HC Deb 23 May 1944 vol 400 cc576-7
57. Mr. Keeling

asked the hon. Member for West Swansea, as representing the Charity Commissioners, why they did not stop, pending inquiry, the sale by auction on 19th May, of the Hepplewhite armchairs belonging to a Chatham almshouse; and whether he will give an assurance that in future cases of this sort every endeavour will be made to retain historic works of art in public ownership.

Mr. Lewis Jones (Charity Commissioner)

The duty of the Commissioners is to safeguard the interests of charities, and they are not justified in withholding their consent to a sale if satisfied that the sale is in the interests of the charity concerned. They endeavour to secure that no sale of historic works of art is made until the proposal to sell has been made known so that public bodies interested in such works of art may have an opportunity of purchasing them. In the case of the armchairs in question, the Commissioners were satisfied that the proposed sale was in the interests of the almshouse; it had been generally known for nearly 15 years that the chairs were for sale. Tile Commissioners had consented to the sale by an Order dated 16th May, 1944, and they could not afterwards withdraw their consent.

Mr. Keelings

May we take it that the reply to the second part of the Question is in the affirmative?

Mr. Jones

I do not know whether I should be so definite as that. One has to bear in mind that the main interest of the Charity Commissioners is to safeguard the funds of the charities, but I am sure that the Commissioners will take note of the views of the House of Commons on this matter.

Viscount Hinchingbrooke

Who was the purchaser of these chairs?

Mr. Jones

I have not the remotest idea.

Commander Locker-Lampson

Can we be told the price that was paid?

Mr. Jones

I have seen some reference in the Press to a figure of £650.

Mr. E. P. Smith

Does not charity begin at home?