§ Captain FRASER
I beg to move to leave out the Clause.
I think a large majority of the House will desire to give the most careful and sympathetic consideration to a plea made on behalf of a considerable number of well-known long-established and, I think I may say, highly regarded charities. They are, among others the British Legion, St. Dunstans, the Lifeboat Institution, the Society for the. Prevention of Cruelty to Children, Dr. Barnardo's Homes, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the Church Army and the Salvation Army. Some of us, having heard the representations of those societies, are led to believe that there is much in their case and that the House would wish to hear it before coming to a decision on Clause 180 of this Bill. I am sure it is the wish of the House to avoid anything in this Debate more controversial than is necessary or anything outside the matter which we have in hand, but I must assume—and I hope there will be a large measure of support for the assumption—that these charities have done and are doing great 901 work in the alleviation of suffering and in pioneering new methods of relieving suffering and that they should be encouraged.
Consequently, I feel that Parliament ought to hesitate before taking any step which is likely to hinder them in their work and make their operations more difficult. I do not mean that Parliament should do nothing in the matter of controlling charities. On the contrary our view, and that of the charities themselves, is that there are possible abuses and that in the country, at the present time, the good name of charity and the good work of many splendid organisations is being prejudiced by the bad work and the selfish improper activities of a certain small number of people. We feel strongly that Parliament should quickly do something, not merely in the interests of the community, but in the interests of the organisations themselves and the interests of the beneficiaries of those organisations. Certain charities, two of which are among those for whom we are speaking, are already registered under an Act of this House. All war charities and blind charities are registered and are thereby controlled, in a measure, in their collections and administration by the local authorities in the areas in which their headquarters are situated. Having been associated with a great war charity for some 10 years, I have had exceptional opportunities of observing how registration operates and I do not hesitate to say that it is advantageous to the charities, to the beneficiaries and to the public. It is generally admitted that the best Government in the world is the better for criticism and observation and it is certainly the case that even the best charity in the world will have cleaner administration and better methods, if an unbiased and competent body, outside of itself, watches it, scrutinises its accounts and criticises it. I do not hesitate to say that where there is a competent body to exercise that function, registration is an advantage.
The present Home Secretary set up a committee of inquiry to advise him whether or not registration should be extended to all charities or what measure of public control should be placed upon the charities, if any, and in what form. They reported against 902 registration on the ground that very few local authorities in the country had, in fact, carried out the registration of war and blind charities at all effectively. They paid a high tribute to the London County Council, and to the corporations of a f3w of the great cities, but, in general, they said that they hesitated to place upon those authorities who had done the smaller job so ill, the responsibility 3f registering some 80,000 or 100,000 charities. I regret that finding. I wish it were possible to recommend that all charities should be registered, and I still cling to the hope that the additional powers and status which may be conferred upon local authorities by the Government's action in another connection, may yet make them capable of carrying out that duty in the near future. The Departmental Committee to which I have referred recommended an alternative method of controlling charities Their idea was to make the local authorities representing authorities and not registration authorities—to give then the power, and indeed the duty, of representing to some central authority any case in which there was prima facie evidence of fraud or maladministration and the police were to share with the local authorities the duty of making representations. The idea was that the Charity Commissioners should be the central authority and should have power to inquire fully into any case, and, if necessary, to shut down the so-called charity and take penal measures, or, if that was riot thought desirable, to remodel it and make a scheme for its continued administration. I am to say for the charities whose views we have ascertained, that they are cordially in favour of some method of national control which would sort out the good from the bad charities.
Having regard to that fact it may be asked "Why are you opposing Clause 180? Doe it not seek what you seek and is not the only difference that it is a measure operating in one area, rather than a national measure operating over the whole country?" There is something in that argument, but I want to examine rather closely what this Clause provides, and what its effect may be. It will be remembered that under the Police, Factories etc. (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1916 there was a Clause 903 very similar in construction to that which is now under consideration. If hon. Members turn to Clause 180 they will see that it seeks to give power to the Accrington Corporation to licence those persons who desire to make house-to-house or door-to-door collections, and it goes on to say that the Watch Committee may refuse a licence if it is not satisfied as to the bonâ fide nature of the charity. I have said that the wording of the Clause is similar to the clause relating to street collections in a previous Act, and, whatever may be the protestations of the promoters of the Bill, they will be the first to admit that we are bound to examine what happened in relation to street collections in considering what may happen under this Clause.
It was said with regard to the control of street collections "There is no desire to hamper great national charities in any way. We do not want to discriminate as between one national charity and another, or as between a national charity and a local charity, but what we want to do is to sort out the good from the bad." In fact, what happened was that many reputable and highly regarded national charities found it difficult to secure freedom to continue street collections in areas in which, possibly, they had held such collections for a quarter of a century. There is a conflict of evidence as to precisely what Accrington means by this Clause. A paper circulated by the promoters makes no reference to any desire on the part of Accrington to discriminate, either between one national charity and another, or between national charities on the one hand and local charities on the other. If hon. Members read only that paper they would be entitled to take the view that all that Accrington wanted to do was to sort out the good from the bad. But is that all? The chief constable in his evidence before the Local Legislation Committee admitted that he desired to give preference to local charities. I am not pretending to quote his words, but he said that it was his wish to exclude from collections in the borough certain national charities, not on the ground that they were bad or that he questioned their bonâ 904 fide character, but simply on the very good homely ground that charity begins at home.
There is much to be said for any saying which has survived for generations and even for centuries. There is probably a great deal of truth in it, but if charity is to begin at home in every borough in England, national charities will be unable to carry on their work. It is a question for this House as to whether or not the houses of Accrington are not also the houses of England. I would submit that it would be well to examine this Clause from two points of view. It is to be noticed that the Corporation of Accrington may refuse a licence if it doubts the bona fides of the applicants, but it does not say that they may not refuse the licence on any other ground, and there is, therefore, no security that other grounds will not be taken. The Chief Constable of Accrington might not like a particular charity; he might not like some of its activities, or he might think it has got too much money. He is entitled to his opinion, but I would submit that he is not competent to judge in those matters. What can he or the watch committee know about the affairs of, shall we say, the British Legion or the Salvation Army, whose headquarters are in London?
I submit not only that the local authority is not competent to judge this matter, but that it is riot a fair jury, for the governors of local charities probably live in Accrington and are very likely members of the local authority, and possibly of the watch committee, whereas the governors of our national charities are probably more often in London; and if a case is brought before the watch committee to determine whether or not a national charity is working in good faith, or should be preferred, or whether or not some other local charity should be preferred, is not the watch committee both prosecution and judge in the same case? Under the Section in the Police Act of 1916 there is no appeal against the decision of a watch committee, and no appeal is suggested in connection with this Clause. I submit to the House that this is the thin end of the wedge, which will gradually be driven home until every local authority in the country has this power, until, in fact, this power becomes national. That will 905 probably be one of the arguments of the promoters of the Bill, but it will be formulated and it will become national out of this small amount of consideration that has been given to this vast subject by a group of persons interested in a particular locality, and after this House has had but little opportunity of discussing the matter on a national basis.
The Committee to which I have referred said that this particular method of collecting, more than any other, should he dealt with on a uniform basis and nationally. We have learned from the Home Secretary, in answer to questions in the past few weeks, that he has a Bill in preparation to carry out the recommendations of his Committee. I hope that he or his representative to-night may confirm that and tell us that they will get on with that work, and may perhaps indicate how soon they can introduce it. It may well be pleaded that in the meantime we should relieve Accrington of its difficulties, but I would ask if Accrington is more important than any other borough in England, and if there is any reason why a precedent, and possibly a bad and ill-considered one, should be created in this case. I say "possibly," because I am not certain that it is bad; it may be good, but I plead that enough consideration has not been given to it.
I ask the House to take the view that these great national charities occupy a useful place in society by filling up the gaps that are left in State and municipal assistance. I submit that they always will fill such a place, for in the best regulated State or municipality there would still be gaps, anomalies, and hard cases; that these associations, which have broken new ground and pioneered the fields of social service, should be allowed to go on with their work, and that Parliament should not, in any way hamper them in their operations until it has had an adequate opportunity of considering the preparation of some proper national scheme, based upon a wider view of this subject than perhaps those who have interested themselves in it to-night have up to the present taken. I hope the promoters of the Bill will take the view that by raising this matter they have rendered a useful service and have perhaps 906 stimulated the Minister concerned to take more swift action than he might otherwise have taken, and that under these circumstances they may think that the rational course and, if I may submit it to them, the wiser course lies in the direction of withdrawing this Clause.
§ Mr. WESTWOOD
I beg to second the Amendment.
The power sought by the Accrington Corporation is a power that has never been granted by Statute to any other corporation in this country, and they seek to set up a precedent so far as this power is concerned. It does not necessarily follow that the powers sought are bad, but if they seek to create a precedent in this way, the House must be very careful in granting this power, and we are entitled, when a precedent is sought, more carefully to examine the matter than we would he in the case of an ordinary power sought by a corporation in connection with their ordinary work. Clause 180 is not really the original Clause sought by the Accrington Corporation. In opposing what was the original Clause, the Salvation Army gave some goods reasons why that Clause, as then drafted, ought not to be proceeded with. As a result of that representation, we have now got the amended Clause before us, and the same organisation that opposed the original Clause believes f rat this one requires the most careful consideration.
I want now to deal with powers that have been given to corporations previously. Under the Police, Factories, Etc. (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1916, local authorities were given power merely to give permits or, in other words, to discriminate as between those who should and should not have the right to take up street collections. The reason why I am referring to these powers is that that power to discriminate, given to local authorities has been turned into a power to prohibit so far as many of these authorities are concerned. I have here a list of many of the larger cities in England which have deliberately prohibited many of our national charities from taking up street collections in their respective areas, and I want this House to note that under the Clause which we are asked to pass it will be left to the Accrington Corpora- 907 tion to decide what is or is not a national charity. The Accrington Corporation accept the view that the Salvation Army is a local charity, but some of these other corporations that have exercised their powers of discrimination in connection with street collections have considered that the Salvation Army is a national charity.
Clause 180 does not define what is or is not a local charity, it does not define what is or is not a national charity, and it does not even define what a charity is. There are many organisations besides the Salvation Army, such as churches, that have their local charity days, and there is nothing in this Clause defining what is a charity or what is a religious organisation. Therefore, I submit that the powers sought would be exercised arbitrarily, it might not be by Accrington at the moment, but if we allow this Clause to go through, I think it will follow, from the communications that some of us have received, that many of the other corporations in this country will apply for exactly the same powers. If local authorities do, in fact, disdiscriminate in connection with street collections, it is reasonable to suppose that they will do exactly the same if these powers are given in connection with house-to-house collections, and then it. will follow that if these various organisations want to appeal to the charitable public, they will be compelled to do so by means of circulars through the Post Office, and so on. This, of itself, will necessarily increase the overhead charges in connection with the collections for charitable purposes, and I maintain that it is not right for local or national charities to be viewed, either by the Accrington Town Council or by any other town council, as pests, or mild assaults, or public nuisances. If the public are satisfied with the case presented, we hope they will help, and if not, they have a right to refuse help to any of these charities that appeal to them.
When the case was first submitted to a Private Legislation Committee it was for the purpose of dealing with fraudulent charities, but, as has been pointed out, this Clause does not discriminate between what might be a fraudulent charity and what is recognised as a national institution, such as the Salva- 908 tion Army, the National Lifeboat Institution, Dr. Barnardo's Homes, and the many other charities which we recognise as really national institutions doing very good national work. This Clause would give full powers to the Accrington Corporation, with no rights of appeal so far as any of these charities are concerned, and neither the Salvation Army, Dr. Barnardo's Homes, the National Lifeboat Institution, nor any other of these organisations desire in any shape or form to defend what would be admitted by some people or claimed by some corporations as fraudulent charities. They have said in the memorandum that has been sent out that they are quite prepared to accept national regulations, in accordance with the evidence that was submitted before the Departmental Committee which inquired into the whole question of national charities. The Home Office reported against the power which is sought by the Accrington Corporation, and in summing up their objections to the original Clause, this is what the representative of the Home Office stated:This proposal would place the local authority in a position of discriminating between different charitable or other objects and would imply a degree of control over and interference with the collection of money for bona fide charities by their supporters, which appear to the Secretary of State to he open to strong objection. He submits that this is not the kind of function which can properly be entrusted to a local authority, and that if sanctioned it would expose many innocent workers in the interests of various charities to interference with their work and possible proceedings in the Courts.The Clause does not ask or demand that organisations shall apply for permits, but it gives power to individuals who are taking part in charitable collections to apply to the Watch Committee for an individual permit. If that power were given to Accrington, and if I were in Accrington, and someone down and out asked me to make an appeal to the general public on their behalf, and I were prepared to go, not necessarily from door to door, but to sonic doors, I would be liable under this Clause. Every individual will be entitled to apply to the Watch Committee, or the Chief Constable who will represent the committee, for individual permits. If the miners were locked out, and I decided to make 909 a house-to-house appeal for clothing for miners' children, I should be liable if I had no permit, to the penalties contained in the Bill. The Clause not only deals with appeals for finance, but it will prohibit a great organisation like the Salvation Army, for instance, from actually selling the articles that had been actually manufactured in the homes run by them. Surely this House will not give that power to anybody. So far as the Salvation Army is concerned, I have told the House before that I make no apology for pleading on their behalf. The balance-sheet for 1927 of the Salvation Army Women's Social Work alone shows an income of £31,725 13s. 10d. drawn from selling articles which have been manufactured in the homes run by the Salvation Army; if someone, exercising the power proposed to be given to the Accrington Corporation, were to refuse the right of the Salvation Army officials, officers and workers to sell these goods, many homes which are run by that organisation would have to be closed, because they are partly kept going on the proceeds of the sale of articles manufactured by the inmates of the homes.
A Clause seeking to give such powers as Clause 180 is really something for national effort. It ought to be brought in by the Home Secretary in a Measure dealing with the matter from a national point of view. We ought not to deal with legislation of this kind piecemeal by giving one corporation a power such as this. I trust that, in the interests of the charities to which I have referred, we shall reject this Clause. There is no desire on the part of anyone associated with the Opposition to defend fraudulent collecting agencies, but in the approach to the charitable public by such great national charitable organisations as the Salvation Army, Dr. Barnardo's Homes, the British Legion, the various organisations and institutions for the blind, and the other organisations which are appealing against this Clause being passed, it ought not to be within the power of any authority to prohibit their appeal to the public.
We all know of the splendid work done by the British Legion, the Church Army, Dr. Barnardo's Homes, the Royal National Lifeboat Institution, St. Dunstan's and the Salvation Army. So 910 far as the Salvation Army is concerned, most hon. Members know what splendid work they have done. While all will not agree with what they do or have done, the House will unanimously agree that they have never made a man poorer or a home poorer, they have never made a man or a woman worse, or a child unhappy, but, by splendid social work and Christian effort, they have been the instrument of turning many an unhappy borne into a centre of happiness and joy. They have also been able to pick up the tattered threads of many a broken life, and to weave it into a life of Christian devotion and charity. They have been able to pluck hundreds of brands from the burring, and to turn them into beacons of good citizenship to all around. Because of these arguments which I submit against the Clause, and on behalf of these national charities, I trust to the House to give an overwhelming vote against a Clause which seeks to give these powers.
§ Sir THOMAS ROBINSON
I wish to submit a short statement setting out the reasons why Clause. 180 found its way into the Bill. Before giving that statement, I should like to assure my hon. Friend the Member for St. Pancras North (Captain Fraser) that in Committee upstairs we had a high regard for our national charities, and we had no intention of hindering their freedom. In this Clause we are seeking, as we believe, to protect these charities from fraudulent collectors who have used many charities as a means of obtaining money by false pretences. In Manchester a man went round for months single-handed from house to house collecting money on behalf of certain charities which he specified. During six months he specified three different eharities, and at the beginning of the seventh month he was apprehended. He had collected £227, which he had appropriated to his own use, and to-day he is in gaol. Such people are about, and we are seeking by this Clause, so far as Accrington is concerned, to protect tit; people of that borough from these fraudulent people.
The evidence submitted by the Accrington Corporation in support of this Clause was very carefully considered, and we reached the unanimous conclusion, after very careful consideration, to insert, the Clause in the Bill. In the evidence sub- 911 mitted by the Accrington Corporation, they gave specific examples of fraudulent collections in the borough, the proceeds of which benefited almost entirely the promoters of the so-called charities and the professional collectors employed by them. They applied for these powers on the ground of the prevention of fraud and the prevention of a nuisance to the public. They believe that by exercising these powers they will be able to clear the borough of undesirable collectors. The borough of Accrington is efficiently managed, and we believed, as a. Committee, that they are fit to administer the regulations, which are proposed by this Clause, with discretion and justice to all parties. The Council is the police authority under an Act of 1916, and I am not aware that any charge can be made against the Accrington Corporation that they have, since the 1916 Act, done anything detrimental to charities as regards street collection. I have made inquiries, and I can find no evidence to justify any statement that the Corporation have not administered that Act justly and fairly to all parties concerned. With this evidence before us, we felt that we could not doubt the sincerity of the Accrington Corporation, and should not be justified in doing so. So the Committee made up its mind that it might fairly trust the Accrington Corporation to administer Clause 180.
Collections from house-to-house are subject to greater abuse than street collections, and there is greater need for regulating house-to-house collecting than there is street collecting. In regard to the Regulations, the Committee upstairs relied to a large extent on the regulations which we have entrusted, in the Proviso on Page 108, to the Home Secretary. The Home Secretary will have power under the Regulations to impose what conditions he may think necessary for the protection of these charities in order to secure justice for them, and the Committee upstairs rely on the regulations which the Home Secretary has power to make to prevent the Borough of Accrington or even the charities themselves from doing anything detrimental.
The time has come when Parliament, either by an Act of this kind or an Act dealing with the whole country, should make an effort to stamp out fraudulent 912 practices. It was the anxiety of the Committee upstairs to get this done that induced us to put in this Clause. It will not be news to Members of the House that the Local Legislation Committee has for the last generation—at least during my period of service, which covers three Parliaments—been a pioneer in local legislation for the health and comfort of the people. To satisfy local conditions we have put into local Bills many Clauses outside the general law, and they have proved so successful that Parliament has been following on the lines of the Local Legislation Committee and introducing general Bills embodying Clauses on the lines of those we have granted to meet the special conditions in local areas. In the last Public Health Act almost every Clause was on the lines of Clauses which had already been granted in local Bins. Those Clauses, which were exceptional at the time, proved so successful that Parliament was prepared to embody them in a general Act for the good of the health of the country as a whole. Therefore, we have been to a certain extent pioneers in local legislation, and to-night it appears to me that we are pioneers in this matter.
I do not know how soon there will be a general Bill. I wish it could be tomorrow. We desire it and wish it, and, so far as I am concerned, if I were satisfied that within a reasonable time the Home Office would deal with this matter, I should not be prepared to press this Clause very far to-night. The Committee upstairs feel very keenly that the Home Office has an obligation not only to the public, but to the great charities which have done such excellent work in the country, to deliver them from these fraudulent people who go about collecting money which could be better spent in other directions. If the House is of opinion that Clause 180 is too previous, and we could get some undertaking from the Front Bench that the matter would be dealt with, I, as Chairman of the Committee, would be prepared to set this Clause aside for the time being; but my colleagues feel so very keenly on this matter that unless we do get some undertaking from the Front Bench we shall have to press this Clause to a Division.
§ Major COHEN
The hon. Member for Stretford (Sir T. Robinson) has laid great 913 stress upon the number of fraudulent collectors going about the country, and mentioned one in his own district who had been collecting for some three months. I am wondering why this particular power should be given to the Accrington Council if he wants to prevent a man going about in his own district? I think it would be very much better to drop this Clause, and to press the Government to bring in some measure of national control to apply to all charities which are not now under the War Charities Acts, putting them under similar regulations. I think I am right in saying that a charity registered under the War Charities Act is not allowed to collect without permission from the headquarters of that charity. As Treasurer of the British Legion, I know that we have no collector going about the country who does not carry a card bearing the signature of our organising secretary. There are, I agree, a large number of people, or a certain number of people, going about collecting money to which they are not entitled, and I realise also that it is very difficult for a householder to differentiate between the black sheep and the white sheep, and that something must be done for his protection, but I do not think the course proposed to-night is the right course to take.
I speak here for the British Legion, and the British Legion up to now have had no complaint to make whatsoever. I do not think we have ever been refused permission to hold a flag day in any city or village in the country, but I can foresee a time when that interest which is now taken in ex-service men may die out, and what I am frightened of is that it will die Out before the distress which exists among the men has been alleviated. I can foresee a time coming along when there may possibly be a new local Pharoah which knew not the national Joseph, and if, as we have to appeal to local authorities to hold flag days, we then have to appeal to have a door-to-door collection, it is quite possible that both those requests will be refused; and then, indeed, I do not know what is going to happen. I should prefer to appeal to some national committee, to the Home Office, who are in a position to take a much broader view than local committees, because a local committee must in a general way be more interested in their 914 local charities than in national charities. It is for that reason that I would oppose this Clause and rather press the Government to bring in national legislation.
§ Mr. T. SHAW
I think the hon. Member for Stretford (Sir T. Robinson) impressed every Member of the House not only by his evident earnestness, but by the record of the work his Committee have done, and I think no one who, like myself, is against this Clause on its merits, will refuse to give the Committee over which he presides so ably full measure of praise for the work done. When I first read this Clause I saw no objection in it; it was only on further consideration that I saw a possibility of greater harm than good arising from it. I hope the hon. Member will accept my assurance, which I think could be duplicated by the assurance of other hon. Members, that it is neither out of disrespect for the Committee nor from a misunderstanding of their aim, that we are opposing this Clause; it is because a light has struck us, and we see the possibility of greater harm than good being done. I know the town of Accrington very intimately, and I know it is, so to speak, a member of a family of manufacturing towns. On behalf of Accrington, I can say that it is one of the cleanest and best-managed towns in the county of Lancashire. Consequently, it is certainly not out of disrespect to the corporation of Accrington that I am opposing this Clause.
I believe the Accrington Corporation by this Clause intended to do what it thought was best for the inhabitants of Accrington in order to put an end to what they consider to he a pest and a nuisance. The question we have to consider is whether tins particular Clause is of such a character as to go much further than the evident intention of the Corporation. T re Clause seems to me to contain a principle which in itself can be productive of much annoyance and harm. If that be the case, then I suggest that the House and the Corporation of Accrington should allow the Clause to be deleted from the Bill, and leave the Government to find a method of dealing with this nuisance in a national way and not by a piecemeal method which may hit national interests by making it of local application when the same object might be achieved without injuring any national organisation whatever.
915 I have no official connection with any of the charities which have been mentioned. I have not been briefed by any of them, but, apart from the charity, let me put on record my everyday experience in Lancashire towns, including Accrington. The Lancashire cotton trade is very highly concentrated in certain towns, and the weaving trade has by far the heaviest employment. Frequently, the Trade Union organisations in the cotton trade make collections for various purposes. The collectors connected with the Weavers' Union often go from house to house collecting subscriptions from the members of the union. Let me give a typical case. Not long ago, the miners of South Wales sent out an appeal for assistance in the shape of clothing, boots, and shoes for men, women, and children. The collectors of these various unions in Accrington might desire to make a special journey round the town to help appeals of that kind. Under Clause 180 of this Bill, every one of those collectors would have to get a special permit. [An HON. MEMBER: "No!"] If that be so, then there is a difference of opinion as to what the Clause means, and that is an additional reason why it ought to be struck out of the Bill. On my reading of the Clause, everyone of the collectors I have alluded to would have to get a separate individual permit, probably from the Chief Constable, in order to take part in the work of collecting. When a person had obtained such a permit to go round collecting, apparently it would last for 12 months.
I suggest that we should not run the risk of a danger of this kind when political feelings are running high. Even watch committees and chief constables sometimes have political prejudices, and there are such things as religious prejudices. It would be very injudicious to leave a question like this for the decision of any local authority under the stress of great excitement. Nothing worse could happen in any locality than that there should be a feeling that any charity in the locality, whether it is organised by the Conservative, Liberal or Labour organisations, should have a grievance and should have a feeling that it has been unfairly dealt with. This Clause will produce that danger, and quite apart from the arguments put forward in favour 916 of the Clause there are arguments on the other side as to the way the Clause is drawn, and what it really means. Above and beyond all that, there is the danger that purely local circumstances and decisions may be used to decide a principle that really is a national one, and for these reasons I hope the Clause will be rejected.
It may be that there are a few people in Accrington who will be exposed to the danger of a nuisance to which they ought not to be subjected, but by passing this Clause you may get rid of a minor nuisance and introduce in its place a much bigger nuisance. I hope that the Home Office, through the Home Secretary or the Under-Secretary, will be able to tell us definitely that the Government intend to deal with this question of bogus collections in a national way. I think the Chairman of the Committee upstairs was rather illogical in winding up his speech. He said that there is no difficulty in the Clause because it will be perfectly easy for the Home Secretary to make Regulations. May I point out that the Clause says nothing about the Home Office making Regulations, and they are to be made by the local authority. It has been said that if the Accrington Corporation do not get this power they will be seriously inconvenienced in the meantime. Do hon. Members consider that the Home Office is so capable that it eon do these things in the twinkling of an eye. It is evident that it would take the Government a long time to do what has been asked for. If it is possible for the Home Office to deal with this matter quickly and effectively, then it should be possible for them to deal with the subject on national lines. This Clause hides in itself a danger of this kind and that is why I ask the House to reject it. I should be the last person to interfere with local authorities or town councils. I have fought all my life for the extension of the powers of municipalities, but there are municipal things and national things, and this is a national matter in which the policy should be laid down by the Legislature and not by the local authorities.
§ Mr. WADDINGTON
In listening to the speeches of the Mover and Seconder of this Amendment, I felt that they were directed not so much to the particular Clause which we are discussing as to the 917 merits of the different national charity organisations. Those who are in favour of this Clause have, however, just as much sympathy with those organisations, and are as anxious to see them succeed, as are the hon. Members who moved and seconded the rejection of the Clause. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Preston (Mr. T. Shaw) has brought the subject nearer to the question raised by the Clause, namely, whether administration by a locality or administration by the Home Office is the right method of procedure in this connection. We have had experience of local administration in regard to street collections from 1916, when that power was given by the State to the localities. Is it suggested that there has been an abuse of that power by the local authorities?
§ Mr. ERNEST BROWN
Is the hon. Member aware that, in the administration of the Street Collections Act, the Borough of Accrington has itself refused a national charity, namely, Dr. Barnardo's homes, the right to make a collection in the streets of Accrington?
§ Mr. WADDINGTON
The point to which I was coming was that, in the few cases throughout the country in which local authorities have refused to allow these collections, what has to be considered is not whether they refused because of discrimination, but whether they refused because there were local circumstances which prevented the collection from being taken on that particular day. The case was quoted of the Salvation Army's application, which was refused by different authorities. Before the Committee, Commissioner Lawrie, who gave evidence, said that they never inquired as to the reason why their application had been refused. They put in an application in nine places and received refusals, but they did not follow up the question whether the refusal was on purely temporary local grounds, or whether it was on a question of principle in regard to the Salvation Army. I am quite sure that, in the case of the Borough of Rochdale, which refused the application of the Salvation Army, that refusal was not because they had anything against the Salvation Army, but because it would clash with some particular local object on the same day. Surely, that is not an unreasonable thing for a local authority to do, and it is not un- 918 reasonable that they should have that power.
This Clause proposes to give to the Accrington Corporation with respect to house-to-house collections exactly the same power which they have with respect to the regulation of street collections. Is it to be suggested that the House of Commons desires that the Act of 1916 should be repealed, that the power which is now vested in local authorities should be taken from them and put under national control? If not, what is going to be the result of the suggested legislation by the Home Office? Is it intended that for one purpose the Home Office shall have the right to prohibit a collection in a town, and that for the same purpose the right shall be given to the local authority to allow the collection in another form? If it be right for the local authorities to have the power of selection now, it surely should be right to extend the power to them as regards house-to-house collections.
Are we not, in all our legislation, disposed to extend the powers of local authorities, owing to the confidence that we have n them because of their local knowledge. Are we not disposed to extend rather than restrict their powers? Recently in this House we had the Dog Racing Bill before us. That, surely, was a case in which national legislation might have been demanded, but the House said that it would legislate giving power to every local authority, instead of establishing a national system under which everyone would have to go to a Department of State in order to get a licence to have a dog-racing track. If the proposed Measure which the Home Office have in front of them were to be passed, it would be necessary to give the local authorities power to administer it under Regulations approved by the Home Office. What is t le difference between the attitude of the Accrington Corporation and the attitude which this House would ultimately have to adopt? The Accrington Corporation begin this procedure, and you legislate upwards for the Accrington Corporation, and ultimately for the rest of the country, under Regulations which have been approved by the Home Office. It is not suggested that these Regulations are to be solely under the control of Accrington; they have to be submitted by Accrington to the Home 919 Office, and, until the Home Office has given its approval, until the Regulations are model Regulations which the Home Office is satisfied will apply, not only to Accrington, but to any other authority which may obtain similar powers, the Home Office will undoubtedly refuse to sanction them.
There have been during the last quarter of a century many cases in which local authorities, in advance of the desire and wish of Parliament, have obtained special Clauses, which have come to be known as model Clauses, in their local Acts of Parliament, and, when those model Clauses have been adopted and carried out in the private Acts of many local authorities, they have ultimately come to be the general law of the land, and, consequently, have superseded, all the local Acts. This is what will happen in the present case. When it is proved by the experience of Accrington that the Clause is a good one, that the power of limitation is good, and that it has been wisely used, other authorities will get the same power, and ultimately the Home Office will have to introduce general legislation. I submit that this House will be doing the right thing if, instead of rejecting this Clause because it is novel, it considers the Clause on its merits, as simply bringing house-to-house collections into line with flag days and street collections, and making the legislation uniform so far as this particular town is concerned. There is no reason why it should not apply to all other towns that ask for it. If the House will do that, I think it will be taking a step in the right direction for the advantage of local government and for doing away with many of these cases of fraudulent collections which have occurred in various towns.
§ Mrs. PHILIPSON
I do not wish to repeat all the arguments that have been so well expressed against this Clause, but I was one of the members of the Departmental Committee appointed by the Home Office to investigate this question, and I am convinced, after hearing and weighing all that evidence, that this matter is so serious that it should be dealt with nationally, and not left to the discretion of any one local authority. I merely wish to express that point of view and I feel that in doing so I am express- 920 ing the wish of the whole Committee that this matter should be dealt with from a national point of view, the Committee having thoroughly investigated all the pros and cons and all the dangers that would arise if it were left to the discretion of the local authority.
§ Mr. RADFORD
I hope the House will not agree to the deletion of this Clause. I have listened to all the speeches that have been made in favour of its deletion and the arguments put forward appear to be based on two grounds, firstly, that the subject is one that should be dealt with nationally, and, secondly, that it is an attack, as it were, on charitable organisations. As far as the desirability of its being done nationally is concerned I entirely agree, but in that case would it not simply be that national legislation would be enacted which each local authority would administer in its own area, and the Accrington Corporation would have the power given it to administer in its own area that part of what was a national Act of Parliament. I really cannot understand the fears of charitable organisations or of hon. Members who have spoken on their behalf. One would think the Accrington Corporation were going definitely to refuse to allow house-to-house collections, whereas all they are asking is that their watch committee may make regulations with regard to the conditions under which collections shall be made, and one of the regulations may require any person to obtain a permit before making such collections. It is only permissive. The most they can do is that they may require people to get permits. Following that it says a permit may be refused in any case in which the watch committee has reasonable ground for supposing the collection is not made for a bona fide charitable purpose. The Clause even lays down the only condition under which it may be refused. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] At any rate it may be refused under those conditions. We have no reason to think they will arbitrarily try to use this power, if we give it them, to limit the activities of charitable bodies.
I know of my own experience the incalculable harm that is being done to charitable organisations by these bogus collectors. For over 20 years I have been hon. secretary of the Manchester 921 and Salford Wood Street Children's Mission, and only a few months ago I know how perturbed we were when we found there was a woman going round the Blackpool area, where we have a seaside camp, armed with one of our annual reports and a home-made receipt book, which she could buy for a shilling at any stationers. She had gone round from house-to-house stating that she was collecting money for the mission. She only did it for a few days. It only came to our ears through some casual visitor at our camp, who said a woman had called at her house collecting and she thought she would like to see the camp. We had no house-to-house collector, and our superintendent made inquiries and found the woman was a swindler imposing on the charitable public. We know what effect it has on the charitable public when they find that people who have been collecting from them are swindlers. It spreads a feeling of suspicion. They do not know how much of the money finds its way to the quarter they intend it to go to. I am as interested as anybody in the House in some of the very charities that are appealing so strongly against the Clause. For the local authorities to have control of house-to-house collections it is more important in the interest of the charities themselves that they should have their present unfettered powers to go from house to house and that swindlers should have similar unfettered power to go round at the same time.
§ Mr. MORRIS
The case for this Clause is really a case for what I should like to describe as grandmotherly legislation. It is really to protect householders from fraud. The provisions of the Criminal Law are quite powerful enough. I very much regret to see the tendency of modern legislation to protect grown-up people who can look after their affairs without police protection or the assistance of the Watch Committee. There is no necessity why a householder should not examine a person who comes to his door and find out whether he is a bona, fide collector or not. There is no way in which you can protect against fraud except by prosecution and the ordinary procedure of the criminal law. The Clause in this Bill is even worse than a national Bill. Why should you multiply new offences rather than leave the matter to the criminal law? Everyone knows 922 what fraud is and that a man who commits it may be sentenced to imprisonment. Why give this power to a Watch Committee? Why create a number of new offences merely to protect people who will not take the trouble to protect themselves?
§ Mr. RADFORD
Take the case. I mentioned of the woman going round collecting. Suppose a police officer went to her and said, "Show me your proof that you are collecting for the Wood Street Mission," and she said, "I have no proof. When I have finished collecting I shall hand the money over." How could you bring fraud home against her?
§ Mr. MORRIS
In the first place, are you going to transfer the right to the police to make inquiries in every single case where a person makes a house-to-house collection? The Clause would give this power in Accrington. The offence the hon. Member refers to took place at Blackpool. How would this Clause give protection? Why transfer to the police the power of inquisition? There can be no justification for the creation of these new offences. Let the law operate in its own general way. There can be no justification for allowing the passing of a Bill of this kind conferring powers neon one local authority.
§ Mr. PALIN
I support the Bill. If it is necessary to regulate street collections, it is more necessary in my judgment to regulate the house-to-house appeal. The objections raised on behalf of these national charities are wholly imaginery, and I am convinced that neither the Accrington Corporation nor the Local Legislation Committee, of which I am a member, would be guilty in thought or deed of the charges sought to be made against them by the hon. Member for Peebles (Mr. Westwood). We consider it necessary to prohibit young girls from standing in streets on a flag day—a very desirable regulation, grandmotherly or otherwise. We prohibit children under a certain age from taking part, and yet we cons1 antsy meet with young children begging from door to door on behalf of some charity without any restrictions whatever. I feel that the more difficult you make it for the fraudulent collector to impose upon the general public, the more su9port the genuine charity will receive. If the Home Office will give 923 an undertaking that they will attend to the matter, I have no objection at all, but Government Departments have been promising legislation to meet many such evils as we are discussing. Local legislation committees propose Bill after Bill, but the Government say, "We are considering general legislation to deal with the subject."
As a matter of fact, the local authorities, by promoting Clauses of this description, have secured powers which have been a guide to the Department. Some of the most valuable provisions which are now included in health legislation, for instance, have been acquired through the experiment of granting powers to one local authority and judging by results as to whether it was wise to extend those powers or not. Therefore, I trust that it may be possible for the House to allow Accrington to take this power. If the Home Secretary thinks that as a result of the experience he has gained both in Accrington and elsewhere better legislation should be introduced, then Accrington's power would automatically cease. I am afraid there are other considerations. I, personally, feel that a local authority ought to be in a position to hold the balance evenly between the many claims that are made upon the public. The hon. Member for Leith (Mr. E. Brown), apparently with a sneer, sought to put against the Accrington Corporation the fact that it once refused an appeal made on behalf of Dr. Barnardo's homes.
§ Mr. BROWN
May I say that I intended no sneer, and that my statement was taken from the evidence of the Chief Constable himself which was given before the Local Legislation Committee. He said they had been refused, and indeed in saying that he made a statement which was not accurate, namely, that there had never been any Accrington children in Dr. Barnardo's homes. As a matter of fact, there have been Accrington children in those homes.
§ Mr. PALIN
I am sure the Accrington Corporation can very properly refuse an application from Dr. Barnardo's homes without showing any lack of sympathy with Dr. Barnardo's homes or any other charity. I do not think it a right and proper thing for those who run these national charities to say that they are going to hold a house-to-house or street collection in any town without consulting the views of those responsible for the government of that town. In order to achieve the best results these collections ought to be carried out after full consultation with all the people concerned. I protest against any individual charity coming down and saying they are going to hold either a street collection or house-to-house collection regardless of the convenience of anyone else. If this regulation, or anything approximating to it, can stop that kind of thing, I think it will be all the better for charity. Charity is used as a cloak for a great many abuses. I feel that these authorities, at any rate, which are just as much subject to public opinion as are Members of this House, ought to be trusted to make or revise such a regulation as Accrington seeks.
§ 9.0 p.m.
The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Lieut.-Colonel Sir Vivian Henderson)
The hon. Member for Peebles (Mr. Westwood), who seconded the rejection of this Clause, was quite right when he said that the original Clause as it was introduced in the Bill was very much wider than it is at the present time, and he was quite right also in saying that the Home Office was, to some extent, responsible for the modification of that Clause. I would like to point out to the House, that although that is the case, I do not think that either my right hon. Friend or myself is in any way prevented from reviewing the situation when it is dealt with, as it is being dealt with to-night, in a somewhat wider atmosphere than is possible upstairs. I would like to associate myself with the remarks which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Preston (Mr. T. Shaw) 925 made in regard to the work of the Local Legislation Committee, because I think the very valuable and important work of that committee does not receive the appreciation to which it is, perhaps, entitled either on the Floor of this House or from the public outside.
I am sure the hon. Member for Stretford (Sir T. Robinson) will not for a moment consider that I am criticising him, if I say that we must be entitled, as we are entitled under the procedure in connection with Private Bill legislation, from time to time to review these questions, and to invite the, House itself to express its opinion upon them. The hon. Member gave certain reasons which actuated the Committee in accepting this Clause, and one of them he mentioned has been the fact that the Home Office have the power to confirm these regulations after they had been made by the Borough of Accrington. That is quite correct, but we all know that if that procedure is to he adopted, it will take a long time, even if the regulations made by the Borough of Accrington prove successful, before all the other boroughs in the country have adopted similar regulations, and those regulations have as will probably be the case, always been confirmed on similar lines by the Secretary of State. In the meantime, these individuals who make a profit out of this nefarious traffic will be able to move to those towns which have not yet made the regulations and carry on their work. I do not honestly think that the suggestion that the Home Office can confirm the regulations of a particular town when those regulations have been submitted to the Home Office is really any guarantee that the traffic will be put a stop to except in that locality. I would like to point out to the House that in reinforcement of his argument the hon. Gentleman produced one or two cases where individuals have been found guilty of carrying on these illicit street collections. If the Members of the House will turn to the Report of the Departmental Committee on the Supervision of Charities they will find, in Paragraph 96, a statement in which the Committee say:We see no ground for doubting that the great majority of charities are managed not only honestly but with reasonable prudence, and that such dishonesty as does exist is due mainly to the recurring operation of a few people, either known or suspected to be fraudulent, whose gains, in all 926 probabillty, amount only to a very small part of the vast sums which are given for charity. It is our considered opinion that the demand for supervision, such as it is, does in act rest almost entirely upon these persons' activities.That shows the disadvantage of trying to found your case upon individual or isolated instances. It also shows the disadvantage of trying to deal with this question by slow local methods. I fully appreciate the fact that the Local Legislation Committee have passed this Clause, and that they consider that, in itself, it is not likely to do any harm, although I am inclined to take the view to some extent that if it is not likely to do any harm, it is not likely to be a cure for the evil which we are trying to cure. Apparently, the Committee were of that opinion, because in paragraph 121 of their Report they definitely state that:The simplest method of supervising door-to-door collections appears to be by framing Regulations similar to those for street collections, but in order to secure uniformity—the need for which is clearly much greater—we suggest that the Regulations should be made not by the police authority but by the Secretary of State, and should apply throughout the country.One hon. Member asked, "Why do you not deal with this question in the same way that street collections have been dealt with?" I imagine the reply in that case is that the local police authorities have the power of putting into force model regulations made by the Home Office; but the two positions are not the same. The Act of 1916 was passed during the War to deal with what were commonly called flag days, which came into existence because of the War and which were practically taking place in every town in the country, which made it necessary for the local watch committees to put into force some sort of regulation to prevent fraud. That is not the case at the present time in regard to these door-to-door collections. Many towns e probably having no trouble in the matter. In other cases probably the only collections which are made are made by the large national organisations and not by the local organisations. Therefore, I do, not think the two questions are to be looked at from the same point of view.
The Home Office in considering this question must be guided to some extent by the attitude of the large charitable 927 organisations. Those organisations were to a considerable extent responsible for my right hon. Friend setting up this departmental committee. They gave the bulk of the evidence on which the recommendations of the Committee were very largely founded, and if the attitude of these large organisations, all of whom we know to be above any possibility of criticism, is that this is a question that should be dealt with nationally, then I think my right hon. Friend must give due weight to that point of view. When I am asked, as I am asked, whether I am prepared to give an undertaking that this question will be dealt with by legislation, I can but say that the recommendations of this Departmental Committee have been under the consideration of my right hon. Friend, that he is prepared to try to introduce legislation dealing with this question, but, and there is a but, the House must realise that it would not he possible to introduce legislation dealing with the subject this Session. It is to some extent a contentious question. Not only is it contentious but it is a question which is rather difficult to frame in legislation. Not only have you to deal with the machinery by means of which these regulations are to be brought into force, but when you come to consider your machinery you have to consider whether it is not better in the case of the big organisations that the licences should be issued centrally by the Secretary of State, whilst in the case of the very small local organisations it would probably be better to devolve that power on the local authority or the local Watch committee.
These questions have all to be considered and I do not think it is possible to introduce legislation on the question this Session; but my right hon. Friend is sympathetic and I feel sure that if opportunity offers—I am not in a position to say whether opportunity will offer or not—he will endeavour to deal with this question as soon as possible. Should it be possible to deal with it next year, I feel sure that he will do so. If it is the sense of the House that it would be better to deal with this question nationally and the House decide to delete this particular Clause from the Bill, my right hon. Friend 928 will give due weight to that decision, not only in framing his legislation but also in considering when that legislation shall be introduced. I can assure the House as far as I am concerned—I was at one time very closely connected with the British Legion—I will not hesitate to convey to my right hon. Friend the feeling of the House on this question and their attitude towards it.
Mr. HUGH EDWARDS
I am sure that the House has listened with great interest to the statement which has been made by the Under-Secretary, but he will forgive me for saying that although he has pointed out the difficulties of the position, he has given us no enlightenment on it. I was hoping that he would have made a statement which would have been of some service to us, but in the latter part of his speech almost every sentence was spoiled by either a "but" or an "if." I think the House is not in a position to accept guidance from him unless he is more definite. I have listened to every speech in this Debate. Some of the speeches have perplexed me and some have amused me. I remember well, and many hon. Members will recollect, the great role which Lord Banbury used to fill in this House. He always complained of grandmotherly legislation and that we had too much legislation. My hon. Friend the Member for my native county of Cardigan (Mr. Morris) is the last man in this House that I would have expected to take up the mantle of Lord Banbury. I must revise my views in regard to him as the Member for my native county.
I should like to bring the House back to the real facts of the Debate. The Accrington Corporation, and I speak with authority as the Member of Parliament for Accrington, promoted a Bill, which they brought before the Local Legislation Committee. The right hon. Member for Preston (Mr. T. Shaw) paid a well-deserved tribute to the Members of that Committee. The corporation asked for powers to deal with house-to-house collections. The Chief Constable gave evidence, and after hearing the arguments and the evidence of the witnesses, the Local Legislation Committee granted the powers asked for.
Objection has been taken by hon. Members who have spoken for a number of deserving charities. I find that two 929 main objections have been taken to this particular Clause, and one objection is destructive of the other. In the first place, we had the fears expressed by the hon. and gallant Member for St. Pancras, North (Captain Fraser), who moved the rejection of the Clause, that in the operation of the Clause the national charities will suffer—the Salvation Army, the British Legion, St. Dunstan's, Dr. Barnardo's, and so forth. I should like to assure the hon. and gallant Member that he is a very worthy and very eloquent spokesman of those charities, and the House always listens to him with the respect which he deserves. But I can assure him that his fears are entirely groundless. If I thought that the Accrington Corporation would in any way, on the strength of this Clause, act to the detriment of any of those great organisations I should certainly vote against it, but knowing the men of Accrington as I do, knowing something of the reputation of the town—and if the hon. and gallant Member will make inquiries with regard to St. Dunstan's and the British Legion, he will find that they have always had the fullest measure of support in the town—
§ Captain FRASER
I intended to make no suggestion that Accrington had ever been anything but most generous. May Accrington be always led by the same people. Our fears are that it may not always be led by the same people.
I deeply appreciate the tribute which the hon. and gallant Member has paid to Accrington. I quite agree with him that whilst Accrington is represented as it is to-day there is no cause for alarm, and I share his hope to the full that it may long continue to be so represented. I hope, however, that the hon. and gallant Member and those associated with him will disabuse their minds at once of any idea that there is any possibility of any kind that this clause, if it is allowed to remain in the Bill, will be made operative to the detriment of any of these societies. I was glad to hear the right hon. Member for Preston pay his tribute to the Town Council of Accrington. As he truly said, it is a council consisting of representatives of all parties and composed of some of the most public spirited men in Lancashire. The town this year is celebrating its 930 jubilee and I hope the House will permit me to say that there is no corporation in the country that has a better record for administrative government than the Town Council of Accrington. That is one of the objections; the groundless fear that this clause will be made operative to the detriment of these deserving charities.
The other great objection is this. It is said to be a national evil; let it be treated in a national way. The hon. Member for Newcastle West (Mr. Palin) has dealt splendidly with the abjection raised by some of his own friends on the Labour Benches. It used to be said that it. was folly to bring coals to Newcastle, to-night we have had light from Newcastle. No one with the exception of the hon. Member for Cardigan has taken exception to or doubted the existence of the evil of house-to-house collection. The hon. Lady who represents Berwick-on-Tweed (Mrs. Philipson) was a member of the Departmental Committee. Let me read just one or two sentences from their Report. This is what they say:There was an almost unanimous opinion on the part of the witnesses who appeared before us that the one method of collection which demands control more than any other (except street collections) is that of door-to-door collections. The fraudulent enterprises which have been brought to our notice depend, for the most part, largely on these collections; it is clear that people often give the canvassers money merely to get rid of them, and in the view of the police witnesses their control would quickly cause these fraudulent charities to die of starvation.
§ Mrs. PHILIPSON
I think the right hon. Gentleman has dealt with that point. He has said that it would be perfectly simple for these bogus people to go to another town where there are no restrictions.
The whole House, with one exception, agrees that the evil exists; that this free, unfettered, unrestricted house to house collection is fraught with evil. But hon. Members ask: Why Accrington? The hon. and gallant Member who moved the rejection said that this was the thin end of the wedge. He objects to the insertion of the thin end of the wedge because it is not the thick end.
At any rate, it is a wedge. He complained that Accrington has not given any definition of a charity. He abstains from giving us the definitions of a wedge. He objects to the wedge altogether. It is asked: Why should Accrington have this advantage unless the whole nation has it as well? Blackpool has an advantage which no other watering place in the country enjoys. Every other watering place is restricted to a penny rate for the purposes of advertising. Blackpool promoted a private Bill in this House and, being an enterprising community, got a Clause inserted giving them the right to levy a bigger rate than a penny—I forget what the actual amount is at the moment. Supposing it had been said then: Why should Blackpool have this right; why should not other watering places have it as well? It is true that Blackpool has profited by it. It has been able to spend more money on advertising—
§ Sir COOPER RAWSON
May I suggest, that it may be necessary for Blackpool to spend more money on advertising?
ft is very unfortunate that the hon. Member for Blackpool (Sir W. de Frece) is not present, but anyone who looks at the hon. Member for Blackpool will realise that he requires no advertising. However, that does not touch my argument. The House gave Blackpool a right, a power, which other watering places in the country do not possess, simply and solely because it had the enterprise to ask for it, and now other watering places, including the favourite resort of the hon. Member for Brighton (Sir Cooper Rawson) whichever it is, is clamouring for the power to levy a bigger rate than 1d. Accrington has been quite well aware of the promise of the Home Office for a long time that they are going to legislate and deal with the question on a national basis, but Accrington got quite tired of the 'ifs" and "'buts," and when they promoted this Bill they said, "We will ask for it," and the Local Legislation Committee said that this enterprising town should have it; and it is in the Bill. I ask the House to ratify the wise decision of the Local Legislation Committee. The Committee has sat for weeks upon this Bill. It has cost Accrington a lot of money, and I 932 am afraid it may be thought that they are getting far less out of it than they deserve.
I hope the House will pass the Bill with this Clause in. It is no use hon. Members above the Gangway speaking about the rights of local bodies and about devolution and refusing an enterprising community the right to discriminate between legitimate and bogus house-to-house collections. The House to-night has been switched from a discussion of the Board of Trade Vote, from the consideration of unemployment in trade and other great national questions which touch the welfare of the whole country, in order to consider for the last two hours whether this enterprising town council and enlightened community shall have the power to discriminate between legitimate and bogus collections. I appeal to the House to do away with these groundless fears and pettifogging ideas and with this refusal to break away from bureaucracy, and to give us these powers. I do hope that it will set aside all these groundless fears, and accept my assurance that there is absolutely no foundation for them.
§ Mr. R. RICHARDSON
I have listened to this Debate with keen interest. I may say at once that I claim that those on the Local Legislation Committee were just as keen to safeguard charities as every Member of the House. Indeed, the very fact that we accepted the Clause was not for the purpose of preventing genuine charities for genuine purposes, but the very contrary. Our position was that we were trying our best as members of the Committee to safeguard the position of charities—charities which, I regret to say, are necessary, though one remembers that the people who benefit by them were told that a generous country would never forget them during the remainder of their years. I am sorry to have to turn down the eloquence of the hon. Member for Accrington (Mr. H. Edwards). Many of us here, after hearing the statement of the Under-Secretary, are willing to accept that in good faith. It means that Accrington will have to wait another year. We believe that Accrington would have carried out exactly what they said they would do. In their evidence before the Committee they were very straight. and said they had no intention whatever 933 of debarring any real charity from having anything the people of Accrington might care to give them, and that, therefore, all they were asking for was the power to prevent bogus charities. I do not place so much value on what is said about people being quite axle to look after themselves. I agree to some extent with that remark, but, after all, people who give to charities do not know that collections are being made by bogus people who never give up the money, and the charities themselves do not know what money is being collected from people in their name. I would ask for the Clause to be withdrawn, and let us have it in a national Bill. We have had 1½ hours' discussion, and Accrington's action in bringing this matter before the House has served a good purpose. If Accrington will wait, it will get the same results when the new Bill becomes an Act of Parliament as promised. I have, therefore, to ask the hon. Gentleman to withdraw the Clause, and let us deal with the matter in a national way.
§ Sir T. ROBINSON
After conferring with my colleagues on the Local Legislation Committee, and having in mind the promise made by the representative of the Home Office, we have decided to withdraw the Clause from the Bill. We say very definitely that we trust the promise made from the Front Bench will be realised before this Parliament comes to an end. I ask leave to withdraw the Clause.
§ Question, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Bill," put, and negatived.
§ Bill to be read the Third time.