HC Deb 10 July 1946 vol 425 cc456-8

"(1) Where trusts have been declared on which property representing an application of money standing to the credit of the Miners' Welfare Fund is to be held, and it appears to the Minister that purposes specified in Subsection (1) of Section twenty of the Mining Industry Act, 1920, would be better secured by a variation of the trusts, either as respects that property or as respects other property held on the same trusts or both, he may, subject to the provisions of this Section, make provision for that variation by an order made by him.

(2) The Minister shall not make an order under this Section as respects any property until he is satisfied that the substance of the proposed variation has been put before a meeting open to all persons for whose benefit in particular that property is held under the subsisting trusts and has been approved by a majority of such of those persons as were present at the meeting.

(3) Trusts as varied by an order under this Section may be varied by a subsequent order made thereunder.

(4) Subsection (4) of Section twenty-nine of the Settled Land Act, 1925 (which relates to the sending to the Charity Commissioners, for record, of assurances of land to charitable uses) shall apply to an order under this Section that relates to land, or to personal estate to be laid out in the purchase of land, as it applies to the instruments mentioned in that Subsection."

Mr. Gaitskell

I beg to move, "That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment."

This is a change of greater substance. The new Clause gives the Minister power to vary by Order the trusts of property provided from the Miners' Welfare Fund. Some of these, although there is no legal obligation to do so, have been entered as trusts of a charitable kind with some limiting terms. The purpose of the Clause frankly is to introduce a somewhat greater degree of flexibility in the use of trusts. For example, it might well be that it would be desirable to enable an additional group of workers to use a particular pithead bath which they were debarred from using under the terms of a particular trust. The Minister is able to introduce the greater flexibility by Order. I must emphasise that he is enabled to do that only if he has secured a majority opinion of the persons concerned. He cannot alter trusts at will. He has to see that those who are concerned are satisfied with the change. Subsection (4) of the Clause is a minor one providing that the appropriate records are to be sent to the Charity Commissioners.

Sir H. Lucas-Tooth

This seems to me to be a satisfactory Clause. It will save trouble and, I fancy, a certain amount of litigation. It seems to me to carry out the doctrine known to Chancery lawyers as cy pres. It will provide the machinery for varying these trusts because of the happening of an event which was not contemplated when the trusts were originally set up. The basis of the cy pres is to try to give effect to the original intentions of the donor as well as they can be gathered in the light of the new events which have occurred. In the present case, I am not certain whether that sort of consideration can apply. As I understand the matter, the whole of these trusts are funds standing to the credit of the Miners' Welfare Fund. I am not certain whether they are provided under the pro- visions of the Statute referred to in the Clause, or whether it is possible that there have been advantages to these funds which may have been provided from some other source, in particular from individual donors who were anxious to benefit the miners. There is a certain tendency at present, perhaps, for the public view of the administration of charity to change.

We notice on the part of the Government a certain tendency to disregard the original intentions of donors, and to treat charitable funds in accordance with what they regard as the desirable ends of policy at the present time. I, personally, deplore that, and I think it must ultimately wholly defeat our ideas of charity and may have very serious long-range repercussions. I cannot, of course, enter into that on this Amendment, but, on the other hand, I want to be quite certain, before the House agrees to it, that, in fact, there is no implication that we are agreeing to vary trusts given for a particular purpose by particular individuals, but are merely varying the provisions of an earlier statute because circumstances make such variation absolutely essential.