HL Deb 25 August 1835 vol 30 cc959-62

The Marquess of Lansdowne, moved the Order of the Day for the second reading of the Charities Commisioners' Bill.

Lord Lyndhurst

observed, that the object of this Bill was to appoint thirty Commissioners to inquire into the state of public charities in England and Wales. He understood that not all of these Commissioners were to be paid Commissioners, but that out of the thirty not less than twenty were to receive fixed salaries for their services. This Bill, he was given to understand, had originated in the Report of a Committee of the other House of Parliament. At the head of that Committee had been a Gentleman learned in the law, and possessed of great Parliamentary influence in the House of Commons. Their Lordships had not before them any of the evidence on which the Report of the Committee of the other House of Parliament was founded, and the Bill brought into the Commons in consequence of that Report, had passed through all its stages there without any, the slightest, discussion. Their Lordships, he repeated, had neither evidence nor Report before them, and what was more, had not any statement made to them in order to lead them to the conclusion that it was proper to adopt this Bill. In the absence of all reasons for passing the Bill, he could not at the end of the present Session consent to a measure which appointed twenty paid and ten unpaid Commissioners to examine into the state of public charities in England and Wales. He must have some evidence, or at least some statement laid before him to convince him of the necessity for this measure, and till that was done he must protest against the second reading.

The Marquess of Lansdowne

said, it was not his wish to press this Bill, in case any noble Lord felt inclined to object to it. He had felt that the appointment of so large a number of paid Commissioners was likely to attract the notice of their Lordships, and must attract the notice of the noble and learned Lord. In justice, however, to those who had sent up the Bill from the other House, he must now state the grounds on which this extraordinary number of Commissioners were appointed. The object of their appointment was to inquire in what manner the important investigations intrusted to the care of the Charity Commissioners could be most easily brought to an immediate result; and the opinion formed by a Committee of the other House of Parliament was, that it would be best to appoint a larger number of Commissioners of Inquiry for a limited period—say, to the 1st of March, 1837. It appeared to that Committee, that as there were six counties in England, and also, six counties in Wales, in which the state of the charities had not been examined into, they ought to be examined into in the shortest possible time. He apprehended that it was irregular for any noble Lord in that House to say that a Bill had been adopted in the other House of Parliament, either with or without discussion. He admitted, however, that their Lordships were entitled to have laid before them either the evidence or the Report on which the Bill was founded. Not being in possession of either the evidence or the Report, he should not ask their Lordships to pass this Bill during the present Session. He should therefore propose that the Bill be rejected, or if the noble and learned Lord should think fit to move that it be read a second time this day three months, he should have no objection to second his motion.

Lord Brougham

did not mean to deny that there was a great deal in the objection made by his noble and learned Friend to the further progress of this Bill this session. This was a Bill for appointing forty-four clerks and commissioners, and therefore their Lordships ought to know something of the grounds on which it was founded. At the same time he was most unwilling—and he had no doubt that his noble and learned Friend was equally unwilling—to show any disrespect to a Committee of the other House of Parliament; and therefore it might, perhaps, be as well, that his noble and learned Friend should give notice of his intention to make this Motion the day after to-morrow. That course would give his noble and learned Friend, and indeed all their Lordships, time to look at the evidence taken by the Committee from whose Report this Bill proceeded. It was highly desirable that the inquiry into the state of our public charities should be brought to a conclusion. At the same time he was not certain that he could adopt this Bill as the best mode of bringing that inquiry to a satisfactory conclusion. There were some clauses which, if this Bill passed, he should like to add to it; but those were matters of detail, and he agreed that it was now too late in the Session to inquire into them. He confessed that he took great interest in this subject, probably from the circumstance that he had been the first proposer of this Commission of Inquiry.

Lord Lyndhurst

believed that none of the evidence taken by the Committee had been printed; but on that point he might be misinformed. He thought that there was not time to proceed further with the Bill, as he believed that their Lordships would not be assembled in that House on Thursday week; but on that point, perhaps, the noble Viscount was better informed than he was.

Viscount Melbourne

observed, that if this mode of inquiring into the state of our public charities was a good one, their Lordships were only losing time in postponing the Bill to another Session. If it were deemed necessary that this inquiry should go on, it could only be rendered effectual by the appointment of a greater number of Commissioners, bound to finish, their inquiries within a limited time. If their Lordships did not wish this inquiry to be completed, let them reject this Bill; but if their Lordships wished otherwise, let them adopt it.

Order of the Day discharged.