HC Deb 13 June 1881 vol 262 cc351-2

asked the Secretary to the Admiralty, Whether he is aware that the Committee of the Atalanta Relief Fund have pronounced the sum subscribed to be quite insufficient for the purpose intended; whether he is aware that the failure to meet the demands which the constant recurrence of these disasters imposes upon the charity of the public, is in great part attributable to the growing opinion amongst all classes that the principle, which the State has always recognised in the case of officers, of giving permanent aid to widows, should be extended to the lower grades of the Service; and, whether he can hold out any hopes of the Government so extending this principle as to include all continuous service men in the Navy and Royal Marines?


Sir, the first two parts of the Question of the hon. and gallant Member refer to the intentions of the Atalanta Relief Committee and to the opinion of the public rather than to the policy of the Admiralty, and I had, perhaps, better answer him with one or two facts. The fund raised by the Atalanta Relief Committee amounted to £9,700, as against about £17,000 in the case of the Eurydice; but it is quite possible that the difference might be due to the striking and instantaneous character of the one disaster as compared with the dubious and protracted nature of the other. As it is, widows of seamen and Marines lost in the Atalanta are to receive 1s 6d. a-week, with 1s. 6d. for each child; and at the age of 45 they are to receive 5s. a-week. That, at least, is the proposal made by the Committee. This is in addition to a gratuity of one year's pay from the nation; and I may say that the Admiralty, though they had only too good reason to believe that the Atalanta went down long before they officially gave her up for lost, thought it right to give the widows the benefit of what was hardly a doubt, and paid the arrears of pay for several months, so that practically the gratuity amounted to 17 months' pay. As regards the last and most important question, I may say that Lord Northbrook and the Secretary of State for War have been in communication with the Commissioners of the Patriotic Fund, and it is hoped that the result will be the creation of a permanent fund to be applied to the relief, of the widows and children of men who have lost their lives in the Service.