HC Deb 04 February 1943 vol 386 cc1125-7

Order for Second Reading read.

The Attorney-General (Sir Donald Somervell)

I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."

I hope that this Bill will commend itself to the House and prove to be entirely un-controversial. It is a Bill which enables schemes to be made by the bodies to which it applies for putting into one fund the various endowments which are at present held by them in separate trust funds. The bodies to which it applies are the two Universities of Oxford and Cambridge, the Colleges in those Universities, and Winchester College. The suggestion for the Bill came primarily from Oxford University. Cambridge University desires to be included in the Bill, and to have the powers it confers, as also does Winchester College. I should like to make it clear at the outset that the Bill in no way affects the purposes of the various trusts. If one may take an example, say Oxford University, there are at present some 260 trusts, most of them administered by the University, all of them concerned with the University. As a result, there are 260 separate trust funds. If a scheme is promoted under this Bill, it will enable the various investments which form the endowments of these separate trusts to be formed into a single fund. The trusts, of course, are very varied in magnitude. The income of some is several thousands, and the income descends until one has, I think, an annual income of £1 19s. 6d. I might mention at this stage that the well-known and munificent trust established by Lord Nuffield would not come into any scheme which is proposed to be put forward under this Bill.

The purposes of the Bill are, I think, two-fold. Everyone who is fortunate enough to have investments knows that even if the investments are trust investments it is wise to have a wide and varied list. This Bill will enable all the various funds, some of them with quite small holdings, to have their proper share of the income of a fund. It will be widely spread over the whole range of trust securities. It is felt desirable that the power to make these schemes should be given at this time, because as hon. Members know, even among trustee securities there have in the past been fluctuations among certain groups of them, particularly, perhaps, railway trustee securities after the last war. That is one reason why in the interests of all these trusts there should be a common fund. Another example of the convenience of a scheme is this: At present you may have a single form of trustee stock held by a very large number of these trusts. If the university who deals with the investments of these moneys thinks it would be better to sell that stock and invest the trust money in something else, there have to be 100 different transfers and 100 different purchases and re-allocation of the separate holdings among the fund. That, I think, briefly describes the main purposes of the Bill.

Clause 2 sets out the scope and the various things that can be done under the scheme, and I do not think the House would want me to go into them in detail. I might just refer to the fact that, under the present arrangement, if one of these bodies or one of these trusts sells land, the proceeds are held by the Ministry of Agriculture, and the Minister of Agriculture's relations with these various bodies under the Universities and College Estates Act, 1925, is one of the reasons why this is done by public Bill. Any scheme has to be laid before Parliament in accordance with Clause 3, and I think it is right that I should also tell the House that the principle embodied in this Bill was a principle which came before a Committee of this House under a private Bill promoted by Liverpool University in 1931. The principle, that is, of having one fund for many trusts, was carefully examined, as such Bills are, by a Committee of this House, and approved by them and by Parliament. Therefore, this Bill does not introduce a principle which has not already been approved by Parliament. Clause 4 removes doubts which have existed, though I think not very strong doubts, with regard to what has already been going on for some years in connection with the contribution which colleges make to the university and the levying of a proportion of that contribution on the trust funds. I hope that is a sufficient explanation of the Bill.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill read a Second time.

Bill committed to a Committee of the Whole House, for the next Sitting Day.—[Captain McEwen.]