- (1) This Act may be cited as the War Charities Act, 1916.
- (2) This Act shall not extend to Ireland.
§ Mr. PENNEFATHER
I beg to move to leave out Sub-section (2).
The Sub-section states that this Act shall not extend to Ireland. I would like to point out that this is really not an Irish question. It is a matter which affects Ireland very much less than it affects England and Wales. If this were purely an Irish question I think it might be quite proper that the Government should leave the decision as to whether Ireland should or should not come in to be settled by the Irish people. But it is not an Irish question. Irish war charities can, under the Bill, appeal for funds in England, Scotland, and Wales, and I want to point out, in order to allay any suspicion on the part of my Irish Friends—I impute to Ireland no greater dose of original sin than belongs to England—that it would be open, under the Bill as it now stands, for an unscrupulous Englishman or Scotsman or Welshman to make his headquarters in Ireland, and from Dublin, Cork, or Belfast to exploit the British public under the guise of raising money for Irish war charities. In order to make that quite clear, I think I must point out that the Bill as it stands creates five new main offences—offences which are punishable by a fine up to £100 or three months' imprisonment, with or without hard labour.
These offences are as follow: The first offence is soliciting or collecting money 1593 for any unregistered or unregulated war charity. I would ask, if that is necessary for England, Scotland and Wales, why is it not necessary for Ireland also? The second offence under the Bill is to promote a bazaar, or other entertainment for any unregistered or unregulated war charity. That also applies to England, Scotland and Wales, but not to Ireland. I again ask, if that is an offence in England, Scotland and Wales, punishable by a heavy fine and imprisonment with hard labour, why should it not be an offence when committed in Ireland? The third crime or offence under the Bill is collecting or soliciting for any war charity without the authority of such charity. Obviously that is a very proper provision, but if it is a crime for a man in England, Scotland or Wales to collect money for a charity without having the authority of that charity, why should a man in Ireland be able to do it with impunity? Those are three main offences, but there are others. It is an offence to promote any bazaar for a charity without authority in England, Scotland or Wales—this is a different offence from collecting or soliciting, it is the offence of promoting an entertainment without authority—and if that is an offence in England, punishable by fine and imprisonment, why should any unscrupulous person in Ireland be able to commit that offence without punishment? There is this fifth offence, if a person falsely represents that he is an officer or agent of a war charity. If that is an offence in England, Scotland and Wales, as it is, and if it ought to be punished, as it ought to be, why should it not be an offence in Ireland, and why should it not be punished in Ireland?
The main point is that, as matters now stand in the Bill, there is nothing whatever to prevent an unscrupulous person leaving England, we will say, migrating to Ireland, making the headquarters of his bogus charity in Ireland, and from Ireland advertising in the British newspapers, appointing agents in England, Scotland and Wales, appointing sub-committees, and collecting money in this country, taking it over to Ireland in order to escape all the Regulations that are set up in this Act, in other words, in order to evade this Act and defeat its very object. That being the case, I do submit that it is very necessary indeed that these words should be struck out, or otherwise you might have the case of a man in this country committing any of these offences and being imprisoned or heavily fined, while another man walking 1594 side by side in the same street might commit the tame offences on behalf of a war charity having its headquarters in Ireland and get off scot free. I do not want to detain the Committee at this late hour. If this Bill is, as we believe it to be, a beneficial Bill which will be for the benefit of respectable war charities in England, Scotland, and Wales, and will be a safeguard to the public; if that is the case, if this Bill will be such a good thing for England, Scotland, and Wales, why deprive Ireland of the benefit of that good thing? Surely that would be another injustice to Ireland. For all these reasons I have, after very careful consideration and examination, come to the conclusion that it is absolutely essential to the carrying out of the intention of this Bill properly, justly, and fairly that this Sub-section should be deleted. I hope it may not be necessary, but, if it should be necessary, I am prepared to back that opinion by going to a Division, if I can find anybody to second the Amendment and anybody to tell.
§ Mr. LUNDON
I desire to second the Motion of the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken. When this Bill was going through the Second Reading stage, I asked the Under-Secretary to the Home Office if it was possible to have it extended to Ireland, and he asked me to put an Amendment on the Paper and said that the matter would be considered favourably, and that he would submit it to the Irish Office and let me know whether or not that body would be willing to accept it. I see no reason why this Bill should not be extended to Ireland, and I am satisfied that none of my colleagues think that it should not be. I am all the more anxious that the Amendment should be accepted, for the simple reason that since I put the question to the Under-Secretary for the Home Office asking that this Bill should be extended to Ireland, a halfpenny influential and powerful newspaper, the most powerful newspaper in our country, made a most vicious personal and untruthful attack upon me, because I asked the House to extend the Bill to Ireland, an attack which I think a Member of this House is entitled to ask protection from. When I asked that this Bill should be extended, I did so in all good faith, and on the following day the London correspondent of the "Irish Daily Independent" made a statement in the London Letter that I wished this Bill to 1595 be extended to Ireland in order to prevent charities being raised in Ireland to relieve the distress caused by the rebellion. I cannot understand how any man could stretch his imagination to such an extent as to suggest that I would be the medium for asking that the Bill should be extended to Ireland to prevent money being raised to relieve such distress. He knew when he was writing these words, as well as I do, that this Bill could by no chance cover any funds raised for the relief of distress in Dublin. But his idea was to rake up the dying embers of what took place in Easter week, and hold my party up to odium.
This Bill relates to war charities, and no others. I, for one, am not going to be brow-beaten by any political newspaper, no matter how powerful it may be in Ireland or in this country, and I am all the more determined that this Amendment should be accepted and that the Bill should be made to apply to Ireland. I am not casting any suspicions upon anyone who is carrying on war charities in Ireland; up and down the country from Belfast to Cork men of all political parties have helped to carry them on. I will say that in the great bulk of cases they have been carried on without fee or reward for their promotion. I know that in Limerick, Dublin, and Cork gift sales have been held and not a penny has been charged by anyone for carrying them on, and every halfpenny collected has been accounted for, and the amount has been published in balance-sheets which have been distributed among those who subscribed. I object to this Bill being withheld from Ireland, because I think that no matter how high up in society a person may be, whether a lady or a gentleman, if that person collects money in aid of the Red Cross or any other charity, those who subscribe are entitled to know how the money has been spent. My object in asking that this Amendment should be made is that, as I understand it, the Bill covers the question of the distribution of the funds, and it insists that only a certain percentage of the funds shall be used for expenses, and in order to prevent any overlapping or wastage of these funds I am interested in having the Bill extended to Ireland.
I am the more anxious that it should be so extended since I heard the other day in the Committee Room upstairs the Member for Cambridge tell us that all up and down 1596 this country you have persons asking for subscriptions to certain war funds and putting the receipts into their own pockets. I ask the right hon. Gentleman who is going to answer for the Government how are you going to prevent swindlers leaving Liverpool or London and going over to Dublin and obtaining money in that way for war charities? I do not agree with the hon. Member for the Kirkdale Division of Liverpool (Mr. Pennefather) that it is possible to collect funds in this country for Irish war charities, because they would have to get registered here. However, it is possible, I think, for people to collect funds in Ireland and devote them to their own private purposes, and in order to prevent that from going on I ask that the Amendment should be accepted. I wish to assure the right hon. Gentleman who is going to reply for the Government that I do not intend to cast any aspersion upon any persons in Ireland who are engaged in collecting for Bed Cross work. I have given them every assistance in Ireland, in my own Constituency and elsewhere, and I shall continue to do so. Whatever differences of opinion may have sprung up among our people, or between the party of which I am a member and the Government over recent events, one thing we shall not be prevented from doing—we shall continue to give every comfort we can to the men who are fighting our battles at the front. We are anxious to give them that comfort, but we are also anxious to see that any swindler, or anyone carrying on a bogus charity, will not have a fair and open field in Ireland.
§ Mr. T. W. RUSSELL (Vice-President of the Department of Agriculture, Ireland)
There is one reason which, I think, is conclusive against this Amendment, and that is: If it were adopted, every Clause in the Bill would have to be reviewed and the measure would have to be recast. The hon. Member will find that this has been done for Scotland, and it would require to be done for Ireland, and if it had to be done at this period of the Session I do not believe the Bill would have any chance of being passed. I say, apart from all argument on the merits of the Amendment, I do not believe that you can apply the Bill to Ireland at this stage, in view of the changes that would be necessary. The House knows that the Chief Secretary is in Ireland, and that is the reason why the Irish Office is not directly represented now; but I can say there is no evidence of 1597 that maladministration in Ireland the existence of which has been made quite clear in England, and which is the reason, I think, why this Bill has been produced. It is because of the maladministration of some of these war charity funds that this Bill has been rendered necessary. There is no evidence of any such maladministration in Ireland, and I do not see why you should introduce the Bill where it is not necessary in the circumstances of the country.
In the second place, registrations would be very few in Ireland. In some counties there would be none and in others only one or two, and yet it would be necessary for the county council to set up registration machinery almost as elaborate as if there was a large number of registrations to take place. That is an argument against the working of the Bill, to show that it is unnecessary in these places. In the third place, there is no central authority for Ireland. That is one case in which machinery for the Bill in Ireland would have to be provided. There is no central authority in Ireland with powers and jurisdiction similar to this in the Bill. It would be necessary to confer such powers and jurisdiction upon some other body, probably the Irish Local Government Board. That again is a matter which would require some consideration; at all events, the Bill would have to go through the Irish Office and go through the hands of the draftsman, and that could not be taken in hand now. The Clause would have to be revised to make it apply to Ireland. All the information we have from Ireland, and I speak also from my own personal knowledge is the same; I have been informed over and over again, by Government officials and by other people in Ireland, that the Bill has no support in Ireland whatever, and it is rather taken as a reflection upon that country that it should be proposed to apply it there.
§ Mr. LUNDON
Your information is taken from the "Irish Independent" and those who are against the Bill.
§ Mr. RUSSELL
I refuse to be drawn into any controversy between the hon. Member and the "Irish Independent." There is, I repeat, no demand from Ireland for this Bill, and a large section of the people rather take it as a reflection upon the country.
§ Mr. LUNDON
The right hon. Gentleman has not been in Dublin since I put down my Amendment. He knows nothing about the feeling of the people of Dublin on it.
§ Mr. RUSSELL
At all events I know that is the case. I hope the House will not destroy the Bill, because that is what it means if the Amendment is accepted now. If the Amendment is accepted the Bill can go no further this Session. It will take time to revise it, and in any case you will not be conferring any boon upon Ireland.
Sir H. DALZIEL
I am sorry my right hon. Friend (Mr. Russell) has taken such a strong line in regard to this Amendment. He tells us—he seems to be speaking for the Cabinet and the Home Office—that this Amendment cannot be inserted. Does; the Under-Secretary to the Home Office agree?
§ Mr. RUSSELL
I said we have got close to the end of the Session, and if this Bill has to be recast and applied to Ireland it will occupy time, and there is no time to spare for that.
Sir H. DALZIEL
It is no good telling us that we cannot find time to modify the Bill if we wish to apply it to Ireland, and that therefore if we do so the Bill cannot pass. I think the House should take notice of the manner in which the Government is treating us in regard to this legislation. At this late period of the night an Amendment of this kind comes forward, after a half a dozen Amendments which were not on the Paper, and we find that, even if the House desires it, they have so managed the business that we cannot alter the Bill according to our wishes at this time of the Session. I cannot understand the position of the Government with regard to this Amendment. My right hon. Friend said there was no central authority for Ireland. There is just as much of an authority in Ireland as in Scotland, where it is the Local Government Board.
§ 1.0 A.M.
Sir H. DALZIEL
Why not use the Local Government Board in Ireland as in Scotland? These powers are given to the Local Government Board in Scotland, and yet we are told the Bill cannot be applied to Ireland because there is no central authority there. If, as the House knows, and he knows, swindling has been going on to the extent of thousands of pounds in regard to these war charities, and is going on at the present moment, why should not the Irish people want to be protected just as much as the people of England or Scotland? It is not for anyone to say that no swindling is going on in Ireland. Swindlers work under curious garbs and names. It is not a case of what has happened in the past or what is happening at present. These swindlers may probably move from this country to Ireland, and they will have the whole field there to make any appeals they like. If this Bill is good for England it must be good for Ireland, and I am sorry the Government have taken this strong view. I should think that in one hour they could draft all the modification that is necessary to apply this Bill to Ireland, and I hope my hon. Friend will persevere with the proposal he has put forward. Let the Government get their Bill to-night, and let them undertake to insert this Amendment in the Lords. It would not delay the passage of the Bill in any degree, and I do hope we shall show by a Division in the Lobby our protest against the limitation to England of a Bill which we believe will be for the good of the general public.
I think that the House will agree that the hon. Gentleman has not made out a very strong case against the extension to Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken pointed out that really it would be a very simple matter if it were desirable to extend this Bill to Ireland to make the necessary adjustments and that it need not delay the progress of this Bill to the Statute Book by one hour. If this Clause is deleted to-night the Bill goes to another place to-morrow, and all you have to do is to put in a machinery Clause for application to Ireland similar to Clause No. 11, which applies to Scotland. Scotland, as has been pointed out, has no Charity Commissioners, and the Local Government Board for Ireland would be quite capable of doing for that country what the Local Government Board for Scotland does for 1600 Scotland in connection with this Bill. I object very strongly to one remark of the right hon. Gentleman on the Front Bench (Mr. Russell) in dealing with this Amendment. He said that people in Ireland would take it as a reflection upon the country if this Bill were to be extended to them. I do not know whose views he is representing in making that extraordinary statement. Is it the views of the Government? Is it the view of the Irish Office, or whose views is it? He has not told us. It is not a reflection upon the people of this country, where all persons are anxious that these war charities should be well-regulated, but I do say that if there were no necessity up to the present time for a Bill of this kind being applied to Ireland, you are creating the necessity by passing this Bill for England and for Scotland because swindlers and other people in Great Britain whose vocation will be gone will be driven over to Ireland. What did we witness at the time racing was very largely curtailed in this country? That all sorts of undesirable people who had made their living here crossed the Channel, many of them trying to do their best there to imitate the practices which they adopted in this country.
When the right hon. Gentleman put forward the assertion that to extend this Bill to Ireland would be a reflection upon the country he was not representing the view of anybody, or of anybody of opinion in Ireland itself. I am sorry that he has not made a stronger case, because it seems to me that the only real objection to the extension of this Bill to Ireland is the laziness of Irish Government officials who do not want the trouble of applying it. The right hon. Gentleman spoke of setting up a great deal of elaborate machinery all over the country. I have followed the discussion from start to finish of this Bill, and I say there is really no elaborate machinery at all in this Bill. All the county councils have got to do is to appoint a committee and to keep a notebook for registration, and if the Irish Local Government Board or the Irish Office or the Chief Secretary's Office—I do not know for whom the right hon. Gentleman was speaking—think that that is a trouble and that Irish county councils would resent it I tell him that he has, in my opinion, taken a very mistaken view. There is one other point. The right hon. Gentleman, to come back to one of his remarks, said this Bill would be a reflection upon Ireland. I consider that 1601 one of his observations was a much more serious reflection on Ireland, that was when he told the House what I was most surprised to learn, and cannot accept without further corroboration, that in some counties in Ireland there were very few war charities, and that in other counties there were no war charities at all. I challenge the right hon. Gentleman to mention the name of any single county in Ireland where there is no war charity. I say that is not correct, and that he is misrepresenting our country when he brings forward an assertion of that kind, because you have only got to look at the Irish papers week atfer week, whatever district they come from, to see that these gift days to which my hon. Friend the Member for East Limerick referred, and the flag days and such things are in operation all over the country. I say that if there is a reflection casting discredit upon Ireland it is not from hon. Members on this bench who have been advocating the extension of this Bill to Ireland, but it is in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman who opposes it.
§ Mr. BRACE
I regret to see this development at a late hour. The House will remember that my hon. Friend who seconded the Motion tabled an Amendment for the inclusion of Ireland when the Bill was before the House on the first occasion. After some talk with him, I understood that he would not press this Amendment.
§ Mr. BRACE
I understood the hon. Gentleman would not press the Amendment, and therefore it has rather taken me by surprise to-night that this position has developed in the way it has. I make a special appeal to my right hon. Friend, and I hope the House will not put us in this position that we shall jeopardise this Bill.
§ Mr. BRACE
Will the House forgive me. I am not an astute politician; I am simply an ordinary, plain business man. This Bill is based upon the Report of a Committee. The Committee inquired into the whole of this problem. The Irish problem formed no part of this inquiry. No Irishman was a member of the Committee. No evidence whatever was taken from Ireland as to war charities. I am, therefore, in this position, that we have had a Committee inquiring exhaustively into the 1602 position of war charities in England and Scotland, and we have a unanimous recommendation based upon evidence taken from both England and Scotland, and consequently the Bill was drafted leaving Ireland out altogether.
After the Amendment had been put upon the Paper, I placed myself in communication with the Irish Office, and the reply I received from them was this:The Chief Secretary thinks that the Bill ought not to be extended to Ireland. He has received reports adverse to the extension from the Under-Secretary, the Solicitor-General for Ireland, and the Secretary to the Commissioners of Charitable Donations and Bequests in Ireland.In face of that, I do not think the House ought to ask me to accept the responsibility of including Ireland at this juncture. I am keenly anxious to get this Bill. We have a known problem in England and in Scotland, the problem in connection with these charitable funds with which we hope to deal without the slightest delay. I hope to see this Bill placed in the Statute Book within hours from now, and to have the whole scheme of the Bill in operation to deal with the exploitation with which it is intended to deal. In all the circumstances, I hope my hon. Friend will not press upon me the acceptance of the Amendment to include Ireland. I place myself entirely at the disposal of the House of Commons, and it is because I feel myself in this difficulty that I do venture very respectfully to make an appeal that the Amendment should be withdrawn, that the Bill should be pushed forward without delay and placed on the Statute Book, and that, if necessary, the Irish problem can be dealt with as a separate problem after inquiry.
Mr. SHIRLEY BENN
As one of the Members keenly anxious to see this Bill passed, I rise to support the Amendment, notwithstanding the fact that the right hon. Gentleman who spoke for the Irish Office (Mr. Russell) did say, with that deep knowledge of Ireland, that keen, clear perception of Irish character which justifies him in stating it, that Ireland does not want this Amendment. It was moved by an Irishman, seconded by an Irishman, and it is supported by Irishmen, and I sincerely hope that the House will not be led astray by any statement from the Irish Office that Ireland does not want it. I believe Ireland does want it. We all know that war charities are necessary, that war charities are being liberally and well subscribed to by the inhabitants of the United Kingdom, and I am confident that the men of Ireland 1603 are as anxious to see war charities subscribed to, and honestly subscribed to, in Ireland, and honestly run, as any other men of any other part of the United Kingdom. I hope very sincerely that the House will agree to have this Amendment, and to see that Ireland is included in the Bill.
§ Mr. PETO
We have had two speeches from the Front Bench, both opposed to the acceptance of this Amendment. The right hon. Gentleman who represents the Irish Office (Mr. Russell) says that there is no maladministration in Ireland of war charities, and that maladministration was the only reason for this Bill. When the hon. Gentleman who is in charge of the Bill (Mr. Brace) got up, he did not enlighten the House on that point. He told us, what I have no doubt was in the minds of a good many hon. Members who have studied the Report of this Committee, that no evidence of maladministration of war charities had been taken. He, therefore, knocked away the whole basis of the argument put forward by his right hon. Friend as to why we should not press and carry this Amendment. If there was no evidence taken one way or the other, what right has the right hon. Gentleman to tell us that—taking his assumption as correct, which I do not, that maladministration is the only basis of this Bill—there is no maladministration in Ireland? Even supposing that maladministration is the only basis of the Bill, it is not so. The Bill is intended to see that perfectly genuine charities are run on reasonably economic lines, and that they are reasonably regulated, so that the beneficiaries of the charities shall get a proper proportion of the money subscribed. As the Committee knows, it is a far more common case to have extravagant expenses in administration than to have anyone appropriating the money to himself and not intending to pay it out. Supposing that is so, why do the right hon. Gentleman and hon. Gentlemen propose to make a sort of Alsatia of Ireland; why do they propose to leave out one part of the United Kingdom intentionally, so that when the Bill becomes an Act of Parliament Ireland will be a sort of sink, and, just as the undesirable racing people go to Boulogne, and the people who want to work lotteries go to Hamburg, all the people who want to have shady charities, with no supervision, will migrate to Ireland, where the right hon. Gentleman says everything is all right and everyone can be quite confident in an Irish war charity?
1604 He says now that Irish war charities are above suspicion, but what will the liberal public think when they know that every war charity in England, Scotland, and Wales is subject to the requirements provided by this Bill, when they are asked to subscribe to an Irish war charity, and they know it has been expressly and intentionally left out of the Bill? Money may be asked for for the Leinsters, the Munsters, the Connaughts, or whatever it may be, but people will say, "That is for Ireland. Ireland is not regulated under the Bill. If I have a 'fiver' to spare, I shall have to give it to an English charity which is regulated by the provisions which are needed and which are provided by this Bill." The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Kirkcaldy (Sir H. Dalziel) has dealt with the right hon. Gentleman who represents the Irish Office in connection with what I can only regard as a threat to the House when he said, in his final words, "Do we want to destroy this Bill?" I have never heard a speech which has made more of a mountain out of a molehill. An hour's work by a competent draftsman would produce an additional Clause, and no one knows better than the right hon. Gentleman that he could get it inserted without any difficulty in another place to-morrow, and that it would go through. We have not had the real reasons given us, and no real arguments have been advanced against those of my hon. Friend who put forward arguments for the inclusion of Ireland. The case has never been met from the Front Bench opposite, and as we have had such arguments as would not bear the slightest investigation I certainly shall support my hon. Friend and the Seconder of the Amendment in the Lobby.
§ Mr. RAFFAN
I think my hon. Friend who is in charge of this Bill (Mr. Brace) will have realised that a very strong and powerful case has been brought forward. One point which I think the right hon. Gentleman who represents Ireland (Mr. Russell) has missed is the possibility that war charities killed in Great Britain may be transferred to Ireland. That is a point which has not been dealt with. At the same time I do not think that my hon. Friend is entitled to feel that the House should pass this Bill to-night. He had practically a promise on the last occasion that if he would not take the Report stage on that night, which he asked to do, he would not have great difficulty tonight. Nevertheless, I venture to ask 1605 whether, in view of the strong feeling expressed, he cannot see his way to promise that a Committee should be set up to consider the question of Ireland, as a Committee has considered the question of England and Wales. If that were done, and if the result of the inquiry by the Committee showed that legislation was necessary, then I have no doubt that legislation would be brought forward. If my hon. Friend would give a promise of that kind, then I should appeal to hon. Gentlemen to be satisfied with that, because it would give them an opportunity to state their case, and to secure an Irish Bill, with proper Irish machinery, to deal with the Irish position and with any special difficulties that might arise with regard to Ireland. I do venture respectfully to suggest to my hon. Friend that he might see his way to make a promise of that kind, and if that were done I hope it would prove to be a solution of the difficulty.
§ Mr. BRACE
I feel myself in an awkward position—of course, the House of Commons is supreme—when you ask me to undertake a further investigation of this problem, and if possible to deal with it, either in another place or by a Committee. Of course, you are asking me to deal with a question of high policy which I cannot myself without consulting my leaders. But I will certainly cause the whole of the mind of the House of Commons, as I understand it, to be placed before the responsible authorities, and will explain to them that I gathered that there was a strong feeling in the House of Commons that Ireland should be included in this Bill or that inquiry should be undertaken with a view to giving them a Bill of their own. I will most certainly undertake to do that, and I would respectfully ask the House, on this undertaking, to give me this Bill. We do know that there is a great problem in England and Scotland, and if we get the Bill within the next day or two it will be more or less of an advance. I earnestly hope that the House will give us both the Report stage and the Third Reading at this Sitting.
§ Mr. LUNDON
I do not want to make a second speech, but I wish the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down to understand my position. I do assure him that I was not going to persist in my Amendment, and I am sorry to have placed him in an awkward position. In one moment, I will read a paragraph that will explain my position—
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the third time."
Sir H. DALZIEL
All parts of the House will recognise the courtesy and frankness with which my hon. Friend (Mr. Brace) has conducted this Bill, and I very warmly congratulate him on the success of his efforts. There is no doubt that he has introduced and carried it through all its stages in order to deal with what is really a great public scandal. I am sorry that has not been introduced before, because the Bill is not retrospective in the manner in which I could have wished to have seen it. I think it is a blot on the Bill that it does not deal with all the swindling that we know has been going on for months past—members of committee drawing huge salaries, £300 and £400 a year; honorary officials drawing salaries amounting to thousands; and all this kind of thing which has been going on at the expense of the charitable public. Well, I think it is time the public were informed as to what societies they are justified in supporting, and it is time that the public knew the expenses of some of the charities making a public appeal. I rise to ask my hon. Friend to give us an assurance, before the Third Reading is carried, that the Bill has power to deal with the larger expenses of a society irrespective of more incidental demands that are made. We speak of an account, a collection, and so on, but I strongly urge that we need the interpretation of the Government in a matter which might only apply to these special appeals. I am very anxious to have the assurance of the Government that they will apply generally to the expenses of a society irrespective of a special appeal. I am quite sure that that was the hon. Gentleman's original intention, and I think it might be covered by the point which says—I think it was in Clause 3—that the society ought to keep proper accounts.
1607 But I should like an assurance from the hon. Gentleman that the intention of this Bill is to deal generally with the income and the expenditure of the society, altogether apart from any special emergency appeals for particular purposes, which really govern the machinery of the appeal as a whole. I have been specially asked, on behalf of the Press in Scotland, and almost the whole of the papers in Scotland, to put forward these demands. I am very glad that, as a result of negotiations that have taken place, many of them have been met. But I should like an assurance from my hon. Friend that they are covered in the Bill. The first point is that societies making these appeals should be compelled to publish the correct amount of their receipts—I think there is little doubt that that is so irrespective of the printed appeal—the exact amount of their expenses, and also the name of the auditor or auditors. Societies who go out for swindling through the charges to the expenses very often have a friend living in a different part of the country who is able to audit the accounts. Of course in this case the registration authority has to approve of the auditor, and I very much hope that the registration authority will be a fully qualified chartered accountant, because these men are quite willing, as a rule, to give their services for nothing, and are very glad to assist the cause of charity in that way. We ought to take care and to see that no particular friends of the directors are the auditors of these appeals which are made.
Then there is another point I desire my hon. Friend to give me an assurance on, and that is that the accounts will be available to the Press who represent the public. We all know that these appeals are successful owing to the amount of attention which has been drawn to them by the public Press. The Press in this respect represents the public, and, as the Bill stands, the Press has no right or authority to inspect the accounts when they are sent to the registration authority. I should have liked to have moved an Amendment to the Bill compelling such charities to submit their accounts not only to the local registration authority, but also to send them to at least three newspapers circulating in the particular districts where the appeal was made, because every conceivable difficulty has been put in the way of the Press getting at the real facts of the case, although the 1608 Press, in my opinion, have really got the money for the charities. I want an assurance, I do not think I ought to go further than that, because this matter is one for the local registration authority, that facilities will be given to the representatives of the Press to obtain copies of these accounts, and in that way I think we shall have security, that we would not otherwise have, that these matters will really be closely investigated. I hope, before the Bill passes, that my hon. Friend will be able to give me an assurance on some of these points.
§ Mr. KEATING
I do not think that this Third Reading stage should be concluded without our giving our hearty congratulations to the Under-Secretary to the Home Office on the kindliness, consideration, and courtesy which he has shown in the conduct, of this Bill. He has gone about his work in a way which has appealed to all of us, and I am sure that my Friends who have found it necessary to oppose him have not done so with any willing hearts. At the same time, I think it is only right that the House should know that Irish Members rather resent the suggestion made by the Vice-President of the Board of Agriculture that this Bill would be a reflection on Ireland. I believe that the county councils ought to have full control in Ireland of war charities of this kind, and ought to have the right to say something as to how they should be conducted. I was very much impressed by what was said about the possibility of people conducting war charities in this country, and, being shut out under the Bill from England, might find perhaps a field for operations in Ireland. I want also to say that I hope we have not heard the last of the proposal that this measure should be extended to Ireland in the future. I think that the Under-Secretary will do well to bear in mind all the protests that have been made during this Debate, and I hope he will consult the feeling not only of the House but of Irish Members in regard to the Committee to investigate the position of Ireland in view of the bringing in of a separate Bill. I do not think it would be fair to the House if I did not express also another thing. There is something more in the attitude of Irish Members than that which has been given expression to.
We have in Ireland a sort of Press campaign, and at every stage of our public 1609 life we are threatened with all sorts of political punishment if we take steps according to what we consider to be the dictates of the interests of the country and our own consciences. I want the Vice-President of the Board of Agriculture to understand this, whether he takes his opinions from the "Independent" or not, that we Irish Members who represent Nationalist constituencies, and who represent that spirit of unity and determination with which we are fighting the battle of Ireland, are not time-servers, and we will not take our views from the "Independent," whatever he may do. We have the courage of our convictions, and I would be very sorry to make any statement which would reflect upon the hon. Gentleman's courage. He has shown great courage in his career, the courage of changing his opinion several times, and I want him to understand this, that it will probably be worth his while to consider the changing of his opinions again on this matter. Now, having said that much, I do not think I should say anything more except that whatever has been done by my hon. Friends, has been done in what we consider to be the interests of the country, and we continue to press for the appointment of a Committee for the purpose of bringing in a separate Bill to extend this to Ireland.
§ Mr. BRACE
In reply to my right hon. Friend the Member for Kirkcaldy (Sir Henry Dalziel) I would say that the points he has raised are really covered by the Bill, and, if they were not, we would have them covered, because it is the intention of the Bill to meet the cases that my right hon. Friend has in mind. If he will follow me he will see that in Sub-section (2) of Clause 3, it says that
"the accounts shall be audited at such intervals as may be prescribed by Regulations under this Act, by some person or persons approved by the registration authority, and copies of the accounts so audited shall be sent to the registration authority."
There we assure that the accounts are audited and that they shall be audited by a proper auditor approved by the registration authority. If he will follow me again, he will see in Sub-section (4) of Clause 3 that
"the books and accounts of the charity shall be open to inspection at any time by any person duly authorised by the registration authority or by the Charity Commissioners."
1610 Either the registration authority or the Charity Commissioners can give permission for free inspection of the accounts of the charity. Now the registration authority is either the town council, the borough council, the urban council, or the county council, four public authorities under the control of the public, and I imagine that there could be no easier thing than for an accredited Press representative to get permission from the registration authority, and, failing them, if there is any difficulty, from the Charity Commissioners, to examine the accounts of any charity he likes to write about. It will be seen further in Sub-section (d) of Clause 4 that the Charity Commissioners will provide for such an examination of accounts as my right hon. Friend has in mind because they will arrange what fees shall be paid
"for making or obtaining copies of and extracts from registers and lists."
Therefore he will see that provision is made for every publicity to be given, and if he will turn to Clause 7, Sub-section (2), he will find there the words, "This Section shall apply to unregistered war charities whether or not application for registration has been made, and to war charities the registration of which has been refused." I can only say that the idea underlying this Bill, and the instructions upon which the Parliamentary draftsman worked, were to make the Bill as complete as possible, to put an end to the exploitation of the generous emotions of the public which were moved at a time of great national stress. Because I think the Bill will meet this purpose, I think we might have the Third Reading and now complete it. In asking for that, I should like to convey my warm appreciation of the kindly way in which the House has received this measure, and the more than kindly way in which the House has treated me in connection with it.
§ Mr. PENNEFATHER
I should like to associate myself with what was said by the hon. Gentleman on this side (Mr. Keating) just now with regard to the hon. Member who is in charge of the Bill, and the courteous and considerate manner in which he has led the Bill through the House. I was much more convinced by his conciliatory manner throughout than I was by the force of the arguments, if they may be so called, which were brought forward by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Russell). I do realise, however, that the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Brace) would be in 1611 a difficult position if we pressed this matter to a Division, and for that reason, and having full confidence that he will be as good as his word, and better, I will not press the Amendment to a Division, and I suggest that the hon. Member will perhaps go not only as far as he said but will go farther. I suggest that it would be a perfectly simple thing still to get the necessary Amendments drafted and introduced in another place without, I will not say a day's delay, but without losing the Bill or sacrificing any time in amending the Bill. It is not many months ago since, on the Third Reading of a Bill, I made a very hurried suggestion at the last moment to the Solicitor-General, and within two days that suggestion came back here in the form of Amendments from another place, and it was accepted by this House. With very little drafting, knowing this Bill insider-out as I do, and as the hon. Gentleman knows, I say the necessary provisions can be made in an hour or two, and can be introduced in another place, and I respectfully urge upon the hon. Gentleman to try if he can meet the wishes of the House so clearly expressed, a House which, as he said, has treated him very cordially in this matter. I hope he will carry out this suggestion, and that only if it is impossible to carry out this suggestion will he fall back upon the other suggestion that has been made.