Scottish Burial Reform and Cremation Society v Glasgow Corporation: HL 26 Jul 1967

The appellants sought partial exemption from rates on its premises. The Corporation challenged their charitable status. The society’s object was to encourage and provide facilities for cremation.
Held: The object was charitable.
Lord Reid said that it was not now necessary to produce evidence so as to show that the object was for the public benefit, and also that, this being so, the public benefit was not subverted because there was or might also be a profit or benefit to individuals involved in the prosecution of the objects: ‘But the appellants must also show that the public benefit is of a kind within the spirit and intendment of the Statute of Elizabeth I. The preamble specifies a number of objects which were then recognised as charitable. But in more recent times a wide variety of other objects have come to be recognised as also being charitable. The courts appear to have proceeded first by seeking some analogy between an object mentioned in the preamble and the object with regard to which they had to reach a decision. And then they appear to have gone further and to have been satisfied if they could find an analogy between an object already held to be charitable and the new object claimed to be charitable. And this gradual extension has proceeded so far that there are few modern reported cases where a bequest or donation was made or an institution was being carried on for a clearly specified object which was for the benefit of the public at large and not of individuals, and yet the object was held not to be within the spirit and intendment of the Statute of Elizabeth I. Counsel in the present case were invited to search for any case having even the remotest resemblance to this case in which an object was held to be for the public benefit but yet not to be within that spirit and intendment. But no such case could be found.’
Lord Upjohn said: ‘Upon the first point it must be remembered that Lord Macnaghten’s classification was taken from Sir Samuel Romilly’s argument in Morice v. Bishop of Durham 162 years ago when the great majority of the inhabitants of the country were living in conditions which to-day would be regarded as of the utmost squalor. The concept of purposes beneficial to the community might then appear to have the qualities of a class and so perhaps, to a lesser extent, in 1891. This so-called fourth class is incapable of further definition and can today hardly be regarded as more than a portmanteau to receive those objects which enlightened opinion would regard as qualifying for consideration under the second heading.’
As to the preamble to the 1601 Act: ‘While it may seem almost incredible to anyone not familiar with this branch of the English law that this should still be taken as the test, it is undoubtedly the accepted test, though only in a very wide and broad sense, well illustrated by the observations of Lord Greene M.R. in In re Strakosch [1949] Ch 529 . .’
He concluded, with some skepticism: ‘My Lords, I conclude by saying that the authorities show that the ‘spirit and intendment’ of the preamble to the Statute of Elizabeth have been stretched almost to breaking point. In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries this was often due to a desire on the part of the courts to save the intentions of the settlor or testator from failure from some technical rule of law. Now that it is used so frequently to avoid the common man’s liability to rates or taxes, this generous trend of the law may one day require reconsideration.’
Lord Reid, Lord Guest, Lord Upjohn, Lord Wilberforce, Lord Pearson
[1967] UKHL 3, [1968] AC 138, [1967] 3 All ER 215
Local Government (Financial Provisions etc.) (Scotland) Act 1962, Mortmain and Charitable Uses Act 1888 13
CitedMorice v The Bishop of Durham CA 26-Mar-1804
Bequest, in trust for such objects of benevolence and liberality as the trustee in his own discretion shall most approve, cannot be supported as a charitable Legacy ; and is therefore a Trust for the next of kin.
Ann Cracherade by her Will, . .

Cited by:
CitedHelena Partnerships Ltd v HM Revenue and Customs CA 9-May-2012
The company had undertaken substantial building works and sought associated tax relief. The court was asked whether, following a change in the company’s memorandum and articles of association, the company, a registered social landlord, remained a . .

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Updated: 01 February 2021; Ref: scu.248565