HC Deb 09 June 1942 vol 380 cc924-6
75. Mr. Keeling

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether his attention has been drawn to the conviction of a clergyman for the misuse of large sums of money collected from the public during the last 14 years through charitable appeals by circular and advertisement; and, in view of previous similar frauds, whether he will appoint a committee to consider the registration of persons making such appeals and the supervision of their accounts, subject to the exemption of approved charities?

The Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Peake)

Yes, Sir. It is satisfactory to find that the law has not proved ineffective to deal with these serious offences. When the general question of the supervision of charities was inquired into by a representative Committee in 1927 they came to the conclusion that the fraudulent gains of a few rogues amounted only to a very small part of the vast sums which are given for charity, that these frauds were not likely to remain undetected for long and that the existence of these occasional abuses would not justify a general system of supervision over charities. Since then Parliament has passed the House to House Collections Act, 1939, and the War Charities Act, 1940. Whether any further strengthening of the law is practicable and desirable is a matter which is receiving consideration but it should not be assumed that the recent conviction of one individual necessarily indicates the need for an amendment of the existing law.

Mr. Keeling

How does my hon. Friend reconcile the first part of his reply, which expresses satisfaction with the present law, with the fact that these frauds continued for 14 years before the offender was brought to justice?

Mr. Peake

It is true that the frauds began in a small way 14 years ago, but it is also true that no inquiry, and no system of registration, could ensure that such frauds never took place.

Mr. Keeling

What is the objection to applying the system which so satisfactorily controls house-to-house and street collections to this graver evil?

Mr. Peake

I have informed my hon. Friend that the matter was inquired into in 1927, and that a Bill was introduced into Parliament, and the general feeling at that time was opposed to any such general system.

Mr. Messer

Will not the hon. Gentleman agree that if everyone was properly maintained, there would be no need for these charities?

Mr. R. G. Morrison

May we take it that the mind of the Home Office is not closed?

Mr. Peake

By no means. I have said that the question of possible further legislation is under consideration.

Mr. Levy

Is it not obvious that, where a fraud can be continuously operated for 14 years, there is indeed heed for the tightening-up of the law to prevent it; otherwise how does my hon. Friend know that frauds are not continuing in a large number of cases?

Mr. Peake

There are other kinds of fraud which have also gone on for a long time.