§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ LORD STANLEY OF ALDERLEY moved the second reading of this Bill, which was, he said, required by the present unsatisfactory state of the law. Some measure was necessary in order to terminate the discussions to which recent conflicting decisions of the Courts had given rise. He added that such a measure had become absolutely necessary, in order to place the trusts of many scholastic foundations in the country in conformity with the decisions of the Courts of law at the present time, as to the admissibility of Dissenters to such trusts where they had not been expressly excluded by the terms of the deed of foundation; and he trusted their Lordships would give it a second reading, as otherwise an element of discord would be introduced into a great number of the public schools in the kingdom.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.
The LORD CHANCELLOR
said, this Bill, though very unpretending in appearance, for it consisted of only one clause, seemed to him likely to be fraught with 1666 important consequences. The noble Lord said it would prevent an element of discord being introduced into the different towns where foundations of this kind existed. The measure was founded on the decision in the case of the Ilminster School, where the Master of the Rolls and the Lords Justices came to different conclusions as to the admissibility of Dissenters to be trustees of the school. The noble Lord had proposed a general measure, applicable to all schools and foundations, and providing that no person should be prevented from being nominated or acting as a trustee on account of his religious opinions unless there was an express provision for such exclusion in the deed of foundation. Of course, where there was an express provision excluding Dissenters, they must be excluded; but there were many instruments of foundation by which Dissenters were excluded by necessary implication as strong as any expressed provision, from acting as trustees, though they were not so excluded by express terms; and yet the noble Lord would include all such schools in his Bill. The effect of the measure would be to interfere with Church schools and Church foundations, and in all such cases Dissenters would be admitted as trustees where they had not been expressly excluded by the deed of foundation. He thought such a Bill would be fraught with mischievous consequences, and he therefore moved that it be read a second time that day three months.
§ Amendment moved, to leave out ("now,") for the purpose of inserting ("this day three months").
§ LORD CRANWORTH
said, he was persuaded that the Bill in its principle was a most useful measure, and that with one modification it ought to receive the assent of their Lordships. The only Amendment required in the Bill was one which would meet the objection put forward by his noble and learned Friend on the woolsack, and which would provide that Dissenters should not serve as trustees of schools in any case in which, by necessary implication, they were excluded from the office under the will of the founders. It was only because the school at Ilminster had been founded in the time of Henry VIII., when it was presumed there were no Dissenters, that members of that body had been declared by the Lords Justices disqualified from serving as trustees. The law upon that subject was at present in a 1667 very unsatisfactory condition, and it was very desirable that it should be amended.
§ THE EARL OF DERBY
altogether dissented from the principle embodied in the Bill, which was, that whatever might have been the presumed or the real intentions of the founder, and though it might be manifest from the object of the school that none but Churchmen should hold the office of trustees, yet, if there were no express terms in the deed prohibiting Dissenters from becoming trustees, the courts of law should be bound to declare that Dissenters were eligible for such functions.
§ THE DUKE OF SOMERSET
said, that Dissenters had filled the office of trustee for such an institution for 150 years past; but by a recent decision the usage of a century and a half had been reversed. This fact showed that the law was in an unsatisfactory state, and ought to be reconsidered. Although he admitted that this measure went too far, it might easily be modified in Committee.
§ THE DUKE OF NEWCASTLE
suggested the postponement of the Bill for a few days, with a view to secure the presence at its discussion of several noble and learned Lords now absent, and also to afford an opportunity of consulting the Charity Commissioners as to its provisions. In consequence of the recent decisions, he feared that by the suspension of all action in this matter till next Session there was a danger that parties would be involved in costly litigation. A short Bill might be introduced to prevent this; and next Session the whole subject might be dealt with.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
was afraid that if the discussion were deferred for a few days they would lose the assistance of some noble and learned Lords now present.
§ On Question, That ("now") stand part of the Motion? Resolved in the negative; and Bill to be read 2a on this Day Three Months.