§ Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee (on Re-commitment) read.
§ Moved that the House do now resolve itself into a Committee.
§ LORD ROMILLY
said, that he had endeavoured to meet the objections pointed out on the second reading of the Bill, and he hoped that, in its present shape, it would receive the sanction of the House. The object of the measure was to remedy the expense and inconvenience experienced by almost all public institutions, the property of which was vested in trustees, in having to resort to the Court of Chancery for the appointment of new trustees. These expenses were quite unnecessary and bore very heavily on the funds of charitable endowments. 568 He proposed to enable them to become corporations, the effect of which would be to vest the property in the institution without the expense of transmission, thus avoiding all these difficulties, and there were several precedents for this course. By an Act of 1862 industrial and provident societies were created bodies corporate, with power to hold lands and to sue and be sued in their corporate names; and the Limited Liability Act allowed companies, consisting of more than nine persons, to become a corporation, to sue and be sued by their corporate name, and also to hold lands to a limited extent. The Compulsory Church Rates Abolition Act also gave power to appoint Church Trustees, who were to be a body corporate, but were not authorized to hold land. Apprehensions had been expressed that this Bill would interfere with the principle of the statute of mortmain; but he had introduced clauses which enacted that nothing in the Bill should be construed to give further powers in relation to holding land than the law already permitted. He had so much respect for his noble and learned Friend on the Woolsack that he should not proceed with the Bill if he took objection to it, but he hoped it would meet with his approval.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
regretted that he could not concur with his noble and learned Friend as to the expediency of his Bill. He was quite ready to remedy the inconvenience experienced in the transmission of property from trustee to trustee, from the difficulty of ascertaining who had been the former trustees, and who were their heirs or executors, and from the expense sometimes involved in effecting a transfer; but he thought this could have been done effectually and simply by enabling trustees from time to time to register their names with some suitable authority— the Charity Commissioners or the Registrar of Friendly Societies—and to obtain a stamped certificate of such record. Trustees could then be changed when required without uncertainty and expense. He could not see his way to the incorporation of these societies. His noble and learned Friend had adduced precedents for this course; but the haphazard legislation which remedied a particular grievance, without considering its effect ont he general system of law, was 569 much to be deprecated. Moreover, if these societies desired incorporation, they could already obtain it under the Joint Stock Companies Act. The Bill would enable ephemeral societies, as was already done under that Act, to advertise themselves as incorporated, thus leading unwary persons to suppose that they were of a stable character. He was anxious at a fitting opportunity, which he hoped might occur next Session, to bring under the consideration of the House the expediency or inexpediency of allowing persons, under the name of charity, to perpetuate the most absurd and preposterous schemes and to tie up property for hundreds of years; while persons who did not profess to leave their property for charitable purposes were restricted to a life and twenty-one years. If he were not afraid of wearying their Lordships he might give many instances of the absurdities that were done in the name of charity. In a recent case the Court of Chancery had recognized as a charity the bequest of a man who during his lifetime published a number of works, which nobody read, which he supposed would inculcate certain religious and moral doctrines, and who had left £300 a year for ever to be paid to a person for teaching and promoting his principles, one of the conditions being that the person appointed should be in an unfortunate condition. Other cases equally absurd might be instanced, and he should be sorry to see these absurd and frivolous schemes vested with corporate privileges. For these reasons he could not support his noble and learned Friend's Bill.
§ LORD ROMILLY
remarked that the evil deprecated by his noble and learned Friend already existed under the Joint Stock Companies Act. He would not press the Bill, but he hoped some good would result from the discussion of the question.
§ LORD CAIRNS
pointed out that there was a marked difference under the existing Act and the provisions of the Bill. The former required, as a condition of incorporation, that there should be a certain number of shareholders, who became answerable for a certain sum of money, and if they did anything wrong the concern was wound up, and they were obliged to pay the debts; whereas the Bill proposed that a charitable society might become a corporate body in the eye of the law, without funds or di- 570 rectors, to be made responsible in case of wrong doing.
§ Motion (by leave of the House) withdrawn.)
§ House adjourned at a quarter before Six o'clock, to Monday next, Eleven o'clock,