§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—[Captain Wallace.]1091
§ Mr. BROMLEY
May I ask the Attorney-General if he can give the House any information with regard to the Rye lifeboat fund, as a result of the inquiries which he was good enough to undertake in response to a question which I addressed to him recently.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL (Sir Thomas Inskip)
I am glad to have this opportunity of giving some information to the House as to the course of events since the hon. Member for Barrow (Mr. Bromley) first drew my attention to this matter on 6th February. In accordance with my statement to the House on that occasion, I immediately asked the Mayor of Rye to see me. I gave a similar invitation to the solicitor who I was informed was acting on behalf of the dependants, and they saw me on 11th February. I discussed with each of them the position with a view to the disposal of the fund so as to carry out the objects of the fund, namely,to help those dependent on the men who lost their lives in the disaster.After hearing the facts, I formed the opinion that the moneys given by the public must be treated in law as a charitable fund. It was solely on this footing that I undertook the responsibility, as Attorney-General, of making some suggestions to the Mayor of Rye and to the solicitor acting for the dependants as to the best method of applying the fund. It was obviously necessary to prepare some sort of scheme or trust for the division of the fund, particularly in view of the facts that in the 12 families immediately bereaved there are a large number of young children, and that in some cases two and even three members of one family had laid down their lives, and that consequently there were wide variations in the numbers of dependants left by each man. It was, moreover, necessary to give some consideration to the ascertainment of the dependants in order that as far as possible what would have been the wishes of the men themselves if they had lived might be regarded.
Certain suggestions were made of a tentative character to enable a draft deed or scheme to be prepared. I proposed that those acting on behalf of the dependants should see it in draft and that I also should have an opportunity of considering it. The scheme 1092 was to provide for a wide discretion on the part of those administering the fund to advance capital sums for the benefit or advancement in life of all the dependants, besides securing to the aged parents and to the widows of the men a certain regular income. It is obvious that no more than general and tentative proposals could at that stage be made, but I certainly hoped, and still hope, that by the exercise of good will and common sense, an arrangement agreeable to all will be made. I ought to add that I proposed the scheme should provide for a small committee composed of men and women resident in the neighbourhood, and as far as possible acquainted with all the facts, who would advise the Trustees as to the outlay of the funds at their disposal.
I am informed that progress is being made and that no delay will be allowed. My purpose and duty is to see that the whole of the fund is applied as promptly as possible for the sole benefit of the persons concerned. Meanwhile, every possible need and request of any of the dependants have been met, and I intend to see that this continues. The acting trustees are no less desirous that this should be done and as proof that the fund is being administered to this end, I may say that in the 13 weeks that have passed since the fund was opened, £1,168 has been paid over to the various families, in addition to a sum of £229 paid to meet the funeral expenses, or a total of £1,397. I hope the advisory committee, who, I gather from newspaper reports, have resigned, will reconsider the step they have taken. I feel sure their continued help will be most valuable.
§ Captain GUNSTON
May I ask the Attorney-General if the statement which has appeared in the Press, that the widows and dependants have not received any money at all, is correct or incorrect?
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
It appears that a sum of something like £1,400 has been advanced to a number of these dependants in the twelve or thirteen weeks since the disaster.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Adjourned accordingly at Nine Minutes after Eleven o'Clock.