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Islington Board Of Guardians (Surcharge)

Volume 154: debated on Monday 22 May 1922

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asked the Minister of Health whether, seeing that all the legal expenses of the defendants in the action Everett v. Griffiths and Anklesaria, were paid by the Islington Guardians at the expense of the Islington ratepayers, that, on the admission of the guardians in their minutes, over £1,200 was thus expended during the period extending from June, 1919, to March, 1921, that the district auditor surcharged the guardians for unlawfully expending this money, and the Ministry of Health on appeal confirmed the decision of the local auditor that the expenditure was unlawful but neverthelessex gratia exonerated the guardians for this expenditure, he will state what is the reason for this exoneration?

Certain members of the Islington Board of Guardians were surcharged with sums amounting to about £930 paid on account of the costs incurred by the chairman of the board and the workhouse medical officer in defending proceedings brought against them by a Mr. Everett who had been received into a lunatic asylum under a certificate given by the medical officer and an Order made by the chairman under Section 16 of the Lunacy Act, 1890. The plaintiff carried the case from the King's Bench Division to the Court of Appeal, and thence to the House of Lords, but the judgment of each Court was in the defendants' favour. I was adviser? that, although the acts of the defendants which involved them in this litigation were done in fulfilment of a statutory duty, and in the case of the chairman of a duty imposedvirtute officii, judicial decisions were against the view that the payment was legally permissible as a charge in the accounts of the guardians. I felt bound, therefore, to uphold the surcharge on legal grounds; but I had no doubt that it would not have been right in the circumstances to compel the individual guardians surcharged personally to bear the costs in question and accordingly on the merits of the case I decided that it would be fair and equitable within the meaning of Section 4 of the Poor Law Audit Act, 1848, to remit the surcharge in the exercise of the express power in that behalf conferred by the Section.