that where the transaction is completed this Bill is not necessary. I think perhaps the hon. Gentleman the Member for Attercliffc might go a little further and continue his proposed words by saying, "or use or disburse money already received—and not entirely expended at the time of the passing of this Act." If the Under-Secretary agrees to meet the wish of the majority of the Committee it would be very easy to fix upon a suitable form of words later. The hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London said it would be a very complicated matter to go into the accounts of all these societies for the past two years. I think it would be very easy for the Under-Secretary to devise words to amend Clause 3 to bring the existing charities in, and empower or enable them to form the necessary committees and keep the necessary accounts suggested in the Bill from the time of the passing of this Act. There is no need to go into an inquisition of past transactions in the case of perfectly genuine societies. But take charities having large sums still to disburse. There is nothing to prevent them from following out the provisions of the Act from its passing, and in connection with the sums in hand and to be dealt with in future accounts. I hope the Under-Secretary will further consider this matter, and see if he cannot give way to the wishes of the Committee.
Mr. CARADOC REES
There are to be considered the tremendous funds which have been collected and have not been distributed; for after this Bill is passed probably very little will be collected, because of the cumbersomeness of getting a charity together, getting it registered, and going through the necessary formalities. Consequently the important thing is not what is to be collected, but the distribution of the amounts in hand. I take it in respect to these funds the idea is to prevent fraud. But fraud may be, and very likely will have been, more in the past when there were no formalties or control. There is nothing in the Bill to enable the Home Office, or whoever is the authority, to get at this fraud in the past, I should like some assurance that something will be done to meet this case. It is quite clear that all these provisions would not apply, certainly to funds in being at the present time. Something should be put into the Bill forcing charities to register for a certain period, and giving to the Home Office power to ask for the production of such books or balance-sheets as they might deem necessary. Unless something like that is put in it seems to me the whole fraud we are aiming at might continue.
§ Mr. BRACE
Might I venture to endeavour to shorten this discussion? Of course I am entirely in the hands of the Committee, but hon. Members have placed me in a difficulty by handing in important Amendments which I have not had an opportunity of seeing before or consulting my advisers upon. I therefore could not accept my hon. Friend's Amendment at this moment, and I hope he will withdraw it so that I can consult my advisers to see what can be done, and inform the House when we come to the Report stage.
§ Major WEDGWOOD
Under Clause 4 the Charity Commissioners may make Regulations generally for carrying this Act into effect. That is an extremely wide power. I think if some such Amendment as is proposed were made in the Bill the Charity Commissioners could meet, under Regulations, the specific difficulty of charities with funds already in hand.
§ Mr. ANDERSON
It is only a few days since we had the Second Reading of the Bill, and really we have not had very much time to consider the Bill and put down Amendments. I sent my Amendments to the Clerk at the Table in the hope that 824 they would be taken to-morrow, but they were only received this morning, so that there has been somewhat of a rush. Therefore hon. Members are not so much to blame as would appear from the fact that we have not all the Amendments on the Paper. I have no desire to start an inquisition, as some hon. Members appear to think, into all the funds up to the present time. I think that would be quite a useless and hopeless enterprise. All we are asking for in this Amendment is, not to investigate the past, but from now onward to control the spending of charitable money. You cannot overtake the money that has been spent. Therefore I am quite willing, subject to the promise that has been given, that between now and the Report stage the Government will consider the form of words—I do not attach any particular importance to these words; I think they are perhaps not the best words—but, subject to something being done between now and the Report to meet what, I believe, is the practically unanimous opinion of the Committee on this matter, I withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Mr. PERCY HARRIS (Paddington, S.)
I beg to move, after the word "registered" ["unless the charity is registered under this Act"], to insert the word "annually."
This Amendment raises the question whether registration ought not to be annual. It is true that the Bill relates only to charities connected with the present War, but many of those charities will go on for a long time, and, unless you have annual registration, I do not think you will get that annual review which is desirable. There are many precedents for making registration annual, such as the Acts relating to employment agencies and nursing homes. I raise the point in order to get consideration of it by the Government.
§ Mr. BRACE
I hope the hon. Member will not press this Amendment because it is absolutely unnecessary. This is a Bill for the duration of the War and there is always a power of removal of any charity under the Bill. I think that we had better leave this matter to the Regulations and I am advised that the word "annually" is quite unnecessary.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.825
§ Mr. RAWLINSON
I beg to move after the word "approval" ["approval of the Committee"] to insert the words "of the registration authority and."
The object of this Bill is to prevent fraud in connection with war charities. There are two different methods of doing this. Firstly, where you have a bogus charity which is now practically nonexistent; and secondly, you have a good charity but the person who collects works in a way which the Committee would not approve of. Either he embezzles money, in which case he can be dealt with under the ordinary law, or else he gets up an entertainment in the country with the consent of some respectable charity, spends an excessive amount on the entertainment and takes for himself an excessive amount for his own expenses. The first method is dealt with under the Bill, but the second is not. If someone writes to a London charity for permission to get up a concert it is quite impossible for that charity in London to make inquiries, and in many cases they would make enemies if they asked too many questions. I know it is provided that the approval of the charity is necessary, but something more is required, and I suggest the approval of the registration authority. There are the people in the locality who registered the charity and they are the proper people to carry out the arrangements for an entertainment or bazaar.
Reference has been made to an Act which I am unfamiliar with as it is still only in the form of a Bill. No doubt street collections can be dealt with by the police under certain circumstances, and they have power to make regulations. Whether any such regulations have been made I do not know, but they have to receive the approval of the Home Office. I do not think, however, that that is sufficient precaution because the regulations of the police would be more concerned with good order and obstructing the thoroughfare. The regulations required would be to fix a maximum percentage which the promoters of entertainments would be entitled to deduct as expenses; and in the next place a regulation is required as to the class of person employed collecting money and making a general appeal to the public. I hope the Government will be able to accept my Amendment, and something might be added providing that the local authority or the Home Office might make regula- 826 tions as to the circumstances under which leave should be given for these entertainments and the way in which abuses could be done away with. I submit that it is a very important matter that when people give money to charities too large an amount should not be taken in expenses. This Bill does not touch that part of the case, and that is the reason why I have moved this Amendment.
§ Mr. BRACE
I hope that the hon. and learned Member will not press his Amendment. The person who made an appeal for aid would be guilty of an illegal act if such appeal was made without the consent of the Red Cross central authority. If this authority's consent is obtained, would not citizens say that they were not called upon to take unnecessary trouble, trouble very irksome to them, by having to go to the registration authority to get their consent as well, having already got the Red Cross consent. We are dealing with registered societies, and you start with the proposition that the Red Cross Society will be registered. Some persons in the country may desire to help the Red Cross Society, and they would write that they were going to get up a bazaar, or make a subscription, or have a concert at which an appeal would be made for funds. Would not these people be choked off, if I may use that term; had they to take the trouble of going to the Red Cross Society and to the registration authority as well. We have to be really careful not to surround these sympathetic and charitable undertakings with regulations. We are compelling everybody who desires to make an appeal for funds to go to the Red Cross central authority before doing so, and we provide safeguards to the full extent. If the registration authority is to be charged with the responsibility of registering all these appeals that may be made, every day of the week they would require an enormous staff, and the registration fee of a few shillings would not be sufficient to cover the expenditure of the office. I do hope that no one will make an appeal without the consent of the central authority, and we are protecting the public to the fullest extent in the circumstances.
§ Mr. POLLOCK
I am very sorry to hear the answer of the Under-Secretary. I think this Amendment is a most valuable one, and one which picks out one of the weakest spots of the whole Bill. It is one which to my mind is absolutely necessary, or the Bill to a large extent will be worth- 827 less. The Bill is not promoted to deal with the Red Cross Society; nor not dealing with the well-known and established charities. The Bill is intended to deal with cases where by gross neglect the money is ill-spent, wasted, or squandered. It is also intended to deal with a second branch, that is cases which are actually fraudulent. Let me take a fraudulent case. Supposing a charity desires to become registered; all that has got to be done under Clause 3, is to have a committee of not less than three persons to administer that charity. It is quite easy to put forward a plausible case for registration. Three persons get registered, and become registered as a charity. When they are registered, an appeal is going to be made, and all that has to be done in order that the requirements of the Bill may Le met is to obtain the approval of the committee or other governing body of the charity. It may be that under Clause 3 they are just three or four persons bound together for the purpose of fraud, and thereupon persons conducting a fraudulent charity make an appeal. What is the good of the Bill when it becomes an Act, then? It is really waste paper. You do not deal at all with the cases of fraudulent appeals. They will be perfectly easy, and will go on without limit or any protection against them at all. I quite appreciate the hon. Gentleman's effort not to deal with bonâ fide charities, with citizens who are desirous of doing good to their fellow members, and that sort of thing. That is quite right, but it can all be done, and simply done, by making easy regulations for getting approval, though you want the approval of persons in a public position, such as the registration authority, and persons who, by reason of the public information which is available to them, could say: "No, no, this is not the sort of appeal we ought to allow, because we know something about the persons conducting this charity, and it is one which ought not to appeal to the public." If this Amendment is not accepted you establish a system of dealing with charities which are all right in themselves, which do not want looking after, and take absolutely no protection of any sort or kind against fraudulent charities. I venture to ask the hon. Gentleman to reconsider his decision, to go back to his advisers and see what they say about this matter, because I am satisfied that unless an Amendment of this character is accepted, you may just as well leave the 828 Bill as it is, and say you are only going to deal with charities that are perfectly sound and good, and are going lo make no effort of any sort or kind to deal with appeals put forward on behalf of fraudulent charities.
In the beginning of this Clause reference is made to promoters or promoting, or taking part in any bazaar, sale, etc. I take it "promoting" would refer to the promoters, while "taking part in" would probably mean the collectors. In the latter part of the Clause, therefore, you get two descriptions of two things, one dealing with promoters and the other with collectors—
"— to raise money for any charity by promoting or taking part in any bazaar, sale, entertainment, or exhibition, or by any similar means, unless the charity is registered"
I take it that that hits the promoters—
"and the approval of the committee or other governing body of the charity has been obtained—"
I take it that is to hit the collectors. It seems to me to be that, because once the promoters of it have registered, they can only do it if the registration authority is satisfied that it is a bonâ fide charity. The promoters having done that, and secured the approval of the registration authority for the charity, the collectors come in, and ought to be authorised, not by the registration authority, but by the promoters of the charity, because if it is to be by the registration authority it will never work at all. If everyone has to go to the district superintendent before he can collect, the scheme will be unworkable altogether. The words "or taking part in," ought to be left out if the collectors are not to come in. If they are, they should get their authorisation from the charity and not from the registration authority.
I am very glad the hon. Gentleman has not accepted the Amendment. I am wholly against it because I believe that if it were inserted you would absolutely strangle the working of this Bill with red-tape. The hon. and learned Gentleman who proposed this Amendment must have overlooked Subsection (2) of Clause 2, which says that
"Applications for registration under this Act shall be sent to the registration authority for the area in which the administrative centre of the charity is situate——"
829 Take the illustration used by the Under-Secretary, that of a Red Cross charity. Are we to understand that if it is desired to raise money for that purpose the society must be registered not only in the central administrative area, which I presume would be London, but also in every part of the country where it is proposed to raise money? That is not the intention of this Bill at all. Red Cross Societies or similar charities are only to be registered in one particular place. The Mover of the Amendment must see that, while we have every desire to prevent fraud, it will not work in that direction, because if the central authority in London, which controls the charity, has to give permission, what earthly good would it do to have to write up to the registration authority in London as well? They would know nothing about the local conditions in various parts of the country. It would be multiplying useless labour. I, for one, trust to the fragment of knowledge of the local members of charities such as the Red Cross, and hold that the machinery of the Bill ought to stand as it is.
§ Mr. T. WILSON
I would suggest to the last speaker that the Bill is not aimed at the Red Cross Society. There is no doubt whatever about the honesty of that association. Therefore the Bill, although it applies to them, does not affect them.
§ Mr. WILSON
I suggest that there is something in the Amendment, and, while the hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill may not be able to accept it, he might consider between now and the Report stage whether he will not put in words to safeguard the matter. If the principle of the Amendment, along with that of an Amendment on the next page in the name of the hon. Member for North-West Durham (Mr. Aneurin Williams), were accepted, it would to a very large extent safeguard the public interest
§ Mr. ANDERSON
I do not see very much substance in the Amendment. Nothing can be done unless the charity is registered, therefore you have the safeguard that no step can be taken unless the charity is registered. A charity will not be registered unless it meets with the approval of the registration authority. That being so, the Amendment is superfluous.
§ Mr. RAWLINSON
I am afraid the matter has been misunderstood. There is real substance in the Amendment. The point is this: You register a society. There are two types of society, one absolutely honest. Take that case first. Somebody writes to them, say from Norwich—it may be a man who owns a hall—and says: "I am going to offer to hold a bazaar or sale of work on behalf of your excellent society." The people in London cannot afford to send somebody down to Norwich to make inquiries, so they say, provided the man is all right, "Very well, hold the bazaar." The bazaar is held. The man takes an excessive amount for rent and an excessive amount for expenses, and sends up to the Society in London a balance of £5 when perhaps £100 has been collected. The next case which I want to catch, and which is not met by this Bill, is a fraudulent case. The case I put before is not one of a fraudulent society. The second class of case is that of a society which is formed in London and manages to get registered. The County Council in London may know very little about them. They have a certain number of members, a treasurer, secretary, and small bank account, and there is nothing against them. A person, an accomplice, goes round in Liverpool, Manchester, Norwich, or anywhere else, holding entertainments for the benefit of the society. He takes £100 and sends a certain sum to the society in London. The fraud takes place—
§ Mr. RAWLINSON
The society keeps its books perfectly well, and the person in Liverpool or Manchester is not hit at all. That is the second type of case which I want to hit, and which is not touched by this Bill. The Committee had a certain number of cases before them, and they were rushed by the bogus society cases which were most flagrant, thereby missing cases much more common which ought to be got at, and unless they are got at this Bill will not be worth the paper it is written on. That explanation, I think, meets the objection of my hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Rees) who has misread the word "promoters." The promoters are the people who are promoting the particular thing in Norwich and other places, and they are not registered at all. In both cases I have mentioned it is the London society which is registered, and in 831 one case a society that is honest, and in the other case a fraudulent society. The promoters are not registered in any shape or form. The hon. Member (Mr. Hazleton) raises the point as to how this Amendment meets the case. I quite agree that there is strength in the question. The registration authority to give the licence will be the registration authority for the district in which the bazaar is held. If I did not say so, I admit at once that the words of the Amendment do not carry out the object as fully as I desire. Perhaps such words as "registration of the authority in the district in which the collection or bazaar is held" might be necessary. I rather think it is not necessary, but if it is necessary some words to that effect could be inserted. Of course, there may be better words for the purpose. The hon. Member (Mr. Anderson) understands the point I am trying to make. I want to hit certain cases, and it is vital to this Bill that they should be hit. It is an absolutely useless Bill unless you hit these cases. You will be putting people to a tremendous amount of trouble by this Bill, registering every form of society, some of which do not need any more registration than a Government office —societies like the Red Cross and others— and at the some time other people can ride through the Bill if they like by forming a society in London and collecting by outside means. This Bill does not touch the collecting evils I have indicated, affecting a good society in one case and a fraudulent society in another, and I do urge the Government to go into these matters and make the Bill a real one and not a sham.
§ 12.0 M.
§ Mr. J. W. WILSON
Does the hon. Member really contemplate that for the purpose of getting these particular societies checked in some way, such as he suggests, he is going to lay upon the registration authorities, for a few shillings fee, the duty of being consulted about every circular that is issued, every concert that is held, every bazaar that is hold by a Red Cross or any other respectable society? To put all this on the already overworked officials of local authorities and expect them to do all this for nothing is perfectly monstrous from the local government point of view. I do not think anybody could possibly expect local authorities to work the Bill and become sponsors and censors of every appeal of every sort in 832 connection with the funds of these societies. The thing only needs to be stated to be put aside.
§ Mr. RAWLINSON
If you give a concert and take money at the door you have to get leave of the local authority. If my hon. Friend had taken part in as many of these concerts as I have, he would know that he has to send to the County Council, and it is sometimes very troublesome.
Is not the point that in Clause 3 all monies collected by or on behalf of charities shall be paid into a State bank or account as may be specified? The charity has to be registered, and it runs the risk of being struck off if it allows subsidiary people to do wrong.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Mr. BRACE
I do not think I ought to ask the Committee to get through the Bill to-night. There is a number of very substantial Amendments down, and I think I should be consulting the convenience of the Committee if I asked leave to report Progress. In the meantime I would ask hon. Members who wish to move Amendments to put them down so that we may have an opportunity of seeing what they are, so that when we next get into Committee we may make real progress, as I am very anxious to have the Bill an Act of Parliament before we adjourn.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again to-morrow (Wednesday).
§ The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.
§ It being after half-past Eleven of the clock on Monday evening, Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKEB adjourned the House, without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.
§ Adjourned accordingly at Six minutes after Twelve o'clock.