HL Deb 18 March 1919 vol 33 cc723-5

Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee, read.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Stantnore.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The EARL OF DONOUGHNIORE in the Chair.]

Clause 1:

Power of the Local Government Board for Scotland to sanction schemes.

1. Where in the opinion of the committee or other governing body of any war charity in Scotland within the meaning of the War Charities Act, 1916, the funds or property belonging to such charity can no longer be usefully applied to the purposes or any of them for which such funds or property were subscribed or acquired, such committee or governing body may with the sanction of the Local Government Board for Scot- land provide for the application of such funds or property to purposes as nearly similar as may be to those or any of them for which such funds or property were subscribed or acquired, or to other suitable purposes, and that either in pursuance of a scheme to be administered by such committee or governing body, or by way of transfer to any institution or society or body of persons subject to such conditions as the Board think fit, and such funds or property shall be applied accordingly.

THE EARL OF KINTORE: moved to omit from Clause 1 the words "to purposes as nearly similar as may be to those or any of them for which such funds or property were subscribed or acquired, or." The noble Earl said: My object in putting down this Amendment is to give myself an opportunity of asking my noble friend if he can set at rest a doubt which exists in the minds of some of us as to whether the words that I suggest should come out, particularly the word "similar,' do not needlessly fetter rather than widen the discretion of the Local Government Board for Scotland. Perhaps I can best illustrate my meaning by a reference to a Scottish war charity in which some of us have been greatly interested. I know no county in Scotland which has not raised and splendidly maintained throughout the whole course of the war funds for the provision of food parcels and other comforts for the prisoners of war of the county regiments. The war being now over the objects of the Prisoners of War Fund are achieved, and varying balances remain in hand. Under this Bill, as I read it, these balances might be appropriated to "similar" purposes. I am anxious to be satisfied as to the precise meaning of "similar." If it means "identical," I would ask what identical purposes can possibly be found for a fund to assist prisoners of war, who as such no longer exist. If my noble friend is able to assure me that under the Bill as it stands it will be lawful to apply these balances for regimental objects, such as regimental institutes, and the support of soldiers' widows and orphans, I should be very well content; and as I remember being taught long ago that the word "similar" means the same thing with a difference, I hope that this assurance can easily be given I imagine that here in England no such difficulty can arise, as I think the High Court or the Charity Commissioners, availing themselves of that most convenient doctrine of law called cy-pres, can and do divert moneys devised for one charitable purpose to quite another one; and I think I am not wrong in saying that on one occasion they went so far as summarily to divert funds given for the redemption of captives from the Barbary pirates to the support of English elementary schools. If, therefore, by the use of the word "similar" it is intended to give Scottish authorities the same latitude as cy-pres gives here, well and good; but if on the other hand "similar" means "identical," I suggest that the particular purpose of our fund having now failed its position might become somewhat analogous to there being a resulting trust to the donor, and that his subscription, or a proportion of it, would have to be returned to him.

Amendment moved— Clause 1, page 1, line 12, leave out from ("property") to ("to") in line 14.—(The Earl of Kintore.)


I think I can assure the noble Earl that in this case the word "similar" does not mean "identical." The Bill goes on to say, "or for suitable purposes," which I think gives a wide field for discretion. At the same time I do not think it is advisable that the word should be omitted, partly because it seems unfair to subscribers that there should not be some similarity in the object, and also because it gives some guidance in regard to alternative schemes which may be put forward. For instance, in the case suggested by the noble Earl—the Prisoners of War Fund—there might be some member of the governing body of the fund who would wish the surplus devoted to some scheme of child-welfare. It obviously ought to be devoted to some military object, such as the regimental fund, as suggested by the noble Earl. I therefore hope my noble friend will not press his Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 1 agreed to.

Remaining clause agreed to.