HC Deb 01 December 1966 vol 737 cc617-9
Q6. Mr. Arthur Davidson

asked the Prime Minister Whether he will take steps to establish a national disaster fund.

The Prime Minister

No, Sir. I have nothing to add to the Answer given by my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary of the Treasury on 18th November to a Question by my hon. Friend the Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Alan Lee Williams).—[Vol. 736, c. 207.]

Mr. Davidson

As there has been considerable public disenchantment at the disputes which break out when it comes to administering funds raised for such charities, may I ask my right hon. Friend to take a fresh look at the law governing these questions?

The Prime Minister

When my hon. Friend put down his Question I did think about this matter again, even after the statement made to the House by my right hon. Friend. There is very often disenchantment—one remembers it on earlier occasions than this year. But a national disaster fund would be very difficult to administer and, because it would not be related to a particular disaster which has made an impact on the public mind, one could not be sure that it would receive the contributions that would be necessary for handling some of the problems it should handle.

Mr. Heath

I appreciate the disadvantages that the Prime Minister has, quite rightly, outlined, but will he consider seting up perhaps some form of co-ordinating committee, or expanding an existing organisation, with powers of co-ordination so that it could advise those running disaster funds on the administrative problems involved, such as the question of trust deeds and so on, and help with the disposal of funds?

The Prime Minister

That is a very helpful suggestion and I should like to go into it further. Sometimes, of course, the problems have been solved by those with experience of these matters—the Lord Mayor of London, for example—taking over a fund. On this occasion, however, it was felt that the Mayor of Merthyr Tydvil should do it and, of course, when a disaster occurs where there has not been one before, there are problems. I am much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for his suggestion.