HC Deb 30 July 1908 vol 193 cc1716-8
MR. HUNT (Shropshire, Ludlow)

To ask the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies if he is aware that the committee under the chairmanship of the Governor of Jamaica, appointed to distribute the money voted by Parliament and subscribed by the English public towards the relief of the sufferers from the Kingston earthquake, has caused grants to be made to certain sufferers on the condition that such funds were to be expended only in litigation for the prosecution of insurance claims; and, seeing that this money was intended to be applied to relief, whether he has sanctioned this diversion from its original object; and, if not, whether he will signify his disapproval to the Governor of Jamaica.

(Answered by Colonel Seely). In the Report of the Assistance Committee for the period ended 31st March last the following passage occurs:—"It appeared to the Committee that one of the most effective and practical means of giving assistance would be to help those persons who had lost property and stock by fire and whose insurance claims were contested, with the result that they were unable to rebuild or to resume business, to obtain at any rate a legal decision upon their claims. The Committee having ascertained that the majority of the persons so affected had combined to support legal action on their common behalf, and that the plaintiffs in two test cases had been successful in actions in the Supreme Court and on appeal, and were in pressing need of funds to defend an appeal against these judgments before the Privy Council, the Committee decided to allot to each of such persons so interested, who had applied to them for assistance and whose case on investigation, they had decided to be one which they were entitled to aid under the law, a special grant to assist him or her to defray his share of the legal expenses of prosecuting the last-mentioned appeals. In all cases, therefore, in which they had decided to give a building grant or a trade grant to an insured person so situated they further allotted an amount equal to 2 per cent. on the amount for which such person had been insured and had been refused allotment by an insurance company, on the condition that if he should be successful in his claim the amount of such allotment should be returned into the Assistance Fund. The grants made in this manner amounted to £2,263 3s. 3d. As has already been stated, in cases in which a building grant was made on a building destroyed by fire it was stipulated that if fire insurance was recovered a proportion of the amount received should be repaid into the Assistance Fund according to the scale on which the grant had been made." The Secretary of State sees no reason to question the action of the Committee in making grants to enable persons who had lost property and stock by the fire, and whose insurance claims were contested, to obtain a legal decision on their claims.