*MR. JOHN ELLIS (Nottingham, Rushcliffe) rose to call attention to the report of the Select Committee (1894)
on the Charity Commission, and to move:—
''That, in the opinion of this House, in order to secure greater Parliamentary control over the work now entrusted to the Charity Commission and an administration of the same more in harmony with public opinion, the Commission should be reconstituted and placed as a subordinate department under a Minister of State.
The motion, he said, was the issue and outcome of the action of the House a year ago, when it appointed a Select Committee to inquire into the work of the Charity Commission. The Select Committee, in accordance with the terms of reference, inquired rather into the constitutional relationship of the Commission to Parliament than the question of how that body had exercised its functions There was, in truth, less necessity for the latter course, inasmuch as Select Committees in 1884–5–6–7 investigated very largely its actions on both the charitable trusts side of the Commission and the endowed schools side. The Select Committee of last year, which did him the honour to make him its Chairman, examined a number of persons who were well qualified by their official position and experience to give evidence of the greatest value. They had before them members of the Commission itself, the indefatigable Secretary of the Commission, the Vice President of the Committee of Council on Education, the permanent Secretary of the Education Department, the present Lord Welby, so long known as the permanent Secretary of the Treasury, and other witnesses. Within the compass of the 4,100 questions asked and answered would be found a complete account of the origin and constitutional position, the scope and methods of procedure of the Charity Commission, while the Appendices, about 20 in number, threw light on the work the Commission had done. The Committee arrived at the conclusion, set forth in paragraph 6 of their Report, that a reconstruction of the Charity Commission was inevitable. The Committee, which consisted of 15 members, was divided in the proportion of nine to six—a very substantial majority, equivalent in that House to one of over a hundred for a Government. The Motion was based on the Report of the Committee, which recommended that the Commission should be reconstructed, and placed as a subordinate
department under a Minister of State Certain salient features with regard to the Commission came out pointedly and clearly in the evidence. In the first place, it was an unpopular body. That was not his phrase but hat of the hon. Member for the Penrith Division of Cumberland, who had himself been a Charity Commissioner and occupied a high post in the late Administration. The hon. Member used the expression when the Local Government Bill was before the House in 1893, and he repeated it again on the 30th March of last year. The explanation the hon. Member gave of its unpopularity was not altogether the right one. He said it was too Tory for the Radicals and too Radical for the Tories. That, however, did not cover the ground, because the complaints made against the Charity Commissioners were not altogether or even mainly of a political character. He could not accept the explanation of the hon. Gentleman that the unpopularity of the Commissioners was due to political feeling, but he entirely agreed with him that they were unpopular, which was a most unfortunate position for a body of public servants to occupy. In the case of the Christ's Hospital scheme, without pronouncing any opinion of his own, he must point out that there could not be so much feeling in high quarters quite irrespective of political views unless there were some ground existing for it. He did not think that those interested in the matter could do better than ask the House to appoint a small Committee to inquire into what ground there was for that feeling. There was no subject upon which the Committees which had sat to consider the question felt so strongly as the introduction of the representative element on boards of trustees that managed the charities of the country, and the evidence showed that the introduction of the representative element, as far as it had been introduced, had put an end to the religious difficulty that had, unhappily, been so prominent some years ago. Yet it appeared front the appendices that in the case of Endowed Schools schemes the representative element was only introduced in the proportion of 700 to 1,300 Trustees, and in the Charitable Trusts to the extent of 400 to 1,300. The constitution of
the Charity Commission was cumbrous, its procedure was most complicated and dilatory, and its methods were certainly not calculated to attract or preserve the co-operation of those affected, who inmost cases possessed a much better knowledge of what was required than the persons sitting in Whitehall. In reference to the allegation that the Commission was weak in Parliament, Sir Henry Longley had remarked that—
In the last 12 or 15 years we, have attracted the, attention of Parliament so continually that it becomes, of course, a question how far the work can be carried on without political support.
Being asked this question—
All other departments have to derive the momentum which carries their policy through Parliament from the political party which happens to be in power, and you have not?
No; and they have another momentum, a momentum which helps them to get what they want from the Treasury; and we have not got the help of a political chief or representative either to defend our policy or to help us in getting the means to do our work.
It was a most significant example of weakness in Parliament that at five o'clock on a Saturday afternoon, the 9th September 1893, the right hon. Leader of the Opposition, the right hon. Member for West Birmingham, and the right hon. Member for Thanet came down to the House in order to do a good turn to the Commissioners, and voted in favour of the reduction of their salaries, putting in the strongest form known their official imprimatur by appointing the official tellers of the Opposition in the Division. It was certainly an evidence of the non-political character of the complaints against the Commission that the hon. Member for Herefordshire had in the early part of the Session actually succeeded in inducing the House to reject absolutely and entirely one of the schemes of the Commissioners. The Board was constituted under two different groups of Acts of Parliament, which were passed under different impulses and currents of public opinion, with dissimilar principles running through them, conferring divergent powers, and requiring almost contradictory procedure. Thus, three out of the five Commissioners held their positions, like the Judges, "during good behaviour," whilst the other two
held theirs "during pleasure" only. There was no Parliamentary control. A quasi-judicial character attached to the charity side of the Commission, but it was admitted by the Chief Commissioners that it was not a court. On the endowed schools side there was initiative, but it it was not sufficiently connected with the locality; there was a very large discretion and Parliamentary control of a sort, but this was largely illusory. When they contrasted the procedure applicable to charity schemes and endowed school schemes with the simple, efficacious, and economical procedure which was known as their provisional order system, they could not fail to be astonished that the complicated and cumbrous procedure of the Charity Commission should have survived so long. It became apparent, as the evidence given before the Committee proceeded, that althought there was in the Commission this kind of dual control, its two component parts were inextricably intertwined. The powers of the Charity Commission over endowed schools were derived, not so much from the Endowed Schools Act, as might be naturally supposed, as from the Charitable Trusts Acts. Well might Sir Henry Longley say that "our position is unique," and well might Mr. Ritchie say that "it is very anomalous." Relatively the cost of this Commission was far too large. In 1879 the House was asked for £29,000 for the expense of the Commission, but this year they were asked for £43,000. This increase was startling, and the Treasury were responsible for it in that House. In his evidence before the Committee, Lord Welby said, that from the Treasury point of view, this Commission was top-heavy, unusually manned, and antiquated; and the late Mr. W. H. Smith, than whom a better man of business never sat in that House, issued a Minute, when First Lord of the Treasury, in which Minute he laid down that the Commission was costing too much, and that the number of the lay Commissioners ought to be brought down so as to come within the limit intended originally. That, in the words of Lord Welby was an unusual course, and to that extent the more striking. It was remarkable how circumstances, rather perhaps, than its own will, had diverted the Charity Commission into channel
and relations not contemplated when it was set up. The late Mr. W. E. Forster, when introducing the Endowed Schools Bill in 1869, said that what was meant by the Bill was "the Government of the day working by special help.'' But this intention had not been fulfilled, and the case had really become one in which the Commissioners were the masters, and in which the Minister of the Education Department was the Minister of the Commission carrying out its behests. The Charity Commission had, in fact, become supreme instead of the Government. With reference to the relations between local authorities and the Commission, he would quote a passage from the evidence of Lord Lyttelton, the Chairman of the Endowed Schools Committee of 1873—
The Schools Inquiry Commission never intended that the immense, often invidious, always difficult, functions in the reconstitution of endowments should be placed in the hands of a single central authority. They intended to rest the whole fabric on two great equal pillars—a central and a local authority. It was the provincial not the central authority which was in the first instance to fix the grade of schools, to consolidate foundations, and to propose the entire schemes for their regulation.
What an enormous chasm there was between the present state of things and that contemplated by Lord Lyttelton! Of course at that time there were no such local bodies in existence as we had now. The great development of our municipalities and the establishment of county councils and parish councils, under the Acts of 1888 and 1894, had changed the whole situation. We were now in a new world, and that circumstance alone would justify an entire reconstruction of the Commission. The Committee had come to the conclusion that reconstitution was inevitable. What then was the best way in which to effect a change? He was always in favour of following precedent in cases of this kind, for he believed that continuity was of the greatest advantage to our English public life, and there was an exact precedent for the course which he was recommending the House to pursue that evening. He referred to the administrative machinery that was set up in consequence of that great revolution, the reform of the Poor Law. In 1834 the Government set up what was then
known as the Poor Law Commission, and the parallel between that Commission and the Charity Commission was most striking. The Commission was originally set up for five years; then it became annual, and then, in 1842, the period was again fixed at five years, and it expired in 1817. By that time such an amount of experience had been accumulated as convinced the Ministers and ex-Ministers that a change was inevitable in the administrative machinery of the Board. On May 3, 1847, Sir G. Grey, the Home Secretary, said, with respect to the original constitution of the Board—
It was thought that the persons who were to be invested with the discretionary powers to be exercised by a central authority ought not to form any part of the Executive Government; that they should remain free from that popular influence which must necessarily operate in a greater or less degree upon all public men. It was thought better, also, that no political changes should be allowed to affect those who were to be intrusted with these powers.
The principle of the Bill which Sir G. Grey was then moving was that there should be a general superintending authority immediately responsible to Parliament. That was what he suggested in the Motion he now submitted to the House. On May 17, 1847, the Second Heading of that Bill came on, and it continued for four nights, and he would respectfully suggest to hon. Members that they should read that debate. They would there find almost precisely the arguments he had used that afternoon. They could also find on the other side almost exactly the arguments which the hon. Member for Tonbridge was going to address to the House. They did not commend themselves to the leaders of those who used them at the time, as he hoped the arguments of the hon. Member would not commend themselves to his leaders to-day. On that occasion Lord John Russell, who was then First Lord of the Treasury, made a most singular admission for a man in his position. He said he believed he was the person who induced Lord Althorp to turn from his original intention of constituting a Poor Law Board into a State Department, but that he had been completely mistaken, that he had taken an entirely wrong view. But the most vital language used in that debate was the language of Mr. Disraeli, who, with
that extraordinary sagacity which he always showed, said:—
Though I admit that the noble Lord is a great authority, I cannot admit that he was correct in the advice he then gave to Lord Althorp. The general business of the country must be brought under the control of the House of Commons. A certain interposition of factious sentiment, indeed, may occasionally be incident to such a process, but when we look at the nature of our Parliamentary Constitution, we shall find that attempts to carry on the business of the country without the interference of Parliament, the palpable interference of Parliament, have always proved a failure.
Those were words of wisdom, and he sheltered himself under that great authority in making this Motion. He contended that that was the case with the Charity Commission. What was needed? Two things; on the one hand, responsibility by a Minister, some one at the table who could be asked and who could answer questions in the House, and on the other hand, a greater use to be made of local authorities. His Motion asked that the Charity Commission should be reconstituted and placed, as a subordinate department, under a Minister of State. Of one thing he was perfectly certain, and that was that they could not job and carve the present business of the Commission. There was no question, in his view, that Sir Henry Longley spoke words of truth and wisdom when he said:—
I think if our work is to be taken over, it must be taken over as a whole.
Later on he was asked:—
''You are now of opinion that if a change in your Parliamentary position is to be made, one single Minister should be responsible, both for your Charitable Trusts work, and for your work under the Endowed Schools Acts?
And he answered:—
I think so.
And the Committee were of the same opinion. They believed that the work of the Commission could not be dealt with piecemeal, but must all be taken over and placed under a responsible Minister. The hon. Member for the Tonbridge Division deprecated the Motion on the ground that the Charity Commission dealt with a large amount of judicial or quasi judicial business. He gathered, however, that the hon. Member was in agreement with himself with respect to much that he suggested, and if his difficulty with respect to judicial business could be removed, he might be brought to support the Motion.
That, at all events, was the sum of his Amendment, that this Commission was a judicial body and that it was a terrible thing to interfere with a judicial body. He would leave his hon. Friend the Member for Lanarkshire to deal with that point, but he would like to remind the hon. Member for Tonbridge of the very striking testimony given to the Committee by Sir George Kekewich. He said:—
I suppose there is no department, or very few departments, so subjected to what is called constant political pressure, as the Education Department. I have never known political pressure, speaking generally, result in anything but good.
Later on the same gentleman said that they had no difficulty whatever in preserving that continuity of policy which, he agreed, ought to be the object of a Commission like the Charity Commission. In paragraph 13 of the Report of the Committee this matter was fully dealt with. The Committee there stated that they saw no insuperable difficulty in the matter, and proposed that the lines indicated by the Committee of 1884 should be followed and that the Commission should be placed under a Minister. He did not desire to commit the House to the Minister of Education, and therefore, he spoke of a Minister only in his Motion. He was opposed to the creation of new offices. In a matter of this kind it was not for him, an independent Member, to suggest a method. He had discharged his duty, as it seemed to him, by bringing the matter before the House. This matter would, of course, have to issue in a Bill, and that Bill must be prepared by the responsible Government on careful advice. He simply indicated that, in his humble judgment, it was on the lines of the Poor Law Board precedent in 1847, and following the advice of Lord John Russell, Sir George Grey and Mr. Disraeli, that this matter must be settled. He thanked the House most sincerely for the kind way in which they had listened to him and he most respectfully and earnestly, and with the conviction that things could not stand as they were at the present moment, submitted his Motion to the House.
§ *MR. HARRY LAWSON (Gloucester shire, Cirencester)
, in seconding the Motion, said, he wished to emphasise the point already made, that neither its 1514 proposal by his hon. Friend, nor its acceptance by the House, involved one jot or tittle of censure or reflection on the successive generations of men who had sat at the Board of the Charity Commission since 1884. He certainly would be no party to any such expression, for he believed that they had been a most distinguished body, and if, without offence, he might single out one, he should say that Sir H. Longley, the present head of the Commission, was one of the most eminent among the Civil Servants of the Crown. In the voluminous evidence that that gentleman had given before so many Select Committees and Royal Commissions, he was himself, or rather in spite of himself, the strongest advocate of the change in the constitution of the Commission and its relations to Parliament that was now proposed. Sir H. Longley's constant complaint was that the Commission was weak and almost defenceless in Parliament, and that it was quite unable to secure those further powers which were so absolutely necessary for dealing with the endowed charities of the country. The reason was, that, by the attempt to keep the Commission from Parliamentary control and Party Government, it was deliberately kept out of touch with public opinion, and had to encounter a general hostility, both outside and inside the House, that attempts at independence were sure to beget. The precedent of the Poor Law Board had been quoted as a case in point, to prove the failure, the necessary failure, of these extra-Parliamentary Departments. In the Debate of 1847 that was admitted all round. Sir G. Grey, speaking for the Government on the Second Reading of the Poor Law Administration Bill, used this language—I can only repeat," he said, "what I stated upon a former occasion, that when the Act of 1834 was passed, His Majesty's Government felt that the persons to be entrusted with discretionary powers to carry this Act into effect should be kept aloof from all Party conflicts and popular influence. I stated, however, that experience had proved the inconvenience of this arrangement, and that the removal of the Poor Law Commissioners from the influence of popular opinion had a bad effect upon them, as well as interferred with that direct responsible discretion which, in the case of Ministers of the Crown, was found so beneficial.He did not want to press the argument too far. It had been said that reasoning from false analogy was the most dangerous 1515 of fallacies. It was quite true that the Charity Commission had a mouthpiece in the House in the person of the Parliamentary Commissioner, but his position, it seemed to him, was as anomalous and unsatisfactory as the wit of man could make it. In the first place it had never been definitely settled whether or not he should be a Member of the Government, holding the post in a formal and disconnected way. The first Parliamentary Commissioner appointed was, at the time, a private Member, but from Sir G. Grey's resignation down to 1887, he was always a Member of the Government, and for nearly all the time the post was attached to that of Vice President of the Council Some of those Ministers attended the Board, particularly Mr. Lowe, who made himself well acquainted with the work; but the great majority, in fact, all. after the passing of the Endowed Schools Act, felt themselves unable to do so, as they could not sit in judgment on their own acts, against which they might vainly have protested in the initial stage of an Endowed School Scheme. The Vice President of the Council told the Committee of last year, that he felt very doubtful whether he ought not to have assumed the office, but as he was liable to be outvoted at the Board he did not. Practically during that time the Charity Commission was unrepresented in Parliament. Since then, as a private Member, the Fourth Commissioner had been able to speak for them, and although he had not the power to defend the Estimate he did his best to explain the points of policy that arose in connection with it. In this House, however, he had no privileges and no force in virtue of his office. No Parliamentary momentum was derived from his representation. At the Board his position was not different from his colleagues, and he had no priority of any kind. Consequently, he could not fairly be held to be responsible for what they did or what they left undone. For years past the Commission had been seeking fresh powers. At the present moment it could not deal in a practical fashion with any charities the annual income of which exceeded £50. According to Sir H. Longley's evidence before the Committee of 1884, they were thus debarred from dealing with what was far the 1516 largest part of the charitable endowments of the country—On the best information I can get I believe that the proportion in value which the charities with incomes below £50 a year bear to the total is about l5 per cent., about 85 per cent. of the total income being attributed to charities above £50 a year.It was quite true that in the case of the City of London Parochial Charities they obtained special powers by the Act of 1884, but in the case of other cities, where a reform of uses and a readjustment of areas was just as much needed, the Commission had declared that they despaired of being able to attain their object. The ancient charities of Bristol in particular were well-known to need the same sort of treatment. Such glaring inequalities were only to be remedied and set right by additional Parliamentary powers, and an unimproved Charity Commission would never receive them. The great complaint against their administration, as a general charge, had been that they had perverted funds meant for the poor and needy to the purposes of middle-class education. Undoubtedly strange things had been done in this way. The diversion of apprenticeship funds to this purpose after Sir G. Jessel's judgment in the case of the Campden Charities might be perfectly right when technical instruction was given in the same or similar trades; but for the great bulk of working people the course of a commercial education would be no adequate substitute for the training of hand and eye under the old order of things. Where scholarships on the ladder system were provided out of charitable funds the tendency was to give to the few who were chosen what was really meant for the many who were weak. It was quite true that of late, in dealing with dole charities, a different view had prevailed, but he did not think that it was possible to satisfy the new demands of public policy except by a general change in the relations of the Department to Parliament. This was no opinion of his own. Sir H. Longley was examined at length by the Royal Commission on the Aged Poor. His evidence was deemed so important that it was separately summarised in the Report, and his recommendations were endorsed—But although," they say, "they are able to do much, the Charity Commissioners need, we 1517 are told, wider powers for dealing with doles. Such are (1) the same power to deal with charities with incomes exceeding £50 a year as they possess for dealing with smaller ones; (2) further powers for extending the area to which any charity is applicable, and for amalgamating charities when co-existent in the same area; and (3) a general power of summary conversion of doles to other uses—e.g., pensions, without reference to the cy-près, doctrine, such as that given with regard to education under the Endowed Schools Acts. Those powers should, we think, be placed in the hands of the Commissioners, subject to proper safeguards.If this was to be done, Parliament would insist, as he himself admitted, on further control. The witness wished the Commission to be wholly free from the restraints of judge-made law. If so, the only distinction that might be alleged to exist between the Charity Commission and other Departments of State at once disappeared. On the other side of its work the case was even stronger. The Endowed Schools Commissions held their office on the precarious tenure of Expiring Acts Continuance. They asked, and rightly asked, for a permanent arrangement. Their part of the Commission was in no sense judicial; it was purely administrative. They acted under statutory powers, without reference to the doctrines of the Court of Chancery. When they were instituted Mr. Forster spoke of them as "officers assisting the Government." "It is the Government of the day working by special help." He never pretended they could be independent of Parliament. It now seemed, however, that their peculiar position was the course of constant friction and delay in their dealings with the Education Department. The right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Council, on the one hand, and the Patronage Secretary to the Treasury, on the other, both gave evidence to this effect—It leads," says the former, "to a certain cast-iron way of dealing with educational endowments." "Ministerial responsibility is reduced almost to nothing." "What I feel," said the Vice President, "is, that the greater become the demands in this country for a complete organisation of Secondary Education, the more the interest taken by the Minister himself and the Education Department in the work, the more it appears to me will the weakness, if I may so call it, in the present machinery tend to become apparent.Besides that, the Commissioners themselves admitted that in any reorganisation of the Education Department, such as 1518 must surely follow on the Report of the Royal Commission on Secondary Education now sitting, the educational side of their work must be attached and subordinated to it. Sir H. Longley, in his concluding evidence thought it would be possible to separate the educational from the charitable endowments, but the slightest inquiry showed that the two were so inextricably mixed up as to make it virtually impossible to separate them into two departments. The House had thus a multiplication of red tape, and a continuance of confusion all caused by the existing system, whilst its advocates themselves admitted the urgent need of further powers from Parliament, which Parliament sullenly refused. Since the Commission, was founded, since the Endowed Schools Act was passed, there had been a complete reformation of the local government of the country. Municipal Corporations possessed not a tithe of the powers they now had. In addition to them they had the universal network of popular local authorities in the Metropolis and the rural districts. Personally he moved to insert in the Report of the Select Committee a paragraph following out their own recommendations—that all draft schemes should be submitted to these bodies for comment and advice, and that any recommendation made by these authorities should be carefully weighed and considered in Amending the schemes.It was admitted by the official witnesses that this had not been done to any large extent. He was altogether in favour of consulting local opinion and obtaining local support, and until there was a real measure of Parliamentary control he did not believe it would be possible. The new order of local government required the change. He could anticipate the two main objections that would be urged —first, it would be said that Parliamentary interference was likely to do harm, but at the present moment this House was always criticising and carping at the Charity Commission. The House of Lords had the same right as the House of Commons of presenting addresses on schemes under the Endowed Schools Act. Lately this power had been several times exercised in the case of Welsh counties. Then it was a curious notion that the fact of placing a Department of State under a Parliamentary chief, meant, that it would lie worked all 1519 through on Party lines. What happened with such an Office as the Local Government Board? Every day it dealt with the most minute business of local administration; it made its orders for a great variety of purposes, and in the same way the Charity Commission work would fall into its proper place. Or again, take the Commission of Woods and Forests, the Chancellor of the Exchequer was the head, yet no complaint was made that a political colour was given to its administration. Secondly, it would be asserted that the duties of the Charity Commission were judicial, At the present moment several Departments of the Government were doing judicial work. In a sense, many of the functions of such a Department as the Board of Trade were judicial, particularly in regard to patents and to bankruptcy. County Councils also had many quasi-judicial duties. However, granted that in applying the cy-près doctrines of the Court of Chancery the Charity Commission did judicial work, in regard to schemes under the Endowed Schools Act, they were in no way bound by judicial decisions, but acted with the ordinary administrative discretion. What was now happening? Why, Sir H. Longley asked the Aged Poor Commission to relieve his Board from the bonds and fetters of the cy-près doctrine, and to allow them to apply to all dole charities the general powers of an administrative body. The Charity Commission itself asked for this relief. A difficulty had been raised that it would be undesirable to have an appeal from a Minister at the head of a Department to the courts of law. In the case of Endowed Schools schemes, there was now an appeal to the Privy Council. Apart from this, there were several Departments where the courts of law stepped in and controlled certain of their functions. The Inland Revenue was part of the Exchequer, but frequently the Commissioners appeared in court and were bound by the judgment of the court. In the same way the Charity Commission would answer, and not the Parliamentary head. He maintained that the difficulties in the way of this Resolution being carried out were in no sense prohibitive. The Charity Commission was weak, and likely to become weaker as things now were. It ought to answer to the new needs 1520 of local government, and it could not do do so. To re-model it was, no doubt, a delicate task; but it was only by establishing the two principles of Ministerial responsibility for its work, and Parliamentary control of its work, that it could be a sufficient safeguard of the interests of the poor, and as efficient, as they all would wish, for the purposes of social reform.
§ MR. A. S. T. GRIFFITH-BOSCAWEN (Kent, Tunbridge)
said, that he was very sorry to find himself differing from the two Gentlemen who had spoken, and with whom he had worked for 21 days on the Committee last year. He had no doubt that those hon. Gentlemen were animated by an endeavour to do something for the public good, but he differed entirely from them as to the means which they proposed, and as to the construction they placed upon the evidence before the Committee. He was rather amused to find in the Blue Book that the first words were:—"Your Committee have agreed to the following report;" for, as far as he was aware, the Committee "agreed" to nothing. On four occasions they were equally divided, and the Chairman had to give his casting vote. They took, altogether, 30 divisions, and it could not be said that they "agreed" to the Report in any sense of the word. It was, in fact, he thought, a Report of no importance, and one which could not be taken as a basis for legislation. On one occasion the Chairman's Draft Report was actually defeated upon a paragraph contained in it to the effect that direct Parliamentary control must precede all reform. That was too much for two of the Chairman's own supporters, one of whom sat on the Front Bench. That paragraph accordingly disappeared from the Draft Report, and the Committee had to adjourn in order that the Chairman might consider what should be done next. The two hon. Members opposite now proposed to subject the Charity Commission to the direct control of Parliament by placing at the head of it a minister responsible to Parliament. But what had they told the House to-day in support of that proposal? They had brought forward no scheme, and had given no reason why this tremendous change should be made. They had stated that the Charity Commission was weak, but the Committee were told that six 1521 extra clerks were all that were necessary to enable it to do its work efficiently. Were they to be now asked to make this great change merely that Parliament might appoint six extra clerks? It had been suggested that no Bill dealing with the Charity Commission could be passed through Parliament under the present system, but he would point out that in the last Parliament two Bills did pass through that House, namely the Charitable Trusts Act of 1887, and the Charitable Trusts Recovery Act of 1891. This, therefore, disproved the suggestion that the machinery of the Charity Commission could not be improved without subjecting it to direct Parliamentary control. Although he quite agreed that certain reforms in administration were desirable, he asserted that those improvements could be very well effected without turning the Charity Commission topsy-turvy, and without subjecting it to direct Parliamentary control. It was proposed to make it subject to a Minister, and that Minister was to be the Minister of Education.
§ *MR. GRIFFITH-BOSCAWEN
said, it was certainly understood, and was suggested in the evidence, that it was to be the Minister of Education, and he would put this first objection. What had a Minister of Education to do with doles? and why should the distribution of coal and blankets and petticoats come under the Education Department? These were eleemosynary matters, and the Education Department would, in fact, be greatly hampered by having to deal with them. He could only suppose that some persons desired to convert the blankets into English grammars or something of that kind.
said, he was not referring to the right hon. Gentleman, but to the "ideal Ministry" which was suggested to them. But his real objection was this. It was proved beyond all doubt before the Committee that the most important part of the work of the Charity Commission was judicial work. They had the evidence of Sir Henry Longley, who told the Committee, in answer to Question 493, that the judicial and administrative work was so mixed up that, it was impossible 1522 to draw a line between the two. Mr. Fearon and Lord Welby gave similar evidence, and the chief witness, Lord Davey, said that he could not bring his mind to understand how anybody could doubt that the work of the Charity Commission was of a judicial character, and the same witness also stated that the jurisdiction of the Charity Commission was only a part of the jurisdiction of the old Court of Chancery; that the same jurisdiction as that of the old Court of Chancery was now exercised by the Chancery Division of the High Court in all cases that did not come within the Charitable Trusts Acts, that was to say when the income exceeded £50 a year; and he further showed how, in framing schemes, the Charity Commissioners had to construe old wills, deeds and instruments of foundation, and to apply the law according to the doctrine of cy-près, that was to say, according to the doctrine whereby the charity must be applied to purposes as near as possible to the wishes of the founder. He had no doubt that the doctrine of cy-près was very much discredited among hon. Members opposite, and that they were unwilling to recognise it as a legal doctrine, being, as they were, often anxious to see charitable funds applied to purposes as far removed as possible from the founders' wishes. There was, however, this undoubted fact, that the Charity Commissioners had to apply legal rules to their decisions. And yet the House was asked to subject the Charity Commission to the control of Parliament, which would then have a right to criticise and even to reverse decisions arrived at judicially. It had been the custom of Parliament always to look to the Charity Commissioners as a judicial body acting judicially, and as a body acting according to the rules of law; and for that reason, and upon that supposition, certain powers had been given from time to time to the Charity Commissioners. One of the most difficult questions that the Charity Commissioners had to decide was, what charities were ecclesiastical and what were not; what belonged to the Church and to other denominations, and a large number of these duties had been added to them by the Local Government Act 1894, with the consent of both sides of the House. It was now proposed 1523 to entirely alter the character of the Charity Commission—in other words, to bring within the scope of political pressure those which they had hitherto thought were free from it. He ventured to say that Parliament had no intention of doing anything of the kind when the Local Government Act was passed, and that if it was now done it would be a distinct breach of faith. How did the hon. Member for the Rushcliffe Division meet the evidence of Lord Davey? He had said that—On careful examination and analysis, a considerable portion of the judicial work of the Charity Commissioners would appear to be very similar to that now transacted by other Government Departments.Yes, but Lord Davey was asked on that very point whether he knew of any other Government Department which exercised so many judicial functions such as those he had described as the Charity Commission, and he replied that he did not, adding that the jurisdiction was of a totally different character. His hon. Friend, who seconded the motion, afterwards asked Lord Davey whether, if a Corporation went to the Local Government Board for advice, the Board would not give it in the same way that the Charity Commission did to trustees? Lord Davey replied in the affirmative, but said that whilst the advice given by the Local Government Board or any other Government Department would not be binding—would not free the person to whom the advice was given from the penalties of the law—that given by the Charity Commission would be of a binding character. Thus it was shown that the Charity Commission was a court of law far more than a Government Department, that their work was legal in a sense, that the work of no Government Department was. He submitted, therefore, that the work done by the Commission was, on the authority of so eminent a man as Lord Davey, totally different to that performed by a Government Department, and that to make the Commission a Government Department in the sense of other Departments would be to alter the whole character and position of that body. The Mover and Seconder of the Motion had pointed out that the Endowed Schools Commissioners were able to act in a sense independent of the law, 1524 that they were under the control of Parliament, that Parliament had given them a right to act within the utmost limits of their discretion, and that they were responsible to Parliament only. If they desired to make the Charity Commission subject to Parliamentary control in that sense, they would have to say that the Commissioners were not to act according to law in future, that they were not to put a legal or judicial interpretation upon old deeds, wills, and other instruments, and that in effect, as Lord Davey said, every charity should be thrown into the hotch-pot and be dealt with as Parliament pleased. The effect of the proposal would be to subject every single charity in the country, whatever its nature, absolutely to the will of Parliament, acting through its Members. That, he urged, would not be a good thing. He did not think that if a man left a charity for a specific object to-day, Parliament should be able to-morrow to take that charity and divert it to some other purpose, perhaps of a totally different character, and in a different, locality. Such a state of things would hardly be desirable for a Member of Parliament, and it would certainly be bad for Parliamentary government that a Minister of Education should be liable and subjected to pressure, as he would be, in such circumstances. But what he, contended was that the whole scheme contemplated should be placed before the House. The hon. Member for the Rushcliffe Division had said there must be Parliamentary control, but he had not shown what it would involve. He seemed to think that there could be Parliamentary control in such a way that Parliament could reverse the decisions of what was practically a Court of Law, and yet leave the Charity Commissioners bound by legal trammels. That was simply impracticable. It had been stated by the hon. Member for Cirencester, in proof of the necessity of reform, that friction had occurred, and a cumbrous state of things been brought about on the Endowed Schools side of the Charity Commission, but as the Endowed Schools Department was already under Parliamentary control, the Motion would effect no change in that direction. The Vice President had remarked that the Charity Commissioners were, in 1525 sense, masters of his Department, because they could refuse to make an alteration in a scheme, though he made a declaration in favour of it; but, on the other hand, the Minister had absolute control over the Commissioners, for, if he chose to withhold his approval of a scheme, that scheme could go no further. Moreover, on the right hon. Gentleman being asked in how many cases the Commissioners had refused to make alteration after receiving a declaration from him, he could only mention two, one in Flintshire and the other in Cardiganshire; and the reason of the refusal was that the right hon. Gentleman had asked the Commissioners to put into those schemes a clause which was identical with one which was rejected by the House of Lords only a few weeks before. They were all agreed that certain reforms were necessary, and he was in favour of doing away with the £50 limit. But this was very different from agreeing that the whole of the Charity Commission—the charitable trust side as well as the endowed school side—shall be subject to Parliamentary control. He ventured to think that the House would be taking a far more wise and practical course if it endeavoured to carry out those reforms which would enable the Commission to more effectively do its work, than to run the risk of subjecting its great judicial work, which had been carried on so well, so fairly, so impartially, and hitherto independently, to the control of Parliament—in other words, to subject a judicial body to political pressure, a course which he was persuaded would prove to be very detrimental to the public interest.
*SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE (Exeter) rose to support the views expressed by the hon. Member who had just sat down. The hon. Member for the Rushcliffe Division of Nottingham had adduced as an argument the increasing cost of the Charity Commission, but the economical argument, he thought, was hardly applicable, considering the suggestion was that a high Minister of State could put increased pressure on the Treasury for money for his Department. He had also referred to certain evidence given before the Committee by Lord Welby, but ho regretted that the hon. Member had not thought it right to state that another
distinguished public servant, Sir Henry Longley, had given directly contrary evidence. The contention of the Charity Commission was that they were never called upon by the Treasury to take any active step in regard to reducing their numbers, but as a matter of fact they did reduce the number of Commissioners from six to five. With regard to the Motion itself he rather shared the opinion of the hon. Member for the Tunbridge Division of Kent that it was difficult to see what practical result the hon. Gentleman expected to obtain from it. As had been pointed out, practically every effective paragraph of the Report of the Select Committee was carried by a strict Party Vote, as between Liberal and Conservative, and no non-contentious legislation therefore, based on the Report, could reasonably be expected, and if in a new House the balance of parties should be altered no weight could be attached to its recommendations. He thought they were further entitled to complain a little of the vague terms of the hon. Gentleman's Resolution. The hon. Member must by this time have made up his mind as to what he proposed to substitute for the Charity Commission, and he thought, he might have brought before the House some proposal giving the reforms he wished the House to adopt. As the Motion stood, Members might Vote for it who wished the Charity Commission to retain all its present powers, while making the Parliamentary Commissioner head of the Board. He understood that the creation of a Board of some kind was suggested, or the creation of such a Minister as had been hinted at by the Under Secretary of State for the Home Department. That hon. Member put the following question to Mr. Fearon when he was examined before the Committee—
Then you would abolish the office of Vice President of the Council as he now exists, and the Charity Commission as they now exist, and you would put in the place of the two one great Minister of State ruling education from top In bottom, from the highest to elementary, and also administering all charitable benefactions?
If that were so, the new Vice President of the Council would have added to his present duties the educational work of the Charity Commission, the entire control of the Science and Art Department, technical education, the possible
control of the Universities, and all the work now done by the Charity Commission under the Charitable Trusts Act. If any such Minister of Education was to be created, they were putting the cart before the horse, if they crippled the Charity Commission before they had got the House to affirm the necessity for his creation. He pointed out that it was possible to remove by legislation any of the specific causes of complaint against the Commission without altering its semi-independent status; whether it was expedient was a separate question. If they could get the assent of both Houses they could pass such an Act for England as the Intermediate Education Act was for Wales, they could enforce the appointment of local trustees, they could give increased powers over £50 charities, and increased powers of audit, or make, in fact, almost any change which had been referred to. There were those who were very unwilling to give the Charity Commission any material increase of power until it had been subjected to Departmental control, and thus there was a fundamental difference of opinion. He was quite certain that if they converted the Commission into a political Department they must abandon all idea of continuity or uniformity in our educational policy. A strong Minister at the head of a great Office of State was almost bound to tinge with his own personal views the matters which were brought before him. He ventured to think that no class of legislation was so difficult to pass as hotly opposed Government Bills of secondary importance, and if the Department was made a political one he did not think that legislation in regard to these matters would receive a momentum, but quite the opposite would be the result. They would be sure to have the control of local charities made a burning question at elections with the worst possible results This was no case for urgency, and if the position of the Commission was to be radically altered it should be part of a great administrative change, the proposals for which were not yet before the country. He should regret to see the question of the administration of Charities made a burning one at elections. If the Charities were handed over to irresponsible or ignorant persons, the corpus of many charities might disappear, and poor people be
deprived of funds which they had hitherto enjoyed. Finally, this matter was not really urgent. The Report of the Royal Commission on Secondary Education might well be awaited before so serious a step as that to which the House was invited was taken. The hon. Member for the Rushcliffe Division was more severe on the Charity Commission than he expected when he reflected on the handsome opinion which the hon. Member expressed of the Charity Commission in the Report that had been referred to.
§ *MR. JOHN ELLIS
said, he should regret to have it supposed, he in any way receded from that opinion. It was drawn up by him, adopted by the Committee, and he stood by every word of it.
§ *SIR S. NORTHCOTE
said, the hon. Member expressed a deservedly high opinion of the abilities of the Charity Commissioners, and of the great services they had rendered to the country and the increasingly enlightened manner in which they had endeavoured to go with the times. He also said they numbered among them some most assiduous and capable persons. If this was so it could hardly be said that the machine was so bad that it needed immediate alteration. When the Report of the Royal Commission on Secondary Education was received the whole position of the Charity Commissioners could be reconsidered. For the reasons he had indicated he should support the Amendment.
§ *MR. F. S. STEVENSON (Suffolk, Eye)
remarked that much had been said as to the shortcomings of the Charity Commissioners. But it would not then become him to answer what had been said in any detail, because it could be more fittingly done on the Vote for the Charity Commission in the course of the Estimates. He would, therefore, confine himself to the Motion and Amendment that had been moved. But before he came to their exact subject-matter he would say a few words in reply to certain remarks that fell from hon. Members who had preceded him. Reference had been made to the unpopularity of the Charity Commission as at present constituted, and it was desirable to consider what was the cause—real or imaginary—of that unpopularity. To some extent it was due, not to any defect 1529 in the system under which they existed or to any shortcomings of the members who composed the Commission, to whose ability and conscientiousness a well-deserved tribute had been paid in the course of the Debate. It might rather be said to be due to the conditions imposed upon them by the statutes of the realm. He would illustrate this by three examples. The most serious condition was that imposed by the £50 limit. It would hardly be believed to what extent the work of the Commission was hampered by the existence of that limit, and to what extent the misunderstandings which sometimes occurred in the country were due to the fact that it was not known that the Commission was so hampered. He would give one example of the operation of the £50 limit. Under the Local Government Act of last year it became one of the duties of the Charity Commissioners to distinguish between what was educational and what was non-educational with regard to charities. In every case in which the income of a charity exceeded £50 it was necessary for them to frame a scheme, and that could only be framed with the consent of the existing trustees. In many cases that consent was refused, and the carrying out of the duty imposed upon the Charity Commission by the Local Government Act of 1894 was rendered impossible. Then the Commissioners were sometimes taken to task because, in some particular cases, they did not introduce the element of popular representation. He had a case of the kind in his mind at that moment. In that case—which was typical of many others—the absence of the introduction of the popular element was due to the fact that the existing trustees refused their consent, and the Commissioners were, therefore, powerless to act in the matter. These facts were not generally understood in the country, and so things were attributed to the Charity Commissioners for which they were not responsible. Then many grievances to which attention had been called during the last 26 years, had been due to Section 30 of the Endowed Schools Act of 1869, under which it became competent for the Commissioners to divert certain monies to educational purposes, "due regard being had to the interests of the 1530 classes for whose benefit the foundations affected were intended." These words, to begin with, were rather vague, and several legal decisions had been given relating to Section 30 of the Endowed Schools Act of 1869, by which the action of the Charity Commission was, to a great extent, guided. If the country realised the nature of those decisions and the language of the section, the objections which were sometimes raised would not be raised so acutely and with so much emphasis as was sometimes the case. There was also another instance of the way in which the Commissioners were handicapped, not so much by reason of their own shortcomings as by the duties imposed upon them by statute. But as so many instances were given in the evidence before the Committee he would not pursue the matter further. The unpopularity —real or alleged—of the Charity Commission was, no doubt, due partly to the limits and duties imposed upon them by statute. But it was also due to the fact that the Charity Commission was not responsible, in any real or effective sense, to Parliament through a Minister of State. In this connection the seconder of the Motion entered into the history of the office of the Parliamentary Charity Commissioner, who was sometimes (but erroneously) supposed to be responsible in that House for the doings of the Charity Commission. A glance, however, at the history of that office showed clearly that the Parliamentary Charity Commissioner was not responsible in any real sense of the word. In the first place, he was one only of a considerable number on the board of the Commission, and was therefore apt to be outvoted when questions arose in regard to which a difference of opinion was found to exist. So, in regard to those questions, he could not be said to be responsible at all. But the Parliamentary Charity Commissioner could not be said to be responsible even where he was in agreement with others, because, the proceedings at the meetings of the board being confidential, it, was absolutely impossible for him to say, either in the House of Commons or elsewhere, what were the questions on which he agreed to disagree. This showed the anomaly of the position of Parliamentary Charity Commissioner as it was now. 1531 He was not responsible in any proper or true sense for the proceedings of the Commission. Besides, although no doubt in many instances he might be able to influence the decisions of the Commission, he was not a Member of the Government or able to reflect on the Commission the opinion of the Government of the day. The Parliamentary Charity Commissioner was not acquainted with the mind of the Government on any particular matter, and it was impossible for him to convey it to the Commission. The position of a Parliamentary Charity Commissioner was very much like what was known at the Foreign Office as a "buffer State." He stood between Parliament and the Charity Commission, but was not responsible to the one or for the other. That had been seen again and again in the history of the office during the last 30 or 40 years. The seconder of the Motion, although quite correct in the greater part of what he said as to the past history of the office, was not absolutely so as to the opinions he attributed to Mr. Lowe. It was a fact that the first Parliamentary Charity Commissioner was Sir George Grey. His successor was Lord John Russell, who combined with it the office of Lord Privy Seal. From the time of Lord John Russell until 1887 it was held by the Vice-President of the Committee of Council on Education. But Mr. Lowe did not express the opinion which was ascribed to him.
§ *MR. HARRY LAWSON
said, he did not attribute any special opinion to Mr. Lowe, but said he was well acquainted with the work of the Commission.
§ *MR. F. S. STEVENSON
pointed out that Mr. Lowe, in the Report of the Schools Inquiry Commission (Vol. IV., pp. 629 and 639), said:—The Parliamentary Charity Commissioner is always liable to attack if anything is done wrong, and though I think there is great disposition in the House to support it in any reasonable way, yet, were it to set itself to work out any crochet or to take any course contrary to the enlightened opinion of the country, it would be very soon pulled up.… It would immediately be made the subject of attack in the House, the thing would be called attention to, and if a strong expression of feeling were made I have no doubt that the course of the Commission would be altered. There is not the same difficulty and delicacy in altering the course of a body like the Charity 1532 Commission as there is in altering the course of a judicial officer like the Lord Chancellor or Vice-Chancellor, on whose decisions the property of mankind depends, the Charity Commission being a body administrative and ancillary, and therefore more flexible. … I think it is entitled to the merit of being a sort of judicial discovery.The object of the amendment was to assert that certain legal difficulties existed in the way of substituting an arrangement under which the Charity Commission could be truly and properly responsible to Parliament; but upon those difficulties undue and exaggerated emphasis had been laid. Almost every Government department had some legal work to perform; some did it by their own legal advisers and others by different methods. Much of the work done by the Local Government Board was in respect of surcharges and disallowances; it might be described as being work of a judicial character, but no serious difficulty had arisen with regard to the way in which they did it: there had been no imputation of partiality, and there had been no accusation that they had been actuated by political prejudice. It had been argued that, after all, the judicial work done by the Charity Commission stood on a different footing from that of other departments, because there was an appeal to the Court of Chancery against schemes under the Charitable Trusts Act, and to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council against schemes under the Endowed Schools Act. But, after all, what did that argument amount to? Was it an argument against transferring these powers to a responsible Minister? It seemed to him to be rather an argument in favour of retaining the power of appeal on legal points if the other powers were transferred. If the hon. Member opposite had urged that, perhaps his views would not be so strongly opposed; but the argument had been pressed to the extent of urging that the existence of these judicial powers rendered impossible the transfer of the powers of the Charity Commission to a responsible Minister. In view of the fact that the judicial work of the Commission was probably less than the administrative, the argument was not so strong as it might have been if it had been urged with a different moral. It would be admitted that the case of the Endowed Schools Act stood on a different footing 1533 from the Charitable, Trusts Act, that it would be simpler and easier to transfer the endowed schools work than it would be to transfer the charitable, trusts work; but the two sides were inextricably interwoven one with the other. There were constant intercourse and cross reference between the two sides, and if you were to transfer the endowed schools work to the Education Department, it would be impossible in practice to leave the charitable trusts work exactly in the position in which it stands now. The exact way in which the matter could be dealt with was not expressed in the Resolution, and he supposed that for the present it might be left an open question. A few months ago he submitted to the Royal Commission on Secondary Education a scheme by which the result could be achieved; but, as the memorandum had not yet been printed, he could not respectfully refer to it in detail, although he might indicate the main points. Assuming the Endowed Schools Commissioners to be placed in a relation to the Education Department similar to that of the Board of Inland Revenue to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the question arose what was to become of the Charitable Trusts side. It would be found possible, and perhaps, desirable, to reduce the number of Commissioners under the Charitable Trusts Act from three to two, with the addition of an ex-officio element representing the Education Department, and possibly the Local Government Board, but so as to give to the Education Department a predominant voice. When Mr. Forster was Vice President of the Committee of Council he declined to sit at the meetings of the Charity Commission because it was anomalous that, as a Commissioner who might be overruled by his colleagues, he should take part in the preparation of schemes of which as Minister he might have to express approval or disapproval. The hon. Member for Cumberland (Mr. J. W. Lowther), the hon. Baronet opposite (Sir S. Northcote), and himself had occupied the position of Commissioners without being Members of the Government; but experience had shown that a Parliamentary Charity Commissioner, whether a Member of the Government or not, did not occupy a position which could in any sense be called responsible, 1534 and he was unable to explain the views of the Commission with any sense of responsibility. He knew what was going on; he could shed a certain amount of light as to the grounds on which certain decisions had been arrived at; but it was impossible for him to state that, certain decisions had been arrived at by agreement and to take on his own shoulders the responsibility for them. If that difficulty arose with respect to Charities generally, it did so specially with regard to schemes under the Endowed Schools Act, because it was not only the Parliamentary Charity Commissioner who was affected, but also the Vice President of the Committee of Council. There was dual control, and no one knew exactly who was responsible. As he read the statute, the Charity Commissioners were responsible for a scheme until it left their hands and went to the Education Department; then the Vice President was responsible for it until it received the Royal Assent. There was no difficulty if the Vice President agreed with a scheme in its entirety, but if he disagreed with part of it it was certain on whom responsibility would devolve. If a scheme had involved a good deal of trouble, and the obtaining of many consents, he would probably sink his objections rather than send the scheme back to the Commission. Thus when a scheme came before the House after midnight it was impossible to know who was responsible for it. If there were added to the Commission an ex-officio element representing in the main the Education Department, so as to give it a predominant voice, the argument urged by Mr. Forster would be, no longer valid. In this way the transference of the endowed school business presented small difficulty; but the task of dealing with charitable trusts was of a graver kind. The two sides were so closely connected with one another that it would be very difficult, indeed, to separate them altogether, or even to make any serious difference in their treatment. The question arose whether, in the closer arrangements that had sprung up in consequence of recent legislation between the Charitable Trusts side and the Local Government Board, it would not be desirable in some way to introduce a somewhat similar representation of the Local Government Board. Of this he, 1535 was convinced—that some change was needed, because the difficulties under which the Charity Commission laboured, and the aspersions to which they were often unjustly exposed, were due, not only to limitation of their power by statute, but were due also, to a great extent, to a system under which there was no real responsibility, which worked unfairly to all concerned. In this anomalous situation, so clearly indicating the necessity for a change which would give greater, more direct, and more effective responsibility to Parliament, he certainly would give his support to the Motion.
§ MR. JESSE COLLINGS (Birmingham, Bordesley)
said, that the hon. Member for Rye had attempted to explain the unpopularity of the Charity Commissioners. The real reasons of the unpopularity—which was apart from the personal respect and esteem in winch they were held—were two. In the first place, in their schemes they took little or no notice of the wishes of the localities, and in the second place, their policy had always been to frame schemes which resulted in the spoliation of the poor for the benefit of the well-to-do classes. In certain villages their very name had become a perfect terror. The evil was more in the administration than in the state of the law. For example, before free education was established, the policy of the Commission was always to take away the boon of free education where it was enjoyed, and to impose fees. The poor might thank the wisdom of the men who set limits to the interference of the Commissioners, for, but for those limits, few of the Charities directly affecting the poor would now remain. The hon. Member for Exeter had put a meaning to the Motion of the hon. Member for the Rushcliffe Division which he could not accept. If there was to be a Minister to manage all Charities, and that Minister was to be an Educational Minister, then he thought the proposal a bad one; for the Educational Department had already swallowed up, for the benefit of middle-class education, enormous sums belonging to the poor. The hon. Member for Exeter also declared that it was the intention of hon. Gentlemen who supported the Motion to have an Intermediate Education Bill, like that 1536 which had been passed for Wales. If such a Bill ever came before the House, it would receive his most strenuous opposition. The schemes under the Welsh Act were based to a large extent, on the spoliation of the charities of the poor. The Cardiff College Scheme, for example, took £1,300 left directly for the poor of Cardiff. He was glad that this Motion had been brought forward, for anything which ventilated the policy and action of the Charity Commission was to be desired. But, at present, this question was non-political, and he wished to keep it so. If his hon. Friend had stopped at the words "Parliamentary control," he should have been better pleased with his Motion. He was quite with his hon. Friend in his desire for a re-organisation and reconstitution of the Charity Commission, which was, at present, independent of Parliament and the public. In fact the Commissioners had no masters but themselves. He was in favour of Parliamentary control; but it was all a question of method. The hon. Member for the Rushcliffe Division had brought forward the change of the Poor Law in 1847; but the two cases were not parallel. When the change in regard to the Poor Law was made there was simultaneously created one of the greatest engines of local administration ever seen. If this proposal were to be followed by a Bill he should like to know what statutory reforms were to be introduced; because, simply to give a Minister full power in respect of charities, without certain reforms, would be to jump from the frying-pan into the fire. As to the Select Committee, on which he had served, nearly the whole of the evidence given before it was official evidence, and the people generally, who after all were mostly interested, were not represented. Then, through the energy of the Chairman, the Report was adopted in two sittings—rather quick work. In the most able draft Report of the Chairman, the proposal was merely to have one Minister for Charities connected with the Endowed Schools Act. It was the Motion of the hon. Member for Dews-bury to give to a single Minister power over all the Charities, and that Motion was carried by a majority of one. He himself gave evidence before the Committee, but although he was strongly in 1537 sympathy with the objects of his hon. Friend, he strictly guarded himself from agreeing to the idea of putting all Charities under the head of one Department of the State. His reasons were that he did not wish the administration of Charities to become a political or Party question; and he did not wish to increase the centralisation which already existed with regard to these Charities. His hon. Friend had referred to a reduction in the Estimates moved by him in September, 1893, and supported by the right hon. Members for West Bristol and West Birmingham. But that reduction was not moved in any way with the object of the Motion now before the House. It was simply a protest against the manner in which the poorer classes were despoiled by the Charity Commission. And that was the only point of view for which he would consent to consider a change in the administration of Charities. The question was, How could the spoliation of the poor be stopped, and, if possible, that which had been taken away restored? There was a widely held opinion among hon. Members that doles would be much better employed for educational and other purposes. But that was not the opinion of the poor people themselves. It was easy for people who were never hungry nor cold to speak contemptuously of doles. In respect to the Methwold Charities, which were doles, and with which the Commission now dealt, the clergyman had written to him the following letter:—It seems to me on a piece with the sickening nonsense of telling the poor man that he is ill-conditioned, when he too, like ourselves, wants something in the way of amusement. That he must work all day, keep at home in the evening, and if he have anything coining to him in this way beyond what he earns, he must hand it over to other people and let them tell him how to spend it.If the clergymen in other parishes would take such a sensible view of the rights of the poorer people they would find it very popular. The hon. Member for Eye referred to the unpopularity of the 1538 Charity Commissioners. The other day there was a meeting in the City in respect to the opening of a large hall, with a reference library of 10,000 volumes and a lending library of 50,000 volumes. One of the speakers said:—It is a very difficult task to convert old women's flannel petticoats into a specious library.It ought not to be easy; it ought to be impossible. It was all very well for those who were never cold or hungry to talk about turning coals and blankets into specious halls. When everyone was well-fed and clad they might talk about schemes of higher education, but until then the House ought not to interfere with what the poor people thought was good for themselves, and what, at any rate, belonged to them. What would be said if interference were suggested with what belonged to any other class? If the higher classes had some endowments which the mass of the people thought were not being put to the best uses, would it be right that those endowments should be taken away? He knew it was said that poor people crowded into the parishes in which doles existed. Rich people did very much the same thing. If one went to Birmingham or Bedford he would find the well-to-do classes crowding into those places in order to get an education worth, perhaps, £50 a year, for £6. What he suggested was that the initiation of all schemes should be in the hands of the County Councils, which were bodies far more capable of dealing with local affairs than the Imperial Parliament. Of course, they would have to consult the parishes affected, and there would have to be statutory safeguards to prevent them diverting Charities from the original intention of the founders. There was one phase of the question which was worthy of notice. At present, when a charity scheme came before the House, it was treated in a non-party manner, that was to say there was no chance of turning out a Government by voting against it. His hon. Friend the 1539 Member for the Rushcliffe Division referred to the Herefordshire scheme which was before the House a short time ago. That was a scheme under which it was proposed to take about £11,000—endowments belonging to the poor—that it might eventually go to higher education. It was a non-party scheme, and was defeated. But there was a more important case. A few years ago the Charity Commissioners had before them a scheme for devoting the Dauntsey Charities, which amounted to £60,000, to higher and middle class education. A Conservative Government was in power at the time, and the late Mr. W. H. Smith would not agree to the scheme. So soon as he understood the scheme, he said, "No; it was not just to the poor," and he consented to have it defeated, and it was defeated in the House of Lords. Had that scheme been brought in by a responsible Minister it would have gone through, because the vote would have been regarded as a party vote. The hon. Member for the Rushcliffe Division was in favour of following precedent. A precedent was to be found in the way in which commons were regulated. For 20 years past a Select Committee had been appointed each year to deal with the regulation of commons, and latterly it had acted in conjunction with the Board of Agriculture. During those 20 years only one scheme had been rejected by the House. It might be said that the work would be too heavy; but surely that would not be the case. At present the average number of schemes dealt with annually by the Charity Commissioners was about 200. Many of the schemes were very simple and their consideration would occupy little time. Each member of the House would have a copy of a scheme, and when a scheme had once passed the ordeal of initiation by a County Council, in consultation with the Charity Commission, he apprehended there would be very little difficulty in the Select Committee or in the House, when the Scheme 1540 came down to it. The Report of the Schools Inquiry Committee had been referred to. That Committee had been rightly described as a most capable body. What did they say? They reported:—In assigning to different schools their different tasks, the character of the population, the chief occupations — agriculture, mining, or commercial—the teaching that seems most in demand—these considerations, as it seems to us, should be allowed to have their proper weight.Again, they said:—The duty of framing schemes should not rest chiefly with the Charity Commissioners but with Provincial Assemblies. They will be the best judges of local needs, and their consent will be sufficient.In other words, they recommended that a body which corresponded with the County Council should initiate a Scheme, and they did so on the ground that it was far better acquainted with localities than a central authority could be. In his opinion, it was in that direction that a true remedy lay. If schemes were initiated by the County Councils, in consultation with the Charity Commission, and then submitted to a Committee of the House of Commons, he thought the interests of the poorer classes would be well attended to. Members of the House would know what they were doing when they were dealing with Charities, and such a system would prevent excessive centralisation and party struggles in connection with Charities. Without some amendment of the present Acts it was almost impossible to prevent putting great hardships on the poorer classes. For instance, Clause 30 enabled the Commissioners, or those acting for the Commissioners, to take non-educational Charities and devote them to educational purposes. That power had been the means of taking tens of thousands of pounds away from the poorer classes for the benefit of the well-to-do. Clause 29 in its operation had had the same damaging effect. His contention was that all endowments left for the education of the poor should be kept for them, notwithstanding that the State in its wisdom 1541 had provided education from other sources. He hoped, therefore, the, £50 limit would be retained until those alterations had been made. The Charity Commission had the administration of the Allotments Act of 1882; but as it was not possible for any central body to know the wants of each particular district, they had made many mistakes in the administration of that Act, and with the best intentions, no doubt, had done harm very frequently to the agricultural labourers of several districts. The Charity Commission had, for instance, encouraged the sale of poors' land, which, thereby, had passed away altogether from the poorer classes. Millions of real property had been treated in this objectionable manner. He thought the County Council should have those matters under their jurisdiction. He was, therefore, thoroughly in favour of the object his hon. Friend the Member for Rushcliffe had in view; but the control should be Parliamentary control, and not party control. What he desired was, that when a scheme came under the consideration of Parliament, the Government should not feel that its existence depended on the passing of the scheme. He wanted every scheme to be left an open question, on which every Member of the House might vote according to his judgment, uninfluenced by Party considerations. But he was afraid that if a responsible Minister brought in a scheme, however bad, Party exigencies would be said to render its passing necessary. The rights of the poor had already been considerably bartered away, but what remained of them should be safeguarded by Parliament; and he trusted that in the consideration of all future social legislation referring to these Charities and Endowments, the aim of Parliament would be, not, as in years past, to extend those benefits to the middle classes, and even to the upper classes, but to secure them for the enjoyment of the poor, who most needed 1542 them, and for whom they were really intended.
*MR. J. W. LOWTHER (Cumberland, Penrith)
said, that after having listened carefully to the speech of the right hon. Member for Bordesley, he was still in doubt as to whether the right hon. Gentleman intended to vote for the Motion of for the Amendment. The right hon. Gentleman, at any rate, had damned with faint praise the proposal of the hon. Member for Rushcliffe.
§ MR. COLLINGS
said he was not going to vote for the Motion, on the sole ground that, it was proposed to subject the work of the Charity Commissioners to a single Minister.
*MR. J. W. LOWTHER
was glad to have obtained from the right hon. Gentleman that statement, which was certain to carry considerable weight, owing to the great authority with which the right hon. Gentleman spoke on this subject. The hon. Member for Rushcliffe, in moving the Motion, was careful to say that the Minister of State to whom he proposed to give control of the work of the Charity Commissioners need not necessarily be the Minister of Education. But the hon. Gentleman could hardly maintain that position, for the members of the Select Committee who passed the Report definitely committed themselves to the statement that—After careful consideration of the whole matter they had come to the conclusion that the control of Endowments should be added to the functions of the new Minister of Education.
*MR. J. W. LOWTHER
said, the House was asked to take action upon the Report of a Committee which reported in favour of the Minister of Education being placed in charge of endowments, and, therefore, if they passed the Motion, they might make up their minds that the Minister to whom this new function would be given would be the Minister of 1543 Education. He thought it important that hon. Members should keep clearly before them the fact that the Charity Commission had two totally different and separate jurisdictions. One was the administration of charitable trusts, and the other the administration of endowed schools. In the administration of charitable trusts the Charity Commission were confined within the four corners of the law as it was laid down from time to time by the Courts of Chancery; but under of the Endowed Schools Acts they could, in dealing with endowed schools, go wholly and entirely beyond any law in regard to charitable trusts. He agreed with the hon. Member for Eye that any unpopularity which attached to the Charity Commission was due in a great mea sure to the action which was forced upon them by Parliament under the Endowed Schools Acts. He thereforn thought it only right that the action of the Charity Commission under the Endowed Schools Acts, when they went beyond the ordinary law, should be reviewed by Parliament; but he strongly held that the Chancery Court was the proper place for appeals from the jurisdiction of the Charity Commission in all matters relating to charitable trusts, as, indeed, Parliament had declared over and over again, and no later than in the recent Parish Councils Act. The right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Education, in his evidence before the Select Committee, referred to the difficulty in which he stood in regard to responsibility for schemes which came from the Charity Commission. The right hon. Gentleman said that though he wrote "approved" on those schemes, he occasionally felt uncomfortable because he did not quite approve of some of their contents. But that difficulty appeared to be more of a theoretical than of a practical character, for when cross-examined the right hon. Gentleman admitted that there had been only two instances in which 1544 any friction had occurred between him and the Charity Commission, and those cases were not under the Endowed Schools Act at all, but under the Welsh Intermediate Education Act. Other Gentlemen besides the right hon. Gentleman had had to administer these Acts, and had occupied the same position that he now occupied, and it was a singular fact that no gentleman who had filled the position of vice-president, except the right hon. Gentleman himself, was called before the Committee of last year. There were several gentlemen who had acted as vice-president, both in this and the other House, and who had had to administer these Acts, and if these difficulties had arisen, surely they would have had something to say about them. In the other House there were Lord Harrowby, Lord Knutsford, and Lord Playfair, who had all occupied the same position as the right hon. Gentleman, whilst in this House there were the noble Lord the Member for Middlesex (Lord G. Hamilton), the Member for the Brightside Division of Sheffield (Mr. Mundella), and his right hon. Friend the Member for one of the divisions of Kent (Sir W. Hart-Dyke). If any of these gentlemen had experienced any difficulties they could have come before the Committee and stated what those difficulties were. From the fact that no other Gentleman who had been vice-president was called before the Committee, and that there were only two cases in which these difficulties assumed an acute form, he said they might fairly come to the conclusion that the difficulties were of a theoretical, and not of a practical character. He understood the position of the right hon. Gentleman thoroughly. He was a great educationalist, anxious to advance the interests of education, and in doing so, and while seeking to control the endowed schools work of the Charity Commission, he was also apparently forced by the terms of this Motion to 1545 absorb and control the Charitable Trusts work of the Commission. So much had been said in the discussion upon the character and the aspect of the judicial work of the Charity Commission carried out under their Charitable Trusts jurisdiction, that he felt he should not be entitled to weary the House by a repetition of what had been said. Almost the last witness who was called before the Committee was Lord Davey, who gave by far the most cogent and valuable evidence adduced before it. Strangely enough, the hon. Member for the Rushcliffe Division had ignored that evidence. In the Report of the Committee the objections and difficulties which Lord Davey raised were never met, and hardly even, alluded to. His Lordship pointed out that the Charity Commission, having in many cases to decide judicially upon questions like the interpretation of legal instruments, stood in a totally different position to any other Government Department, its work being largely judicial. That evidence was never contradicted, it was simply ignored. It was a difficulty. It was not met, but it was passed by. He did not know what had been going on in the Commission now sitting on the subject of Secondary Education, but if any good was to come out of the inquiry that Commission would have to deal with these difficulties in a very different frame of mind to that which the Committee of last year brought to bear upon them. Why should Charities which were not of an educational nature be placed under the Education Minister? Why, for example, should Charities for the repair of roads and bridges be administered by the right hon. Gentleman opposite, or by the "ideal minister"? Such charities would naturally come under the Minister for Agriculture. There were many charities for the relief of rates, the maintenance of alms-houses, pensions, doles, and so forth, and why should they be administered by the Minister 1546 of Education? Their proper place, surely, would be under the Local Government Board if they were going to be assigned to any Minister of State at all. There were charities for nursing, medical attendance, and so on, which, if they were to have a Minister to take charge of them, should properly go, he supposed, to the Privy Council. Was it the case that those who were anxious to place these Charities under an Education Minister were desirous of converting them into educational Charities? He thought they should probably find that the strong educationalists were those who would be warmly in favour of the Education Minister having charge of these Charities. There was certainly a very significant Amendment moved during the deliberations of the Committee by the hon. Member for Tunbridge, who desired to add to the end of paragraph 10 these words—For carrying out as far as possible the intention of the founders of the Charities,And all the Members of the Liberal Party who were on the Committee voted against the Amendment.
*MR. J. W. LOWTHER
remarked, that that was not the view he and his friends took. It was a somewhat striking circumstance that they had all these strong educationalists anxious to get hold of all Charities and place them under the Minister of Education. The inevitable tendency of the Department over which the ideal Minister would preside would be to convert theses Charities to such a purpose.How oft the sight of means to do ill deed,Makes ill deeds done,And when this new ideal Educational Minister had all the machinery ready to hand it was very likely that some of these eleemosynary and other Charities would be used for educational purposes. 1547 In addition to the Committee which sat upon this matter there was an inquiry made by the Treasury under the able presidency a public servant whose death they were to-day lamenting—a public servant whose place it would he difficult to fill, and who had devoted the best years of his life unreservedly to the work of the public. He alluded to Sir Robert Hamilton, who was Chairman of the Inquiry which sat at the Treasury to consider this very matter. He had asked already, and he asked again, to see Sir Robert Hamilton's Report. There was nothing confidential about the question, he had no knowledge officially of what was in the Report, but he had knowledge that the Inquiry sat, for he (Mr. Lowther) was called before it to give evidence. He thought it would be extremely useful in considering this question, that they should, at all events, have the views of the Treasury, and not of the Education Department alone. Inframing schemes dealing with endowments there were involved in the initial stages considerations not of educational policy, but of pure law. The first thing that had to be considered was whether the endowment was an educational endowment or not; whether the school was an excepted school in the Act or not; whether a certain interest was or was not a vested interest; and whether the endowment was religious or not. All these were questions of pure law which should be decided by a legal or quasi legal tribunal. When, they had once decided that, he was perfectly ready to grant that the building up of a scheme upon these foundations being a question entirely of educational policy should rest with the Education Department. That was the way in which things were at present worked in regard to charities for elementary education. He maintained that it was absolutely necessary to keep the legal part of the work distinct from mere questions of educational policy, and for these reasons, unless the 1548 hon. Member who moved the Motion would add words to make it clear that it was confined to educational matters, he should support the hon. Member for Tonbridge in his Amendment.
§ THE VICE PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL (Mr. A. H. D. ACLAND,) York, W.R., Holderness
observed that the question which had been raised had been debated in a clear and sensible way and without any unnecessary introduction of a Party spirit. The matter, of course, was a serious one, for the Charity Commission had in some form, direct or indirect, very large funds in its charge—funds which had been largely increasing, too, of late. The total funds which it had under its charge exceeded three millions annually, of which about one-and-a-half million was eleemosynary and one million was educational, while the remaining half-million belonged to general purposes of different kinds. The Report of the Charity Commission just circulated showed that their work, at any rate, had not been of a character to in any way impede the flow of donations by charitable founders. It was often said that if Parliament did this or that it would prevent people from giving money to charitable purposes in future. It was quite clear that for the last 20 years that had not been the case at all. On the contrary, the Commissioners said it seemed as if the period in which we now lived was likely to be the richest period in the way of charitable donations we had had since the Reformation. Taking charities only of a thousand pounds and upwards given to various purposes—educational, charitable, and miscellaneous—they amounted in the last 20 years to no less than eight million pounds sterling. From the point of view of the large sums involved, therefore, great responsibility devolved upon the Commission. And they could all agree that in a great deal of its work since 1853 the Commission had been of the highest possible public service. Before 1549 that date there was much expense in managing the trusts and much litigation in connection with the Charities. By the legislation which began in 1853 the Charity Commission had been able to revise, to supervise, in some respects to restrict, and generally to bring the Charities into reasonable harmony with the public opinion of the day. They had, it was true, in the opinion of many persons, gone somewhat further than they should have done in way of diverting that which was meant for the poor to the benefit of the middle classes. He thought that policy had occasionally been carried somewhat too far. For his part, he constantly regretted the admitted unpopularity of the Charity Commission. He had, if he might say so, inherited a special interest in the Charity Commission, and especially in the Endowed Schools Commission, for his father was a member of the Schools Inquiry Commission, which had been alluded to in the House in terms of commendation. That unpopularity, be the reasons what they might, had led to considerable want of force in the Charity Commission, and a considerable want of support for the work of the Charity Commission in this House. "Our position,'' Sir H. Longley said in his evidence, "is unique. We have not at our head a political chief to defend our policy, or to help us in getting means to do our work." Some hon. Members were in favour of removing the £50 limit, and they seemed to think that was quite an easy thing to do. Now, efforts were made some years ago to do that; the matter was referred to a Select Committee, and a Bill was subsequently introduced. What was the fate of that Bill? The rejection of the Bill was Moved by the hon. Member for South Islington, and Seconded by the Conservative Member for Norwich, and those who supported the rejection included the gallant Member for South-East Essex, one of the hon. Members for Preston, 1550 and his right hon. Friend the Member for the Bordesley Division of Birmingham. That kind of opposition, coming from different quarters, to such a small Bill did not look promising, and would not look promising again, he ventured to say, if it were brought into the House to-morrow. That was only a single instance of the way in which Charity Commission Bills, not fathered by any responsible Minister, got treated in this House; and he had very little hope of any of those amending proposals which he and others would like to see carried into law. In speaking of the work of the Charity Commission he could not but notice the labours in Wales of the Assistant Commissioner, Mr. Bruce, son of the late Lord Aberdare He thought the way he did his most difficult and delicate work on the joint committees, on which sat Churchmen and Nonconformists, and men differing in politics, and remembering that there was nevertheless remarkable unanimity of action by those Committees, was an immense credit to the Assistant Commissioner. But, in the general result, it must be admitted that there were great hindrances and great unwillingness to give the Charity Commission further powers so long as its present constitution remained. He was totally ignorant of a considerable portion of the work of the Charity Commission, but on the side of the Endowed Schools Act, of course, he had some direct responsibility. It was perfectly true that in his evidence before the Select Committee, when he was asked in how many cases the Charity Commission had in any way opposed the Education Department, he said, "Only two." But anybody who read his evidence fairly would see that what he had to say went much further than this. It was to this effect. He blamed nobody for it—that all the earlier stages which brought a scheme into the form of a scheme were carried through without any knowledge on his part whatever, and that 1551 that was not the original intention of Mr. Forster in the Act of 1869. Historical events had changed all that. The result was that schemes came before him about which he knew nothing. When he approved of a Bill or anything else arising in his own department, he approved of something of which he was cognisant of every stage, but when he approved a Charity Commission scheme he gave his approval in a very different sense. He was asked more than once on the Committee:—Do you not take the responsibility of approving those schemes? Do you not feel bound to defend them when they come into the House of Commons?He took the responsibility. He felt considerable difficulty sometimes in defending a scheme, but if he were pressed on the point of law, it was clear that he had the responsibility of approval, and as far as possible he had the responsibility of condemning. The only other course open to the Minister of Education was to reject them altogether. He had lately had three important schemes under his consideration. That for Hereford was, he believed, at first approved of by the hon. Member for Hereford, and yet he had come down to that House and opposed it, with the result that the Government were bound to reject it. Then there was the Hackney scheme, which was a very important scheme. With regard to the third scheme, whereby it was proposed to divert certain sums of money from charitable trusts to educational purposes, he had carefully considered the proposal, and he came to the conclusion that it would not pass that House, and therefore he had stated that the Education Department could not accept the scheme. The fact was that the Charity Commissioners had these schemes under their consideration for many months and then passed them over to the Minister of Education, who had not the means of knowledge which 1552 they possessed with regard to them, but was called upon to defend them in that House. In his opinion such a system was most cumbrous and most unsatisfactory, and it ought to be considerably altered. It had been suggested in the course of the Debate that if the proposal embodied in the motion before the House were adopted it would have the result of importing Party politics into the question, which would be a great disadvantage in dealing with matters so difficult and so delicate as Charities. All he could say was that, when it was considered that Ministers of the day had already to discharge duties equally difficult and delicate, he did not think that there was much force in the argument. Let them take the administration of Ireland, for instance. Were not the duties which a Minister had to discharge in that respect both difficult and delicate? And yet it had never been proposed to withdraw those duties from the Minister and to hand them over to an irresponsible non-political body. In fact, all experience in that House pointed the other way, and the tendency was to hold some Minister responsible for the control of all public bodies. On the whole, he thought that some responsible Minister ought to have the control of all the matters which were at present administered by the Charity Commissioners. The endowed schools portion of the Commissioners' work was now under the charge of a sub-Commission, the chief of which was chosen by the Ministry of the day, and who was therefore of the same politics as they were. The Charity Commissioners knew more about charity work than the Minister of Education; but of course they could not take upon themselves Ministerial responsibility, and it remained for the Government, who had no direct relations with the Charity Commissioners, to make such defence for their action as they could. Such a form of Ministerial responsibility was, after all, discharged in a very 1553 perfunctory way, and the whole present system, in his opinion, was most unsatisfactory. It had been urged that it would be extremely difficult to separate the educational from the non-educational charities, but he believed that in the future some means would be found whereby that difficulty might be met. The Government thought that the best way to strengthen the Commission and to give it force, which it certainly needed both for improving its procedure and for securing adequate defence in that House for its proposals, was that which was advocated by the Mover of the Amendment. The Government, therefore, were perfectly ready to support a proposal the principle of which they regarded as a sound one. The working out of the scheme of reconstruction would, no doubt, be a matter of very considerable difficulty, but, sooner or later, there must be real Ministerial responsibility. The view of the Government was that a change such as that foreshadowed in the Motion would not lead to increased partisanship or to political bias, but that it would strengthen that which was weak, that it would enable long-desired legislation for improving the working of the Commission to be passed, that it would make it possible for some one in the House of Commons to speak with real authority on behalf of the Commissioners, and that it would impart to the work of the Commission more effectiveness and real efficiency.
§ *SIR F. S. POWELL (Wigan)
thought that the time which the hon. Gentleman opposite had chosen for raising this question was somewhat inopportune, because a very valuable Report bearing upon the subject would shortly be presented, and he thought that it would be most inadvisable for the House to come to any conclusion in connection with the matter until it had that Report before it. As one of the Governors of the Bradford Grammar School, which was the first that had been dealt with under 1554 a scheme of the Endowed Schools Commission, he could bear testimony to the success which had attended the carrying that scheme into effect. He agreed that it was not wise to dissociate the administration of educational from that of other endowments. In one case which he knew, the old trustees were entrusted with funds partly for eleemosynary purposes and partly for educational purposes. There had been a separation, and that separation had worked much mischief. It would not be easy to harmonise the discord which now existed in that instance, but he trusted that by the exercise of friendly feeling the discord would be removed. Reference had been made to the last Report of the Commissioners, and to the large sums given since 1878. In Manchester, for example, a charity of £100,000 had been given for education; in Sheffield £20,000 had been given to Firth College, which was doing such valuable work; at Egham the Holloway College, which was gradually becoming a valuable institution, had been endowed with £300,000; and there was the Berridge charity of £200,000 for the furtherance of education in economic and sanitar science. There had been, in addition, large charities in other parts of the kingdom. There was a disposition at this moment to bring these charities more under the control of the House of Commons, but he doubted whether a disposition of that kind prevailed in other countries. In the United States the feeling was rather to place charities outside political struggles, and to protect them in the performance of their functions from the changing currents of passing political opinion. Many statutes passed in the United States and Canada put charities beyond the immediate control of the Executive. Many charitable institutions being founded in the same way as corporations were founded, and being regulated by statute, could not be 1555 altered by any other authority than that of Parliament itself. This showed that, although the influence of public opinion must always be of great value, charitable institutions sometimes nourished best when separated from political life. The enormous amount of work done by the Charity Commissioners had, perhaps, not been dwelt upon sufficiently in that Debate. From 1861 to 1893 the number of orders issued was no less than 12,311. The sum produced by sales in 10 years was £2,259,379; the number of charities under the Commissioners' control was 60,000, and the annual increase in the number of such charities was nearly 500. These figures showed that this was work of an executive character which must be committed to some subordinate authority, and which could not be performed under the minute and detailed supervision of a Parliamentary assembly. The attitude of the House of Commons in respect of charities ought to be much the same as its attitude in respect of the Courts of Law. While they entrusted to the Judges the interpretation of the law, they altered that law when it was no longer in harmony with public opinion, or in accord with the principles of general utility. In the same way, in the case of charities, that House ought to exercise a general authority, but the exercise of a detailed and minute authority was beyond the competence of Parliament; and if Parliament were to attempt to interfere in that way the result would inevitably be disappointing. The Charity Commissioners had been accused of not giving sufficient effect to the recommendations of Committees, with regard to the extension of the representative principle as applied to governors. It should be remembered, however, that others besides governors chosen directly by the people represented them equally well. There were the ex-officio governors, who were Chairmen of Boards of Guardians and of Local Boards, Overseers, and Churchwardens. These were as much representative of popular opinion 1556 as the governors described in the official returns as being wholly and entirely representative. He maintained that the Commission had acted largely on the recommendations made to them to apply the principle of representation. As things were, Parliament exercised considerable control over the Commission. There was control when the Estimates were before the House; there was control when the representatives of the Commission in that House were called upon to vindicate its action in regard to particular schemes, and there was control when the Vice President of the Council defended the action of the Commission generally. He thought that a time would come when some changes would have to be made, but that time was not yet. When the time for dealing with the question should arrive, he thought they would find it expedient to delegate. These were the days of delegation. Life was so complicated; interests were so numerous, conflicting, and vast, that subordinate authorities were increasingly called into action, not merely for the purpose of deliberation, but also to deal with problems as they arose. Whatever might be the nature of the body charged in the future with the administration of charities, it would have to be a body exercising considerable independence, and not liable to have its decisions reversed by hasty votes in that House. He believed that the experience gained in the course of time, and the maturing of public opinion would in the end lead to the solution of existing difficulties, and so to the advancement of the great cause of public education.
§ The SPEAKER then retired for the usual interval.
§ [On the return of Mr. SPEAKER, notice being taken that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 40 Members not being present,]
§ The House adjourned at a Quarter before Nine o'clock.