Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £1,150, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during tie year ending on the 31st day of March. 1927, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Charity Commission for England and Wales.
§ The FINANCIAL SECRETARY to the TREASURY (Mr. Ronald McNeill)
This Supplementary Estimate does not lend itself to much exciting oratory, but nevertheless perhaps the Committee would like an explanation as to how the Estimate comes before them. Up to 1925 there were certain charitable deeds which, under older legislation, were enrolled at the Royal Courts of Justice, but 1165 by the Settled Land Act which was passed in 1925, a change was made with regard to this particular class of deeds, and it was enacted that they should be enrolled and recorded in the books of the Charity Commissioners, and the arrangement was made that the fees which would be derived from that register should be accounted for as an Appropriation-in-Aid to the Charity Commission Vote. There were not the data available for a very close estimate of the amount of the fees. This was the first year of the change. Previously, when the deeds had been enrolled at the Royal Courts of Justice, they were not isolated from other deeds, and there was no means of knowing how much revenue was attributable to that particular class. The consequence was that the conjecture as to the amount has fallen short by £1,150, and it is to make good that deficiency that I bring forward this Supplementary Estimate. The same sort of deficiency is not likely to occur again, because from this time onwards we shall have certain statistics to go km, and we shall be able to give a closer Estimate.
§ Mr. R. RICHARDSON
I know how difficult it is to estimate fees that are coming to you. On what other grounds and under what other heads have the Estimates fallen short?
§ Mr. McNEILL
I cannot give a definite assurance on that point. Of course our object is to make the fees cover the cost, and no doubt they will be adjusted accordingly.
§ Mr. R. HUDSON
Can the right hon. Gentleman give us some indication as to what the anticipated savings under Subhead A are?
§ Lieut.-Colonel SPENDER-CLAY
As a Charity Commissioner, I might explain that the number of deeds, the number of transactions, did not come up to expectations, probably owing to recent legislation, and the revenue anticipated was, therefore, not obtained. The estimate of revenue for the coming year will, I think, be reached, and I do not think it will be necessary to raise the fees.
There would be an objection to an increase of fee. This will he a charge on charity, and, in particular, it would be very hard indeed on Nonconformist chapels, because these fees are always payable whenever there is the grant of a lease to a Nonconformist body or a transfer of property belonging to a Nonconformist body. I strongly object to the raising of the fees. There was a surplus of fees on the Land Registry and that surplus has been used to reduce the debt on certain buildings. It is very un fair that the fees on the one side should be used in such a way and that, on the other side, there should be a suggestion to increase them.
§ Mr. McNEILL
I hope the hon. Gentleman will not go away with the idea that I have said there will be a raising of the fees. I have not said so at all. There is every reason to hope that it will not be necessary. All I said was that in one way or other, by some adjustment, it ought not to be necessary for the Government to come to the House and ask for a vote in aid of these particular fees. Whether that can be done by a rearrangement of some of the sources of income is a matter for consideration.
The question was put specifically by the hon. Member for Ilford (Sir F. Wise) as to whether there was to be an increase of fees, and I certainly gathered that the question of an increase would be considered, but I accept the right hon. Gentleman's assurance on the point.
§ Question put, and agreed to.