§ MR. W. H. JAMES
, in rising to call attention to the Parochial Charities of the City of London, and to move—That it is desirable that Her Majesty's Government should, at the earliest possible date, introduce some legislative measure carrying into effect the recommendations of the Twenty-fourth Report of the Charity Commissioners with respect to the Parochial Charities of the City of London.said, that the Motion in no way affected the various Companies of London, and that in making this Motion he had no desire to embarrass the Government. It must be admitted that great abuses existed throughout the country in the administration of parochial charities, but nowhere were those abuses so rampant as in the City of London. In the consideration of this question, it was necessary to recollect that the City of London was becoming year by year less a place of residence. The altering and widening of the streets, and the other improvements that had taken place, had driven the poor classes out, and every fresh alteration in that direction tended to further contract the area of habitation. The Census of 1871 showed a great diminution in the inhabitants of London from that of 1861, and between these periods the rateable value of the different parishes had greatly increased. As Parliament had determined upon the union of particular districts for Poor Law purposes, so now there should be a union of the parishes for charitable purposes. He asked the House to consider the subject in three distinct points of view—first, with regard to the precise nature of those charities and objects to which they were intended to be devoted; secondly, their nature and extent; and thirdly, how they could be brought into consonance with public opinion without prejudice to the rights of the trustees. He appealed to the Home Secretary that what 1695 was done should be done at once. He wished to avoid in the discussion anything which admitted of debateable ground or controversy with regard to the privileges of the trustees. He appealed to the Home Secretary not to deal with this question in a fragmentary way, but in one entire and comprehensive scheme that would give general satisfaction, and give effect to the rights of the trustees, and receive the approval of the public. It was difficult to arrive at a satisfactory conclusion as to the original objects of these charities. The Reports of the Charity Commissioners between 1820 and 1830, though voluminous, contained very scanty materials, and the statements as to the objects of the charities were purely conjectural. There could be no doubt that a great many of the trust deeds were destroyed by the Fire of London; but, although it might be impossible to ascertain the precise objects for which many of the charities were founded, yet it was obvious that in now coming to a decision as to the mode in which they should be administered, they should be guided by the consideration of what was just and expedient. The number of these City charities was 112, the total amount of their income being about £101,000 per annum. While the average population in each parish was 428 in the year 1861, it was only 264 in 1871. The average area of each parish was about 3½ acres. The number of residents and of inhabited houses in them had been greatly reduced, and some of them were almost exclusively occupied by banking and discounting firms and warehousemen, who certainly could not be supposed to need charity. At the time of the passing of the Union of Benefices Act, about 18 years ago, it was thought that when the parishes were grouped together, some useful purpose would be found for their endowments. Nothing, however, of that kind had been done, the depopulation of the parishes having gone on with extreme rapidity. The funds of those parochial charities were now frittered away in the re-decoration and ornamentation of churches, in providing testimonials for churchwardens, in feasting and convivial entertainments, and similar purposes. Very large sums were also handed over to the rates, thereby going not merely to benefit the poor, but also to relieve the rich from 1696 their legitimate burdens. Other sums, again, went to defray legal expenses—an object to which they were not properly applicable. Many of the churches in the City were no longer of any practical use; for, according to the Bishop of London, in many instances it was preaching to dead walls instead of living souls, and that many of the churches had neither beauty, usefulness, or architecture, to recommend them. They would hardly find a creature in the City churches if they visited them on a Sunday morning. It was told of a clergyman, who went to one of them to conduct public worship, that he looked out of the vestry and asked the clerk if anyone was there? The clerk replied—"One old woman;" upon which the clergyman said—"Very well; give her a shilling and tell her to go home." It might be said of London, as it was said by an illustrious statesman years ago, that the merchants and traders of London now made their counting-houses their churches and their ledgers their Bibles, their desks their altars, and their money their god. He had been at a meeting of the Charity Organization Society at the Mansion House, where the speakers all denounced the sin of indiscriminate charity of giving 6d. or 1s. to a beggar, without full investigation; but here, while thousands of pounds were annually wasted, to hold that language in the heart of the City of London was to strain at a gnat and swallow a camel. He did not complain of the entertainments given for occasional social gathering, except on account of the large sums of money squandered on them. He thought that the whole subject should be dealt with by the Government. It might be asked why the Charity Commissioners did not move in the matter; and the fact was, that from time to time they had made attempts, but had been defeated on some trivial points of law. As far back as the year 1866, in their 13th Report, they had reported that the charities showed a disproportion between the sums at their disposal and the objects of their foundation, and the result of subsequent inquiry had been to exhibit that circumstance in still stronger relief. The endowments of many of the charities consisted largely of property in London and the suburbs, which had enormously increased in value; while, in many cases, 1697 the number of the proper recipients of the funds had considerably diminished. Last year the Commissioners, in the 24th Report, had reported that in the altered circumstances of the City of London many of the parishes had no poor, properly so-called, and in those cases the clergy and churchwardens administered the revenues. One of these parishes had charities to the amount of £800 a-year, and the population numbered 46, of whom only four or five were residents, and none were paupers. A Court of Equity might establish a new scheme for each parish, as the circumstances of the various parishes differed; and what he wished to see was the re-appropriation of the funds to some parish with ample poor, where no difficulty would be found for a proper distribution of these revenues. It was impossible to read a more convincing Report, and he trusted that the Home Secretary would be able to give some promise that the proposals of the Commissioners would soon be carried out. He wished to add that much of the property in question was of a miscellaneous character, and might very well be brought into one capital account; and, perhaps, it might be advantageous to convert the lands of the Corporation into private property. But he hoped that questions of the rights of property would not be introduced into the debate. As he had said, the money ought not to be diverted to the diminution of the rates, or it would find its way into the pockets of the rich instead of the poor. Nor should it go to tithes; and, certainly, it ought not to be given to doles, for the purpose merely of encouraging people to go to church. The Charity Commissioners should be empowered to enforce the audit of the accounts of these charities. Reform of abuses in the direction he had indicated was obstructed by private interests, and how far those interests stood in the way of public good was a question which the Home Secretary and his Colleagues would have to consider. He believed it would be incumbent on the right hon. Gentleman next year to introduce a Bill dealing with the powers possessed by the Endowed Schools and Charity Commissions, and he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would be prepared then with a comprehensive scheme dealing with this question. He should press the Motion 1698 to a division, unless he had a most clear and distinct promise from the Government that they would actually do something in the way of reforming these charities, instead of putting off and temporizing with the subject. If he pressed the Motion to a division, he should do so as a protest against what he described as a system of greed, fraud, and peculation, by which the poor and necessitous of the Metropolis were deprived of a patrimony to which, in law and equity, they were fully entitled. The hon. Gentleman concluded by moving the Resolution of which he had given Notice.
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "it is desirable that Her Majesty's Government should, at the earliest possible date, introduce some legislative measure carrying into effect the recommendations of the Twenty-fourth Report of the Charity Commissioners with respect to the Parochial Charities of the City of London,"—(Mr. James,)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
MR. ASSHETON CROSS
hoped the hon. Member for Gateshead (Mr. James) did not accuse him of temporizing with, or putting off, the question. This, certainly, had not been his habit hitherto, and he did not mean that the present occasion should be taken as a precedent. On the contrary, he was much obliged to the hon. Member for having brought the subject before the House, and for the very temperate and fair spirit in which he had laid the facts of his case before the House. When a similar Motion had, a year or two ago, been brought before the House by the hon. Member for Hackney (Mr. Fawcett), he had undertaken to look into the question, with the view of seeing whether anything could be, or ought to be, done with respect to it; and he had lost no time in placing himself in communication with the various parochial authorities in order to ascertain their views. He had interviews with a number of persons connected, not only with the City, but with the parochial charities themselves, and he had spoken his mind to them very freely on the subject. In all such matters, he might add, it seemed to him 1699 to be wise, if possible, to carry with one, in any reforms which it might be proposed to make, those who were interested in the management of the property which those reforms would affect. It was not well, he thought, to come down upon them with a high hand, and to tell them that they were to be treated in a particular way. A better course to adopt was to try and induce them to join in bringing about a more satisfactory administration of the funds with which they were connected. The hon. Gentleman had alluded to the case of St. Olave Jewry; and he was happy to say that he had received from the churchwarden, the vicar, and others of that parish, a Memorial praying that a Royal Commission might be issued, in order to ascertain to what useful purpose its funds could be applied. He wished other parishes would act in the same manner; but, at all events, one had taken a step in the right direction. The matter, however, did not rest there, for he held in his hand a Memorial, very numerously and influentially signed, not by the inhabitants of any particular parish, but by persons generally interested in the City of London, in which they said that—The parochial charities of the City yield a very large and rapidly increasing income, which amounts, according to Returns made by the Charity Commissioners in the last Session of Parliament, to upwards of £100,000 per annum; that in many cases the charitable income of particular parishes is out of all proportion to the purposes for which these funds were originally bequeathed or acquired; for, while the income derived from these charitable estates has steadily increased, the population of the parishes has as steadily decreased, and in some is on the point of vanishing away; that the proper administration of these estates is often difficult, while the incomes derived from them are not rarely applied to purposes which it would be hard to reconcile with the intentions of those who bequeathed them, harder still to defend on grounds of public policy, even if there be no longer instances of their perversion to uses to which no charitable bequests nor trust properties can ever be properly applied. Your memorialists therefore pray that a Royal Commission may be appointed to investigate the origin of these charities, which is often involved in obscurity, to inquire into their present and make proposals for their future application. Inasmuch, however, as some of these charities were left for ecclesiastical purposes exclusively, others no less exclusively for eleemosynary purposes—bequests for education and for apprenticing and the like being included under the latter head—while some are of a mixed character, applicable in proportions not always easily ascertainable to 1700 both purposes, your memorialists are of opinion that it would be fair to all the interests concerned that it should be an instruction to the Commissioners to separate the strictly ecclesiastical from the strictly eleemosynary charities, and to divide upon equitable terms those which are of a mixed character, with a view to the formation of two separate funds—an ecclesiastical and eleemosynary fund—such funds to be applied as follows:—1. After all the churches which it shall be found expedient to retain in the City of London shall have been sufficiently provided with a fabric fund, and fund for the maintenance of Divine Worship therein, the surplus funds derived from the ecclesiastical charities shall be applied to similar purposes in the poorer parishes of the Metropolis, a preference being given to those contiguous to the City. 2. In like manner, when all charities of an eleemosynary kind within the City of which the Commission shall recommend and Parliament sanction the retention shall have been amply provided for, the surplus funds derived from the eleemosynary charities shall be applied for the furtherance of education and for the maintenance of hospitals and kindred institutions.Now, that Memorial contained, in his opinion, a very frank confession, and the hon. Member for Hackney would, he was sure, agree with him in thinking that no time had been lost in securing a number of influential names to such a document, the first on the list being that of the right hon. Gentleman—one of the Members for the City—(Mr. Hubbard). As matters at present stood, the Charity Commissioners were quite correct in saying that they had no right to interfere with those funds except in those cases in which they were applied to by the trustees of the charities themselves; and it was not very likely that they would be able to get the trustees generally to apply. It would be difficult for the Commissioners to deal with these charities as a whole; they would have to deal with each individual charity, and that was a process attended also with considerable difficulty. He concurred, he might add, with the hon. Member for Gateshead (Mr. James), in thinking that money which had been left for the poor, for purposes either ecclesiastical or eleemosynary, ought not to be applied in aid of the poor rate; nor was he, as a rule, favourable to its application to what were called charitable doles. In all the circumstances, the Government were of opinion that there ought to be an inquiry into the charities in question; but he could not just yet pledge himself to define the precise character of that inquiry. Generally speaking, the Government thought it ought to be an inquiry 1701 by a Commission of some kind or other; the composition of that Commission, however, was a matter he must reserve for future consideration. The expense of the inquiry ought also, it seemed to them, to be borne, not by the State, but by the charity funds concerned. Shortly stated, those were the views of the Government, and he hoped they would satisfy the hon. Member for Gateshead. He could promise that there would be no unnecessary delay in appointing the Commission; but his impression was that an Act of Parliament would be required for the purpose of its appointment. If that were so, he should not wait until next Session to introduce a measure with that object, so that the matter might be taken in hand as speedily as possible. While agreeing that these funds had been misapplied in this sense—that they had been applied for purposes not originally intended, he did not want to charge the persons who had control of them with either fraud, greed, orpeculation. Those were words which ought not to be used. The only real charge to which the persons concerned had left themselves open was that they had not applied to the Charity Commissioners, the latter being unable to deal with the bequests except upon such investigation. In conclusion, he hoped the hon. Member for Gateshead would be satisfied with the assurance given on behalf of the Government, and would not put the House to the trouble of a division.
§ MR. FAWCETT
thought that the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary had given his promises in the most satisfactory manner possible. After the assurance which had been given by the right hon. Gentleman, he thought his hon. Friend the Member for Gateshead (Mr. James) would agree that there was no use in pressing the Motion to a division. With respect to the Memorial which had been read by the Home Secretary, he trusted the right hon. Gentleman would not beforehand fetter the discretion of the Commission of Inquiry by such an instruction as that Memorial recommended, and that the only instruction would be that the inquiry should be as thorough and efficient as possible, and that the Commission should further endeavour to ascertain how the funds could be best made to conduce to the welfare and happiness of the people of London.
§ SIR THOMAS ACLAND
expressed his satisfaction with the course which the Government had taken. He did not understand from the right hon. Gentleman whether the Commission was to be limited to the charities of London? but he earnestly hoped that it would be extended to the whole country, because he had frequently come into contact with cases where charities might be much better applied if there was legal power to do so. One difficulty, however, in the way of the Commission, to which reference had not been made by the Home Secretary, was that, notwithstanding the admitted inutility of the existing administration of some of the charities, and notwithstanding the desire of the Governing Bodies to expand these charities, the Commissioners were expected to be bound to carry out the objects of the original endowments, if there were the means of doing so. Some of the charities were left 200 or 300 years ago; but circumstances since then had very considerably altered, and some of the charities were devoted to the education of children; whereas now they had school boards, which gave quite as good, if not better, education than was provided under the charities. The present system of education was so much altered of late, that something more was wanted besides an honest administration of obsolete foundations. He trusted that the Home Secretary would not stop short of dealing with that question. There was another question. The only power which could at present deal with the matter was that given to the Endowed Schools Commission, or that branch of the Charity Commission which took the place of the Endowed Schools Commission. With reference to the question of taking, with the consent of certain persons, local doles, and applying them to the purposes of secondary education, zealous as he was for the reformation of charities, he did not think it expedient to take doles and apply them in a way which presented to the eyes of the poor the aspect of saving the pockets of the rich. He hoped the Home Secretary would take these things into account in the constitution of the Commission, and that he would not limit the scope of the inquiry to the City of London only, or, that if he did so, it would be as a first step to a larger measure. There were a number of 1703 small charities which only tended to pauperize the poor; but which if properly directed, might be made conducive to prudence. He suggested that, if possible, these charities should be made to assist the funds of sound friendly societies.
§ SIR ANDREW LUSK
said, he had lived long in the City of London, and a nice green pasture it had been for him. The citizens of London were honest and straightforward men, and he did not like to hear any Member of Parliament speaking of them as men whose money was their god, and whose books were their Bibles. If money were their god, and if they did not look very well after it, the men from the "West would come down and take it from them. There were great difficulties in the administration of these charities. In one parish a sum of money was left to apprentice a boy to a saddler—and it so happened that there was not a single saddler in the parish—and in another there was an endowment for the burning of heretics. He denied the assertion, made by many persons out-of-doors, that a large portion of the funds went in feasting, and he assured hon. Members that in the parishes of the City of London, as a rule, no feasting went on. He believed that the results of the inquiry would be to show that the funds were being applied to good and worthy purposes, perhaps more suited to past times. The authorities of the City of London would, however, he was sure, gladly join in any change which might be suggested which would have the effect of bringing about a better state of things.
§ MR. PELL
thanked his right hon. Friend the Home Secretary for the straightforward manner in which he had dealt with the question. He hoped his right hon. Friend would not allow the inquiry he had promised to be extended beyond the City of London. There would be enough in the City to occupy the attention of the Commission, and any Report which they might make would apply, in a large measure, to similar cases in the country. He expressed a hope that the application of these charities would not be extended outside the walls of the City. There were two distinct populations in the City—one, a day population, which was wealthy; the other, a night population, 1704 which consisted to a great extent of paupers. He could not help thinking that the existence of the funds in question attracted people of that class to the City in the hope of obtaining a share of them; and, so far from those charities, as at present administered, being in any way of service, they were positively mischievous. Where endowed charities existed in the country, there was to be found a corresponding amount of pauperism, while the most independent and thrifty class of people were to be found in districts where very few endowed charities existed.
SIR UGHTRED KAY-SHUTTLEWORTH
said, he had come down to the House prepared to support the Motion of his hon. Friend the Member for Gateshead (Mr. James); but, after what he had heard, he had only to thank the right hon. Gentleman for the satisfactory assurance he had given. The House, he thought, ought to be grateful also to his hon. Friend the Member for Gateshead for having brought the subject forward. With respect to legislation, he hoped the Home Secretary would keep in view the admirable Bill introduced by Mr. Andrew Johnston, in 1870, which seemed to lay down lines that would form a very good guide at the present time. One great difficulty would be this. The funds originally left for Christian charity should, if possible, be applied to such objects; they were applied to objects as far as possible removed from the real meaning of the word charity; and the means ought to be found, if possible, of applying those funds for the benefit of the poor persons for whose benefit they were intended. They should follow the poor who had left the City and were scattered in other parts of the Metropolis. It would be necessary to guard against a repetition of the vicious system of relieving the poor rates, or the education rates, or tithes. Some works of real Christian charity should be found to which to devote the money. He hoped the Commission would carefully consider to what sort of objects these charitable funds ought to be applied.
§ MR. W. H. JAMES
thanked the Home Secretary for the proposal which he had made, which was extremely liberal, and intimated his readiness to withdraw his Motion.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.