HL Deb 22 May 1845 vol 80 cc766-84
The Lord Chancellor

I rise, my Lords, for the purpose of moving the Second Reading of the Charitable Trusts Bill, and I shall state to your Lordships, very shortly, what is the nature of this measure, what the object it is intended to accomplish. My only purpose at present is, to make this measure distinctly understood by your Lordships and the public. Your Lordships, no doubt, recollect that in the year 1818, originating in a Motion made by my noble and learned Friend (Lord Brougham) in the other House of Parliament, a Commission was appointed for the purpose of inquiring into Charitable Trusts in England and Wales. That Commission was, from time to time, renewed, under the authority of successive Acts of Parliament, until the year 1837. It is due to the gentlemen who were members of that Commission to state—and I am sure I shall be confirmed in the remark by everybody who is able to appreciate their labours—that they discharged their trust with the utmost diligence, zeal, and ability; they have published thirty-seven volumes of Reports, containing a most valuable digest of information relating to all the charities in the kingdom. They had no power to reform abuses, their function was only to inquire; but the mere publication of their Reports has tended to correct abuses in a great variety of instances, and has, I am sure, in many other instances prevented abuses of a similar description. It was always imagined that these Reports would be followed by some legislative measure; and your Lordships will no doubt be aware that in the year 1835, before the last Commission was issued, a Committee of the other House of Parliament, consisting of the most distinguished Members of that House—of whom my hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor General was one — was appointed for the purpose of considering the propriety of legislating upon the measure, and upon the subjects that had been already presented to them by the former Reports. A Report was made, and it was always expected that that would be followed up by some measure for the purpose of correcting these abuses in future, and for the purpose of providing a more vigilant inspection of the establishments of charities of this description than had hitherto existed. I believe that some attempts at legislation were made, but they were attended with no practical result; and I have felt it my duty as one of Her Majesty's Government, in connexion with the other Ministers, to bring forward a Bill for the purpose of supplying that defect. I submit this measure to your Lordships' consideration, and I will state to you very shortly the grounds upon which it rests. Your Lordships are aware that the only tribunal in this country that has cognizance of breaches of trust and other matters connected with charities is the Court of Chancery. I am ready to admit, from the experience which I have had in that Court, that there is no tribunal better calculated to do complete justice in cases of charities than the Court to which I have referred. A series of successive decisions by men of great eminence has established a system — perfect, as it appears to me—for the purpose of doing justice in cases to which the machinery of the Court is applicable. Wherever, therefore, there is an endowment of any great extent, dealing with a sum of any magnitude, no tribunal can be better constituted for the purpose to which I have referred than the Court of Chancery; but, my Lords, unfortunately, from the constitution of the Court—from the nature of the tribunal, it is inapplicable to small charities. To go into the Court of Chancery in the case of a charity of 20l. a year, would be a practical absurdity. Everybody knows that the mere entry into that Court, the delivery of briefs to counsel, and the proceedings long before the decree or final order, would in all probability, with respect to a charity of that amount, entirely absorb and destroy the fund. A very eminent individual, Sir Samuel Romilly, attempted in some degree to lessen the expense. I think it was in the year 1812 that he introduced his Bill, the object of which is declared in the preamble to be, to give a more summary jurisdiction in cases of breaches of charitable trusts. He provided that instead of proceeding by information in the cases to which the Bill applied, the party might proceed by petition presented to the Chancellor, and the Chancellor might summarily decide the matter upon affidavit. The word "summarily" must not be taken in its ordinary sense; but must be construed according to the glossary of the Court of Chancery, because I can inform your Lordships what the course of proceeding is under the Bill. I admit that, by this Act, great improvement was made, diminishing greatly the expense in the cases to which it is applicable. A petition is presented to the Lord Chancellor; it is served on the opposite party, whose conduct is called in question, it comes on on the appointed day, there is an array of two or three counsel on one side, and two or three counsel on the other. It is argued, perhaps, one, two, three, and four successive days. Questions arise which have to be referred to the Master; it goes into the Master's Office, litigation there continues, the Master makes his report, the report is returned to the Chancellor; exceptions, perhaps, or objections are made to the report; possibly the report is confirmed, possibly it is referred back to the Master; and after all, when the final order of the Chancellor is made, it is subject to appeal to your Lordships' House. It is clear, therefore, that although the Bill is advantageous and beneficial to the suitors in cases practically within the jurisdiction of the Court of Chancery, it does not apply to cases such as those which I have described—viz., the infinite number of small charities which exist in the country. I cannot better, perhaps, impress this upon your Lordships' minds than by referring to a few instances. I take them as they happen the Reports of the Commissioners are full of cases of this kind of defective jurisdiction—of cases in which no judicial control can be exercised over the charities, on account of the smallness of the amount and the expense of proceeding in the Court of Chancery. I state one instance, because it is a very common instance—the case of the charity at Battle, in Sussex, mentioned in the appendix to the valuable publication by Mr. Hine, so many years the Secretary of the Commission. It was a part of a house worth 48l. a year conveyed to trustees for charitable purposes. The trustees thought it would be desirable to sell the house, and invest the proceeds in the public funds. It was impossible to do this without an application to the Court of Chancery. That application was made. A bill was filed. It would be referred to the Master of course, as a matter of form, to ascertain whether the sale would be beneficial to the charity. The Master reported in favour of it, the sale took place, the money was invested in the public funds. Mark what was the cost of the proceeding as stated by the Commissioners. The taxed costs paid out of the charity were upwards of 300l., six years' income of the charity, merely for the purpose of effecting a trifling arrangement of that sort. I will give your Lordships another instance stated also by the Commissioners, because, as I have before stated, the instances are innumerable. There is the charity at Lawford, in Essex. A small estate was given for charitable purposes; a lease was made of the estate of 60l. a year; some parties questioned the propriety of that—they thought the rent reserved was not sufficient. An information, therefore, was filed, for the purpose of setting aside the lease, and proceedings went on in the Court of Chancery for a considerable period of time. At length both parties became tired of litigation; the result was, the information was abandoned by consent, on the condition that the relators preferring the information should pay their own costs, which was agreed to. What were the costs of the other side? The costs of the trustees and treasurer and churchwardens, directed to be paid out of the funds of a charity of 60l. year—the costs of these proceedings amounted to 650l. Your Lordships will see that it is impossible to carry on this description of proceeding, whether amicable or litigated, where the income of the charity is of small amount. It is entirely annihilated in the contest, or so reduced in amount as to render it absolutely necessary to devise some other means for administering a remedy. What is the effect of this? The consequence is, as the Commissioners over and over again say, the charities are actually lost. Parties will not go into Chancery to do that which is one of the securities for the continuance of the charity. The estate is given to trustees. Then there is no power in the instrument to renew the trust, or it might be renewed under certain circumstances. If there is no power to renew the trust, there is an end of it, unless you apply to the Court of Chancery. If there is a power to renew the trust, it constantly happens that through negligence the power is not exercised. What is the result? The estate ultimately vests in the surviving trustee, it goes by descent to his heir, and the trust is continued for some time. At last some party refuses to apply the money. When that takes place, there is no means of obtaining redress. The parties interested cannot apply to the Court of Chancery, because the expense would be more than could be borne. The result is that in hundreds of cases the charities are entirely lost. It is the same with respect to personal property where it is vested in the funds for charitable purposes in the name of certain trustees. The trust is not renewed, there may be no power to renew it; the same circumstance takes place, it goes to the surviving trustee, to his personal representative; the money is misapplied, there is no account of it, there is no practical tribunal that can afford redress, I will mention one instance of a rent charge—a common mode of giving charity. As far back as the year 1641, six almshouses, at Ashby, in Lincolnshire, were given for charitable purposes, to be supported by a rent charge of 30l. a year. Trustees were appointed in 1641, and afterwards renewed in the year 1699. This is the statement of the Commissioners. After that, the trust was never renewed. The trustees all died, and there was an end of the trust. What happened? The landowner paid from time to time the rent charge to the vicar, in order that the vicar might distribute the funds according to the will of the founder of the charity. At last he was told, "You cannot do that safely, because no person can give you a sufficient discharge. I advise you not to pay this money any longer." What took place? In the year 1817, he discontinued the payment. After several years an information was filed against him, the object of which was to make him account for the arrears, and also for the appointment of trustees; and what was the result? The arrears were 370l.; he had to pay them up. What was the order of the Court? You must first pay the relators the costs out of the fund, and then you must pay the costs of the landowner, and the surplus you will pay over to the new trustees, for the benefit of the charity. The costs of the relators were 290l.; the costs of the landowner were 110l.; making in the entire a sum exceeding 400l., which, being 15l. more than the sum to be paid up, left a minus quantity to be applied for the benefit of a charity. I mention these cases because they are authenticated, and, therefore, carry with them a greater impression and effect than any general statement which I could make, to satisfy your Lordships as to the actual state of things. Although I admit that the Court of Chancery is admirably well constituted for the administration of justice in cases to which it is practically applicable, yet it must be confessed that it cannot be practically applied with the hope of beneficial results to charities of this description. It may be supposed by some persons that charities of this kind are not of any great amount or of any extent. That impression, however, is a very mistaken one. The individual amount may be very small, but the aggregate amount is very considerable. Your Lordships who have not attended to this subject are not, perhaps, aware that, according to the Report of the Commissioners who were appointed to make inquiry into the matter, there are upwards of 13,000 charities of less than 5l. a year rental. There are 18,000 charities of which the rental does not exceed 10l. a year each. To these cases, then, it is obvious that the Court of Chancery is totally inapplicable for all beneficial purposes. There are 21,000 charities which do not exceed in revenue 20l. a year, to which the Court of Chancery is also practically inapplicable; indeed, I think I may fairly say, that the Court of Chancery cannot practically administer justice where the annual amount of these charities does not exceed 50l. There are 25,000 charities of that description. Now, what is the actual state of things in reference to them? There is no judicial control which can be exercised over them, nor is there any practical mode of remedying abuses which may exist in respect to them. If there were a property of this description applicable to ordinary purposes, would you not say it was monstrous that no judicial control could be exercised over it, or that there was no tribunal which could take cognizance of it in case of a violation of trust? But when you consider that here is a description of property which is intended to be applied to benevolent and charitable objects, the argument derives a tenfold force. The impression must, therefore, be strongly fixed upon your Lordships' minds, that there is a great necessity of providing some remedy for these evils. What, then, is the course which I recommend to be adopted by this Bill which is before you? I have referred to the Report of the Committee which had been appointed by the House of Commons for the investigation of this subject. The Report of that Committee recommended the establishment of a tribunal, to be composed of three Commissioners, who would hold their office during good behaviour. I have thought it right to take that advice; I have vested the administration of these charities, under certain limits, in the Commissioners thus designated. I do not think it necessary, upon the second reading of this Bill, to say what I think should be the limits of their jurisdiction: it is quite clear that a limitation up to 20l. a year will be at all events advantageous. I will go farther, and say that, in my opinion, their jurisdiction should be extended to all charities under the sum of 50l. a year. We are not, however, called upon now to decide that point. The principle of the Bill is to establish a tribunal that will administer justice in all those small cases to which the Court of Chancery is practically inapplicable. That is the principle of the Bill. There is another consideration involved in the measure. It is not merely that there must be a jurisdiction vested in the tribunal of the character I have just described, but there is another essential point with which we shall have to deal in respect to the proper administration of justice in these cases. I am satisfied, my Lords, that nothing but a summary jurisdiction can be properly applicable: unless the jurisdiction be absolutely summary, it is impossible to avoid the evils which we know at present exist. We may, no doubt, lessen these evils, or mitigate them; but they will, nevertheless, still exist unless we adopt this principle. I propose, therefore, to appoint competent persons, on whom we can confidently rely, to discharge those duties which will devolve upon them; that they shall be independent of the Crown, and shall be placed upon the same footing as the Judges of the land. I propose that we shall invest such persons, in these small cases, with a power of deciding summarily upon what they may think right and proper, for the purpose of administering and protecting these charities. The power which I give to them in the first instance, is that of calling to account the trustees, to reform any abuses which may exist in the management of these funds, and to correct any misapplication of them. There is another most important point connected with the question, in respect to the administering part of the duty. I propose to give to them the power of appointing new trustees, the power to direct the sale of charity property when it is necessary, or the exchange of it. I propose that they shall have the power of granting leases, if necessary; and, in fact, to give them all those administrative powers which are now vested in the Court of Chancery. This, my Lords, is the outline of that part of the Bill which relates to small charities. I have now stated what is the principle of the Bill. But if any person can suggest a better mode of securing the due administration of these small charities, by which justice shall be properly administered to the objects of these charities, I shall be most happy to adopt such suggestions, and to abandon my measure. Until, however, I find a better mode of dealing with the evils which are complained of, I must adhere to that which I now suggest, which, as I have before remarked, is founded on the Report of the Committee appointed by the House of Commons. I cannot help thinking that this, after all, is the best system that could be adopted for meeting the evils which have been complained of so long. My Lords, I propose something further than that which I have stated—namely, that the jurisdiction of these Commissioners should not be confined merely to small charities but should also be extended to much larger ones. But with respect to this latter point I propose that the powers to be entrusted to these Commissioners shall be of a most limited Kind. I propose to give them the power of calling for an account of the revenues and expenditure of all public charities in the kingdom. I shall not give them any power to correct abuses in respect to these particular charities; but if upon the result of those Returns it be shown that any abuses do exist, I give them a power to have the Attorney General set in motion, and the Court of Chancery will then be called upon to afford redress in the ordinary manner. I am fully satisfied in respect to what I am now proposing, that parties holding public situations as trustees should be compelled to give an account of all monies confided to their care, and of the manner in which they are expended and applied: that, in fact, will afford the best security that can be offered for the proper administration of those funds. Upon this ground, and upon this principle, I venture to make this recommendation. I am very sure that there are no persons holding these public situations, who are not fully impressed with the importance and responsibility of these duties; and, therefore, such persons cannot be affected by the clause to which I now refer. If I were called upon to give an account of monies which I had received for these purposes, and of their application, I should feel that I was bound accurately and readily to do so; for I should then feel that I was relieved from the responsibility that would necessarily attach to me, and I should be also relieved from those insinuations and charges which, in the dark, are thrown out, without perhaps the slightest foundation. Let public transactions where money is concerned be perfectly open; if this be the case, the best security will be given against any abuse of it. I am sure that persons holding such situations cannot do better than to court such inquiry, as privacy in respect to such money is, in my opinion, contrary to that policy which persons ought to adopt who hold such situations. Now this part of the Bill relates to the extended jurisdiction of these Commissioners. There is, however, another part of the Bill which requires some attention from your Lordships. I admit it to be a point which involves party considerations. I allude to municipal charities. Your Lordships may recollect when the Municipal Corporations Bill was passing through your House, much discussion took place in respect to charities—the charities of which corporations were trustees, and their officers the administrators. You then adopted this course. The persons who were at that time trustees were permitted to continue in their situations up to a given period, unless in the meantime Parliament thought proper to interfere; and if Parliament did not within this period interfere, then at the termination of it these charities were to be administered under the direction of the Court of Chancery. Parliament did not interfere, and, therefore, at the end of the stated time, application was made to my noble Friend near me, who then presided over the Court of Chancery, to appoint new trustees. My noble Friend did appoint new trustees, as a matter of course, in this way: — he referred the subject to Masters in Chancery, who, having selected the trustees, made their report to the Lord Chancellor, who in almost every instance confirmed those appointments. I think that no better course could be now adopted, were it not for the expense which attended it; but when I give your Lordships instances of what that expense is, you will no doubt say that some more summary jurisdiction is necessary. I will now give you those instances. First, an application was made by the Corporation of Shrewsbury to the Court of Chancery for the appointment of new trustees; those trustees were appointed under the authority which I have stated. The costs of that proceeding were upwards of 540l., after having been taxed. These costs were paid out of the charity funds for the mere appointment of new trustees. In the case of the Salisbury Corporation application was also made for new trustees, who were appointed in the same manner. The taxed costs of such application amounted to 408l., which were paid out of the charitable fund. In like manner the Corporation of Exeter applied for the appointment of new trustees, the taxed costs of which application amounted to 600l. and upwards, which of course also came out of the charity; and if you were to take all these charges arising out of the appointment of new trustees, and add these costs together, the amount would have been enough to establish permanently three or four important and valuable charities. It is necessary also from time to time to renew those trustees. Parties may die, or may remove from the neighbourhood, or might be declared incapable of acting, in any of which cases application must be made to the Lord Chancellor to appoint new trustees. Se- veral applications of this kind have been made to me, and several also to my predecessor in office. In Hereford there were six new trustees appointed, the taxed costs attending which amounted to no less a sum than 750l., which were paid out of the charity funds. In the case of the Warwick charity, in respect to which the new trustees are about being appointed, I have not the least doubt that the taxed costs will considerably exceed that sum. Now, I ask your Lordships whether it is proper that this system shall continue? Why, if two or three respectable men, appointed for such purpose, were to go to the spot and would hear the opinions of the parties themselves on the subject, the appointment might be settled in a few hours, or, at all events, in a day. They could in this way arrange who should be the new trustees, in a manner which I have no doubt would prove much more satisfactory to all parties, than by having recourse to the kind of machinery for the appointment of them to which I have referred. What I propose then in respect to this subject is, that the Commissioners shall be invested with the power of filling up these vacant trusteeships under the Municipal Corporation Act. I know that this feeling is very prevalent; namely, that we wish to have the appointment of these Commissioners who are to be selected by the Crown, that is to say, by the parties who are in office for the time being; that those charities are important in respect to the political influence attached to them, and that in the election for Representatives of boroughs, and other seats in Parliament, they have practically great influence; and the question is asked, will you invest the Ministers for the time being with the power of filling up the vacancies by these Commissioners, who are so far political officers? My Lords, the answer which I make to this complaint is this—in the first instance the Commissioners who are appointed are to hold their offices during good behaviour: they are to take an oath for the due performance of their duties, and they become thereby independent of the Crown. They will hold their offices on the same tenure by which the Judges hold their seats upon the Bench. Every security and guard, therefore, that can be taken, will be taken, to avoid such a charge being substantiated. That is the first answer which I make to this objection. Now by whom are these trustees at present appointed? They are appointed in effect and practice by the Masters in Chancery. By whom are the Masters in Chancery appointed? By the Ministers of the Crown. They take the oath for the due performance of their duties, and are precisely placed in the same situation as these Commissioners whom I propose to establish. There is no difference between them in their position or independence except this—that the decisions of the Masters in Chancery may be set aside by the Lord Chancellor, who is one of the Ministers of the Crown. I do not suppose that any person holding the Great Seal will be found to abuse that power of appointment for any political purpose; therefore, these appointments are not likely to make any difference in respect of their political influence. But the fact of there being an appeal from the decision of a Master in Chancery strengthens my argument, because the decisions of these Commissioners will be as independent of the Masters in Chancery as mine are; whereas those of the Masters in Chancery are liable to be set aside and reversed by the judgment of the Lord Chancellor, a Minister of the Crown. But for the purpose of avoiding all suspicion upon this subject, that I or my Colleagues are looking to these appointments as an important object for the extension of our political influence, I propose, after the second reading of the Bill, and before the Committee on the Bill, to name to your Lordships the individuals whom we shall suggest to fill these offices. I will not name them now, for until the Bill has been read a second time I cannot have any communication with them; I will, however, pledge myself to name them a sufficient time before you go into Committee on the Bill, to give full opportunity of approving of them; and then, the appointments cannot well be considered those of the Ministers of the Crown, but such as have been made at the recommendation of Parliament, and therefore Parliamentary appointments. But in cases of future vacancies these appointments must, no doubt, be made by the Government for the time being—that may indeed be considered a very prospective advantage. Whether any future appointments of this description may be settled by the now Ministers, or other individuals, it is not for me to anticipate. By the present proposition regarding the original appointments, I feel that I get rid of the objection as to the supposed influence on the part of the Crown, for we leave the question open to Parliament to sanction or reject the individuals I propose to nominate. My Lords, this is the outline of the measure which I propose. There is one consideration, and one only, which now remains for me to state to you, viz., in what manner the funds are to be supplied for the support of this tribunal. There are three modes in which this point may be met. They may either be provided out of the Consolidated Fund, or be raised by a small percentage upon the charities, in the same manner as has been done in the Bill for the appointment of visitors in cases of lunacy; and if this latter mode be adopted, one per cent. would form a fund sufficient for the purpose. Or you may provide a sufficient fund by the union of these two principles. What I recommend is, that a percentage of one per cent. should be raised on the charities—which for the purpose of defraying the expenses of this establishment would, I think, be amply sufficient; but if it should turn out otherwise, I propose that the deficiency should be provided out of the Consolidated Fund; that is my suggestion. This question, however, cannot be settled by this House, because the other House of Parliament alone is competent to make this arrangement. I have thought it my duty to throw out this suggestion, but it must depend altogether on the good will and pleasure of the other House of Parliament to take what course they may think proper. I have thus endeavoured to keep faith with your Lordships in detailing as shortly and as intelligibly as I could the objects of this Bill. The principle of the Bill is this—at present there is practically no judicial control over charities of the description to which I have referred. It is, in my opinion, a scandal that such a state of things should any longer exist. The object of my Bill is to establish another tribunal, constituted in the way I have described, with a power to administer the funds, and to protect the administration of these charities, and to avoid the heavy expenses of the present system, which is altogether inconsistent with the objects of these charities. This is the main foundation and principle of the measure. I have, however, grafted on it the power of making an inquiry; but an inquiry only into the amount and application of the funds of all charities; and, in addition to that, in consequence of the great expense attending the present mode of appointing the trustees of municipal charities, I purpose that these Commissioners shall, in the first instance, exercise that power of appointment, and thereby avoid that course which involves an enormous expense on those charities, and a continual expense, by the necessity that exists of renewing the trustees from time to time, which has hitherto caused a very sad misapplication of the funds of the charity. My Lords, I now move that this Bill be read a second time.

Lord Brougham

said, that every one of their Lordships would agree with him in admitting the very great importance of the subject involved in the Bill of his noble and learned Friend, and in the just eulogy which his noble and learned Friend had paid to the eminent and able persons who had at various times conducted inquiries into this subject, and had published such excellent reports of the results of those inquiries. He (Lord Brougham) had had thirty years' experience of the operation of the system, and he was in a condition to form an opinion as to the value of the inquiries which were conducted with reference to it; and he was able to say that not only was the information which had been given by the various Commissioners extremely valuable in an historical point of view, but the publicity which had been given to the proceedings of charitable trustees had produced the good effect of preventing many abuses, and making trustees in charities, where abuses had formerly existed, turn over a new leaf. He also felt, what every one must feel, in common with his noble and learned Friend, that the Court of Chancery was utterly useless as a remedy, in the case of charities of a small amount, and that the idea of expending 700l. or 800l. on a charity which amounted to 10l. a year was too absurd to be defended. There was, therefore, no doubt as to the propriety of establishing a system which would enable them to avoid such an expenditure; and the amount to which they would limit the operation of the Bill, was a question which might be left for future discussion. The Bill which his noble and learned Friend proposed contained many very important provisions, not only to rectify abuses, but to establish a better administration of the funds of the charities. It provided for the appointment of new trustees where vacancies occurred; but he did not understand it to provide for the appointment of trustees in the case of those charities which at present had no trustees, and with respect to which no opportunity could therefore occur of filling up vacancies. He had listened with the greatest satisfaction to the concise and luminous statement of his noble and learned Friend in moving the second reading of the Bill, in which he had clearly shown the necessity which existed for the establishment of a more summary mode of dealing with the appointment of trustees; but, with reference to the appointment of the Commissioners under the Bill, he should remark that the Masters in Chancery, to whom his noble and learned Friend had alluded, were men who held a high office, who were of high station in the Court of Chancery, and upon whose minds it could not be supposed that any political influence could have any effect in the discharge of their duties. They were altogether too high in station and character to encourage any such supposition. It might so happen that the persons who were to be selected to fill the office of Commissioner under this Bill would be also men of the same stamp and importance as the Masters in Chancery: he did not know; but even if it were so, he would remind their Lordships that they could not easily appoint a new Board, and on a sudden clothe it with all the confidence which the public reposed in an ancient and honoured institution. Then his noble and learned Friend had not fully stated his intention with respect to the appointment of Inspectors. He said something about the advantage of making inquiries on the spot; but he had not stated whether those inquiries were to be made by Inspectors or by the Commissioners. That was a portion of the subject which would be worthy of the attention of their Lordships when the Bill was before them at a future stage. There were many questions which were matters of detail, and did not affect the principle of the Bill; and to these matters of detail he did not consider himself pledged by the course which he might feel it his duty to take with respect to the question now before them. As regarded the constitution or mode of appointment and payment of the Commissioners, he had no doubt, speaking generally, that with Commissioners appointed by some mode or another, and paid in some economical way or another, a great improvement might be made upon the existing system, which frequently involved a very large expense, where the amount of the charity yearly was very small; and he would, therefore, vote for the second reading of the Bill, approv- ing of the principle, but reserving himself from expressing his approval of the details until it came before the House at a future stage. He would propose that the Bill should be now read a second time, and referred to a Select Committee, who would report on the whole matter, and on whose Report there could be no difficulty in acting.

Lord Cottenham

trusted there would be no objection to the proposition of his noble and learned Friend (Lord Brougham), believing, as he did, that it was a subject which ought to be referred to a Select Committee. The evils of the present system were acknowledged, and the mode in which the most efficient remedy for those evils could be obtained was a matter which required the most serious investigation; and, therefore, before they agreed to such a measure as this, he thought they ought to refer it to a Select Committee, who could make such inquiries as would enable them to suggest an adequate remedy for the evils which were at present justly complained of.

The Lord Chancellor

said, as it appeared to be the opinion of the House that the Bill ought to be referred to a Select Committee, he had not the slightest objection to the adoption of that course.

Lord Cottenham

understood that, in voting for the second reading of the Bill, in order that it might be referred to a Select Committee, no Member of that House thereby expressed his opinion as to the provisions of the Bill. As the Bill at present stood, it omitted to provide for one of the greatest evils which were complained of. There were a large number of charities to which trustees had not been appointed since the passing of the Municipal Corporation Act; and in fact it was principally only the large charities to which the trustees had been appointed—charities which had funds sufficient to bear the expenses attending that appointment. The number of small charities which had no trustees were not provided for by the Bill as it at present stood. With respect to the statement of his noble and learned Friend on the Woolsack, that charities in which small sums were involved suffered greatly by the very great expense in the Court of Chancery, as compared with the annual amount of the charity, that was to be regretted; but it did not apply in an especial manner to charities of small amount, as it would apply equally to any other small property in the Court of Chancery. He believed that very great advantage would be obtained by referring the Bill to a Select Committee.

Lord Ashburton

had presented several petitions on this Bill, and he was desirous to be informed if they would be referred to the Select Committee?

The Lord Chancellor

said, that the petitions would be referred to the Select Committee as a matter of course. Since the Bill had been framed, several alterations had occurred to him. He intended the one per cent. to apply to all the small charities.

Lord Campbell

said, that there was only one part of the Bill to which he would address himself on that occasion; but it was a part which was very important as regarded the principle. He alluded to the powers which it was proposed to give to the Commissioners with respect to the appointment and removal of trustees under the municipal charities. It was a subject of real importance to the individuals who participated in those charities; but it was looked upon as a matter of great importance by others also. His noble and learned Friend was aware that in all the boroughs in England where these charities existed, there was a constant struggle between contending factions as to who was to have the administration of them; and the appointment and removal of the trustees to such charities was given to the Chancellor, who, although a Minister of the Crown, holding his office during pleasure, was the head of the law in England, a man of high station and great eminence, and one in whom the most perfect confidence could be reposed. Then the Masters in Chancery, who might appoint trustees, were men who held their appointment during life, and who were taken from the highest ranks at the Bar; and he (Lord Campbell) had never heard of any charge or suspicion against any appointment of trustees made by a Master in Chancery or the Lord Chancellor. Experience had shown them that there were great evils to be remedied with respect to the expense of appointing trustees under the present system; but it would not be difficult to remedy that by doing away with the exorbitant fees which were now demanded. Under the new Bill there were to be three Commissioners, who were to appoint those trustees instead of the Lord Chancellor or the Masters in Chan- cery; and there was no qualification proposed for those Commissioners. His noble and learned Friend had, during a former Session, proposed a Bill, in which it was required that a Commissioner should be a barrister of considerable standing; but there was no such qualification proposed in this Bill. Then the Commissioners were, by the provisions of the Bill before them, to be appointed by the Secretary of State; but it did not say which of the Secretaries was to make the appointment, whether the Secretary for the Colonies, the Secretary for Foreign Affairs, or the Secretary for the Home Department; any of them was competent to make the appointment, "any one of Her Majesty's Secretaries of State," and that was perfectly right, for they were co-ordinate. There was, however, no qualification for a Commissioner specified; and according to the Bill before them, any one of the Secretaries of State could appoint any individual whatsoever to the office. That was monstrous. These Commissioners might go down to boroughs, and completely revolutionize them, in regard to these trusts, by sweeping away all the trustees, on the Tory side or the Whig side, as it might happen to suit the political views of the Commissioners. [The Lord Chancellor: There is no such power given them under the Bill.] His noble and learned Friend had not read his own Bill, or he must have forgotten it; for that Bill would give an absolute and uncontrolled power to the Commissioners to remove all the trustees of municipal charities. [The Lord Chancellor: The Bill gives no power of removal; it only gives a power to supply vacancies.] The Bill would give the Commissioners an absolute power of adding to the number of the trustees; and they might by that means swamp the Tory trustees by an indefinite addition of Whigs, or swamp the Whig trustees by an indefinite addition of Tories. His noble and learned Friend had said, that those functionaries were to be sworn; and he seemed to think that they could never be suspected of doing a political job after they had been sworn. Now he (Lord Campbell) would take it for granted, that they would be very honourable men; but would they, he would ask, be above suspicion; and could they have the same authority in public estimation which now belonged to the Lord High Chancellor of England, or to the Masters in Chancery, who were his officers, and who acted un- der his superintendence? That part of the Bill he should most strenuously oppose. If he should have the honour to be a Member of the Select Committee, he would move that the clauses in question should be omitted. If he were overruled on that Motion, he would move the omission of the clauses when the Bill was in Committee before the House; and if he were again overruled, he would oppose the Bill on the Third Reading; for although he felt that many of its clauses might be and were salutary, it should meet with his most strenuous opposition if it involved the principle that the trustees of the municipal charities all over England might be removed, or that their number might be indefinitely increased, by Commissioners, such as it was proposed by that measure to appoint.

The Lord Chancellor

said, he wished to inform his noble and learned Friend that he proposed an alteration in the Bill, which would give the appointment of the Commissioners to the Lord Chancellor, and not to the Secretary of State. He also proposed that two at least of the Commissioners should be members of the legal profession, and gentlemen of high standing at the Bar.

After a few words from Lord Abinger,

Bill read 2a.

House adjourned.

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