asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether his attention has been drawn to the conviction of a clergyman for the misuse of large sums of money collected from the public during the last 14 years through charitable appeals by circular and advertisement; and, in view of previous similar frauds, whether he will appoint a committee to consider the registration of persons making such appeals and the supervision of their accounts, subject to the exemption of approved charities?
Yes, Sir. It is satisfactory to find that the law has not proved ineffective to deal with these serious offences. When the general question of the supervision of charities was inquired into by a representative Committee in 1927 they came to the conclusion that the fraudulent gains of a few rogues amounted only to a very small part of the vast sums which are given for charity, that these frauds were not likely to remain undetected for long and that the existence of these occasional abuses would not justify a general system of supervision over charities. Since then Parliament has passed the House to House Collections Act, 1939, and the War Charities Act, 1940. Whether any further strengthening of the law is practicable and desirable is a matter which is receiving consideration but it should not be assumed that the recent conviction of one individual necessarily indicates the need for an amendment of the existing law.
How does my hon. Friend reconcile the first part of his reply, which expresses satisfaction with the present law, with the fact that these frauds continued for 14 years before the offender was brought to justice?
It is true that the frauds began in a small way 14 years ago, but it is also true that no inquiry, and no system of registration, could ensure that such frauds never took place.
I have informed my hon. Friend that the matter was inquired into in 1927, and that a Bill was introduced into Parliament, and the general feeling at that time was opposed to any such general system.
Is it not obvious that, where a fraud can be continuously operated for 14 years, there is indeed heed for the tightening-up of the law to prevent it; otherwise how does my hon. Friend know that frauds are not continuing in a large number of cases?