HL Deb 28 July 1881 vol 264 cc10-4

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


, in moving that the Bill be now read a second time, said, the necessity for the measure was explained in the last Report of the Commissioners of the fund, which showed that although a surplus was shown on the face of the statements of assets and liabilities at the end of 1879, certain liabilities had not been taken into account, for which it was necessary to make provision. When the Report came into the hands of the Secretary of State for War communications were entered into with the Commissioners, and the result was the Bill now before their Lordships. Being, no doubt, desirous to extend the benefits of the fund as widely as possible, the Commissioners had undertaken more than they were justified in undertaking from a pecuniary point of view. They had, therefore, been obliged to consider which of their benevolent projects must be sacrificed. After communication with the Admiralty and the War Office, it appeared to the Commissioners impossible to continue the boys' school at Wandsworth; and, accordingly, the school would be sold, and the proceeds would be used in aid of the general assets of the fund. The Commissioners had also decided to make considerable reductions in their office expenses, hoping, by that course, to relieve themselves of liabilities to the extent of some £20,000. Such changes, in fact, would be made as would result in the solvency of the fund. Probably there would be a surplus, and, if so, it would be treated as a fund for the relief of the widows and children of officers and men of the Army, Navy, and Royal Marines, who might have lost their lives in war, or by accident or disease contracted in the Service. The Bill empowered the Commissioners to sell the school at Wandsworth, and authorized the use of any surplus funds for the purposes which he had explained.

Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2a."—(The Earl of Northbrook.)


enumerated the names of the eminent men who served on the Commission when first appointed, and reminded their Lordships that the Commissioners appointed a Financial and Executive Committee. The embarrassments of the fund had arisen, in a great measure, from the original Commission itself, which left a great deal to its Secretary, who was once or twice reprimanded by the Commissioners. In the year 1865, when he (the Duke of Somerset) was at the Admiralty, the matter came before him; and, considering that the affairs of the Commission had been again mismanaged, he moved that the Secretary be dismissed. The Commissioners did eventually dismiss the Secretary, but gave him a pension of £300 a-year. He (the Duke of Somerset) then said he would not remain on the Commission, and he left it. One error was in starting the boys' school, 200 boys instead of 100, for which there were not sufficient funds. He thought the present Bill would be efficient for its purpose and useful. There was a common misapprehension that only the income of the fund ought to be spent; but that was not the original intention. It was provided, in the first instance, for the widows and children of those who had fallen in the Crimean War, and it was expected that principal and income would have been distributed in the course of a few years.


said, that, as he had been a Member of the Executive Committee since last August, he wished to combat certain misrepresentations which had been spread abroad. That Com- mittee was composed of honourable men, although their work did not come much before the public. They were men who had served the State in the Army and the Navy, or as Inspectors of schools, or who were members of the Legal Profession. A great deal of the work had been prepared and decided by the previous Commission. He agreed that the Commission had made a mistake in enlarging the boys' school. The sum originally set apart to accumulate for the boys' school only contemplated an endowment for 100 boys. But, though it was a sanguine estimate to think that there were funds enough to endow such a school for 200, the decision had not been come to without careful consideration and an able Report. A great deal had been said about the expenses of the office; but the estimate of the expenditure under this head did not exceed £5 per cent of the fund they had to administer. The old Commissioners had found it necessary to keep up the school by filling up the vacancies from children of soldiers who were not at the Crimean War; but that was necessary till more fitting cases occurred, and as the regular vacancies were from 30 to 40 every year it was easy to meet fresh cases. He pointed out that several children of those killed in the late wars in Afghanistan and South Africa and from the Captain and Eurydice accidents had been admitted to the school or had been offered vacancies. The general statement which had gone abroad was that the Royal Commissioners, about this time last year, left the fund in a great deficit—something like £150,000—and really knew nothing about it. This deficit was classed under four different headings. The first sum was £60,000. That was reckoned as a debt, when it really was a capital sum which would be required efficiently to endow a boys' school; but they were in no sense bound to let the interest of the original endowment accumulate, and they were at liberty to devote this interest to the support of the school whenever they chose to do so. The next item was a sum of £32,000 for an extra allowance of 2s. a-week to unmarried widows after attaining the age of 60; but the arrangement with regard to it was merely tentative. Instead of being a debt of £32,000, it represented an expenditure of £1,000 a-year, which they had taken care could not be in- creased, and would be decreased as the widows died out. Another item was £25,000 for a convalescent home at Margate; but this again was only a temporary arrangement, and they were able to close the school, and so they wiped out the charge altogether within six months. There was another charge of £35,000, which they had set apart for the education of Roman Catholic children. They acknowledged that to be a debt, and the only way to meet it was from the endowment and the closing of the boys' school altogether. He maintained that the charge in connection with the expenses of the office, and the other charges made against the Commissioners, were founded upon imperfect knowledge. He would only add that he heartily accepted the Bill; indeed, the Royal Commissioners had been continually asking for their numbers to be filled up, and in their last Report had specially pointed out the desirability of having the girls' school managed by a Governing Body of its own. And since last August the House Committee had had enlarged powers with that object, an arrangement which had operated well.


said, he had no fault to find with the Bill, particularly with the Preamble, which stated that the Patriotic Fund had been administered in accordance with the Commission from Her Majesty. Whatever there might have been of excess, there had been no shortcomings, and the confidence placed in the Commissioners was justified. There were many circumstances which required careful consideration and handling when they had to deal with the claims of rival religious denominations. He was sorry Lord Howard of Glossop was not present. That noble Lord was always foremost in urging the claims of his coreligionists, and he could tell their Lordships that every suspicion of unfairness was guarded against. He himself now stood alone of all who were the Members of the first Committee. They who commenced the work had passed away, and he might say they were men well known in the works of peace and war, and highly competent to carry on the management of such a fund. It was well that the public should remember that during the course of administration 3,789 widows of Crimean soldiers were supported out of the funds, and that 6,940 children of soldiers had been trained in the ways of improvement and education. Care had been taken that the fund should not be wasted on unworthy objects, and that worthy objects should not be refused the benefit of them. With regard to the boys' school, so far from the original intention being to make an extravagant establishment, it was of the roughest description.

Motion agreed to; Bill read 2a accordingly, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House To-morrow.