HL Deb 16 February 1900 vol 79 cc196-214

My Lords, I rise to ask Earl Nelson, chairman of the executive committee of the Patriotic Fund, whether he can state to the House if there are any sums now standing to the credit of the old funds which can be applied to the war in South Africa; and what arrangements have been made by the Commissioners for the relief of the widows and orphans of the soldiers and sailors, and of the Yeomanry I and home and colonial Volunteers, who may lose their lives in South Africa. I owe some apology to your Lordships for putting a question to a private Member, but I hope the fact that my question is put at the express request of Earl Nelson will be a sufficient excuse for asking it. I believe that Earl Nelson desires to give some explanation in respect to certain attacks which have appeared in the newspapers and elsewhere with regard to the procedure of the Royal Patriotic Fund. I will make no observation with regard to my first question, because I feel quite incapable of going into the history of the fund; but, with regard to the second question, I should like to make a few remarks. In common with most of your Lordships, I noticed an attack made on the Royal Commissioners in the columns of the Morning Post in connection with the case of a lady who had applied to them. Being a subscriber to the fund, I asked the secretary to be kind enough to inform me whether the statements which were made in the newspaper to which I have alluded were correct or otherwise, and my noble friend Lord Chelmsford, who had been assisting in the secretarial work of the Commission, gave me a full account of the case in question, ft appeared that the executive committee were not aware that the lady was the widow of one of our gallant colonial Volunteers who, unfortunately, lost his life in the course of the war in South Africa. If they had been aware of that fact the circular which was complained of in the Morning Post would not have been sent to her. It seemed to me that that was a sufficient explanation of that particular case. As to the form issued to applicants by the executive committee, in the case of widows of soldiers and sailors who lose their lives in South Africa I venture to think that it is desirable that the executive committee should consider whether some modifications cannot be made in it. The form to which I stake exception is a form upon yellow paper which the widow has to take to the local post office, where she receives a certificate that she is alive. Some such certificate is, of course, absolutely necessary for the distribution of the fund and cannot be objected to, but attached to the bottom of the same form is a request for all sorts of information respecting the condition and so on of the widow. It has been explained to me that it was not intended that this form should be filled up at the post office, but I fully believe that nine out of every ten persons looking at the form would imagine that the whole of it had to be filled up at the post office, and anyone who knows anything of the working classes of this country knows how they object to making any statement of their circumstances at their own village post office. In my own neighbourhood they even go to a post office far away from their village in order to invest their savings, so as to prevent the knowledge of their circumstances being in the hands of their neighbours. Therefore, I think it is very desirable, in order to prevent misapprehension, that this form should be quite apart and distinct from that which has to be filled up at the post office in order to show the Commissioners that the widow who receives the allowance is alive. I would point out to your Lordships that old forms in a matter of this kind are hardly applicable at the present day. There has been a great improvement of late years in our soldiers and sailors, and their families are in a very different position now to what they were forty years ago when this fund was first instituted. With regard to the widows of men serving in the Yeomanry and Volunteers, I would suggest to the Executive Committee of the Patriotic Fund that they should be dealt with, if possible, through the county committees, which have been established all over England for the purpose of assisting the Yeomanry and Volunteers who have gone to the front. In my own county ' the committee have insured the lives of the Volunteers and Yeomanry, and the secretary of the committee will be perfectly able to obtain for the Patriotic Commissioners every information respecting the circumstances of the widows when any casualty occurs in those two forces. In connection with the Colonial Volunteers, I apprehend that some arrangement will be made for communicating with the Agents-General of the different colonies, as in most of the colonies funds have already been raised. Overlapping would thus be avoided. Then with regard to the general wav of dealing with soldiers' and sailors' widows, I should think the Committee of the Patriotic Fund Commissioners might with perfect safety make their inquiries through the Soldiers' and Sailors' Families Association. In my county there is a complete organisation, in every petty sessional division, managed by ladies, and these ladies can be relied upon to give the Commissioners every information respecting the widows of any soldier or sailor residing in the county. There is no necessity, so far as I can see, for continuing the practice which I believe is adopted now of immediately sending, on receipt of the account of the feat of a soldier or sailor, a lump sum of money to the widow without any inquiry whatever. If that sum of money were sent to the Soldiers' and Sailors' Families Association those ladies who are managing it would take care that the money was, not squandered. It is quite possible that when a widow gets a considerable sum given her in one lump the money is not economically spent. I think some move elastic plan than that now carried out by the Executive Committee might be more applicable to present circumstances. I should have spoken with more confidence on this matter if I had not seen a letter in The Times this morning criticising the management of the Soldiers' and Sailors' Families Association in the Metropolis. I cannot speak to that, I can only speak for my own county, where it is properly organised, and I do not see why the Commissioners should not deal with the Association in places where the organisation is good. In making, these observations I hope your Lordships will not suppose that I am desirous of throwing any blame on the Patriotic Fund Commissioners or the Executive Committee. There are on the Commission and Executive Committee many friends of my own, including my noble friend the Chairman of Committees in this House, and several Naval and Military officers, who are as good men of business as I ever came across, and I have not the slightest doubt that if they put their minds to this matter they will be able to devise some scheme that would be generally satisfactory. I do not look upon the widows of soldiers and sailors who lose their lives in the service of the country as paupers, and I do not think they ought to be treated as such. They have a right to assistance from the Royal Patriotic Fund, and every consideration ought to be shown to them—not only to their circumstances, but also to their feelings. With these few remarks I beg to ask the ques- tion of my noble friend of which I have given notice.


My Lords, I am glad of the opportunity given me by the question which has been so kindly put by my noble friend. Lord Northbrook, of answering some of the statements which have been made against the Commissioners of the Royal Patriotic Fund. I hope your Lordships will bear with me, because at the present moment I represent what I suppose is one of the most heartily abused bodies which exist in the United Kingdom, Many accusers seem to have risen up against us, all of whom suggest certain very familiar proverbs. One proverb is, "Any stick will do to beat a dog"; another is, "Give a dog a bad name, and you may as well hang him"; and a third is, "If you throw enough mud, some of it is sure to stick." In the remarks I am about to make—and I will be as short as I can—I hope to remove some of that mud. I was not going to mention the lady's name, but one case—the one referred to by the noble Earl—has caused a great deal of the present outburst against us. The-story is a very simple one. The widow of a private trooper in the Light Horse lost her husband at Ladysmith. In the first letter she wrote to the Commissioners, it is perfectly true, she wrote to the Secretary and stated that she had received a very kind present from the Morning Post of £50, but she went on to say that since September her husband had' sent her nothing, that she was in bad: circumstances, and had been unable to pay the cost of her lodging and board and other necessities. I do not think that our Assistant Secretary can be blamed for treating the case as that of a common soldier's widow, and sending her at once £5 for herself and £5 for her child, and promising, on her filling up a form which was enclosed, that she would have 6s., a week during her widowhood. She received the money and sent it back again, saying the Commissioners had offended; her, that she was not so badly off, and that I she certainly could not take money under those conditions. All I can say is that neither the secretary nor the executive I committee had the slightest intention of giving her any insult, and if we had known that she was the widow of one of the colonial Volunteers we should certainly have taken a different course, because we had already been thinking, that such cases. might come before us. We had interviewed the Agents-General for Natal and the Cape, and were merely awaiting telegrams from South Africa which they had sent off to know what action we had better take in respect of the Volunteers at the Cape. Now, my Lords, with regard to the form, it is as Lord Northbrook described it. I have a copy of it here—the yellow form. Of course, having received a Post Office Order, the widow is obliged to state, before the postmistress that she is a widow, and the widow of the man whom she represents to be her husband, and then she receives the money. As Lord North-brook has told you, there is also below a list of questions which we are obliged to ask as to age, children, and earnings of the family. Lord Northbrook, like others, was himself taken in, and seemed to think, as well as some people who have been writing of us in the newspapers, that the Executive Committee demanded that the widow should actually answer these questions before the post mistress of the parish. That is not the case. Those statements are to be made by her to a medical man, or a minister of religion, or an officer, who will help the applicant to make the statement correctly and witness her signature. There is as little publicity, therefore, as possible. There was one other matter referred to in reference to this form. The form consists of one piece of paper, and folds up. On the back of it, for the assistance of uneducated widows, as many of them are, appears the address of the secretary of the Patriotic Fund, and the form is also stamped with a halfpenny stamp. Having put a halfpenny stamp on the form we thought it necessary to say, to prevent our being charged double postage, "This must not be sealed." It is now stated that we give a peremptory order that all the statements applicants make about their life should be made public. Immediately we found that was the case the Executive Committee had this direction struck off the form, and I am happy to say that we have a Sub-Committee who are at present (Carefully considering the question. I do not think, myself, that we can very much modify the form; but the suggestion of separating the receipt from the form is, perhaps, a good one, and it might be possible to adopt it and put a flap over Abe form so that it may be sealed down.

However that may be, I can assure your Lordships that the Executive Committee are as anxious as anybody to avoid all harshness or discourtesy, whether to the widow of a private or the widow of a Volunteer. There was one statement made by my noble friend which, in one sense, I am prepared to accept, and in another sense I cannot accept. He said, "Widows have a right." Now in one sense I accept that. If they require assistance they have a tight to it, but we have always maintained from the very first that the money which lie entrusted to us, and is often the outcome of much self-denial in those who give it, must not be wrongfully distributed. Therefore it is necessary to lay down lines of procedure, and to find out what private means an applicant has—whether she is the widow of an officer or a private. That is the cause of a great deal of friction and of many of the attacks upon us. In the Morning Post there was a letter from a gentleman, whom I answered, about a Mrs. G., a major's widow, who had at one time received an allowance from the Patriotic Fund. At last she made a report that she had come into £100 a year or more, which with her other means put her outside the limit, which is £219, of the Patriotic Fund. She had more than that sum, and therefore we were obliged to discontinue payment. We might alter the rule and make the limit higher, but the same thing obtains in the case of the widows of soldiers. If from private sources they are receiving a large sum we generally give them a small allowance so as to keep their names on the books, and, if they lose the good situations they are in, we put them on again to the full allowance. That is the line upon which we have acted. With regard to the second question, namely, what arrangements have been made by the Commissioners for the relief of the widows and orphans of the soldiers and sailors and of the Yeomanry and home and colonial Volunteers who may lose their lives in South Africa, I would point out that it was stated by Mr. Wyndham, at a meeting called by the Lord Mayor, that it was expected that some difficulty would arise in connection with Volunteers at the Cape, because while the Australians and Canadians are serving at exactly the same rates as our own soldiers at the Cape, in Natal they are receiving 5s. a day instead of 5s. or 6s. a week. Therefore it was obvious there must be some alteration, and it was proposed that a certain sum in those cases should be paid down. We consulted the Agents General of the two colonies. The Agent General of the Cape was satisfied with the proposal we put before him of £50 down, but the Agent General of Natal thought it would not be sufficient, and the reason very soon became obvious. I am happy to know that the Cape Government have promised pensions to the widows, and I believe the same thing is going to be done in Canada; but in Natal, which is a poorer colony, and has suffered much by the war, I suppose that cannot be expected. At all events, as soon as we hear from the Cape we shall deal with any of these cases which may come up in the most generous way we can, and in such a way as not to hurt the susceptibilities of the applicants. The same thing will happen with our own Volunteers. A great many of them may leave well-to-do widows, and it might be an insult to offer 5s. or 6s. a week in these cases. Therefore I think we should give them the option of a weekly sum or a donation down. We shall also be most pleased to adopt the suggestion to consult the Agents General of the Colonies in the case of colonial Volunteers, and the county committees in the case of Volunteers at home. Another suggestion made by my noble friend Lord Northbrook was that we should avail ourselves of Colonel Gildea's committees. They are very valuable committees, but we have committees also at Portsmouth and Devonport, and, in fact, in all the counties where there are military or naval stations. We should be very pleased to have any help, and there is no reason why some of the ladies should not serve on our committees as well. I feel there is quite enough work in connection with the widows and orphans, the sick and wounded, and sailors' families to have three distinct departments. I do not think there is any danger of overlapping, because those who are looking after the wives and families left at home would immediately let us know if the husband was unhappily killed, and we should put the widow on our list. In the same way, if a wounded soldier died of his wounds his widow would immediately be put on our list. I have been asked what arrangements have been made by the Commissioners for carrying out this work. There exists a certain amount f jealousy of the Patriotic Fund, and an idea prevails that we are wrongly using the money. Certain local subscriptions have been raised, and committees in the localities want to have the management of them. I do not think there is any necessity to overlap here. We had a case the other day from Oldham, and the local committee boasted that they had got £7,000, and that they were going; to deal with all the cases of widows and orphans in the neighbourhood of Oldham. In the cases of one widow we did not grant anything because the Oldham Committee were going to make her a grant. But the Commissioners took care to place her name on their books, and indicated that when the £7,000 was exhausted they would give her a permanent allowance. I believe the same thing has been done in Liverpool. We have been in correspondence with the Provosts of Edinburgh and Glasgow, who wanted to know on what terms we would administer funds raised locally if they were handed over to us. I have had a most satisfactory letter from them accepting the lines of policy laid down by the Commissioners. The conditions laid down were that the money raised for the relief of widows or orphans and other dependents of officers and men who may lose their lives in the present war will be applied in its entirety, on the simple basis of using it for those for whom it is raised; that it will not be capitalised or the relief limited to the interest on capital; that all sufferers who fall under the above category, or persons entitled to relief, will be dealt with according to the circumstances of the case, irrespective of the regiment, branch of the service, or nationality to which the soldier or sailor through whom the claim arises may belong; that the widows will have to produce their marriage certificates, and information may be asked as to private means, and not only widows but dependent relatives of those losing their lives in the war will be entitled to relief on showing that they were regularly supported by the deceased; and, lastly, that the executive committee of the Patriotic Fund will avail themselves of the assistance of local committees in procuring information, and, if thought desirable, in distributing the relief. Now I come to the next question which my noble friend asked me—namely, "What funds are available from the old fund for the use of those suffering in the Transvaal War?" I am sorry to say there are none except the funds for orphan children. We have endowed girls' schools. There is an endowment by which Roman Catholic children can be supported in Roman Catholic schools, and there are nominations for officers' children to Wellington College and the like. These are perpetual, and as soon as vacancies occur they are available. Already we have in our Victoria Asylum at Wandsworth several orphan children from the Transvaal. There are also other funds we have to administer, which in one sense are available. These are the Zervudachi Fund, the Rodriguez Fund, the Royal Naval Relief Fund, and the Soldiers' Effects Fund. These are perpetual funds of which the interest alone can be dealt with. But the Zervudachi Fund and the Rodriguez Fund are now very full. The Royal Navy Relief Fund is a very small fund, but lately, under the order of our Commission of 1881, funds have been ordered to be paid over which will enable us to help more sailors and to raise the very small allowance of 3s. 6d. in the lower ranks to 5s. With regard to the Soldiers' Effects Fund, abuse has been poured on us in consequence of our not touching the capital and not utilising to the full the large income, which at present is £1,000 a year. As a matter of fact we have not filled the fund to the full, simply because we have not had the cases sent to us to enable us to do so. That fund has only accumulated by degrees. The War Office hare paid over sometimes £5,000 a year, sometimes more, but it will be less as it goes on, and there: is no chance of a permanent increase of the fund, or a large increase of the fund, because it came from the deferred pay and the sale of the effects of soldiers. Where we were not able to find out the parent the money was obliged to be capitalised, because any of it might be demanded at any time if the parents could be discovered. It is, moreover, a soldier's fund. In a letter which I sent to The Times, I threw off all the responsibility of the miserable 3s. 6d. allowance upon the War Office; but I must apologise to the War Office for having done so. I now find that we are responsible for it. When the fund was first handed over to us the War Office asked what allowance ought to be pro- vided. We then had the Royal Naval Relief Fund as our guide. The sum involved was very small, and we were only able to begin by giving 3s. 6d.; and our answer was that the Army and Navy ought to be treated alike. We therefore thought the allowance should be 3s. 6d.; but I hope that the War Office will now permit us to raise that allowance to 5s., as we have done in respect of the Royal Navy Relief Fund. If that is done it will absorb a great deal of the present unoccupied £4,000 a year which exists of that fund. I now come to the great cause of attack. Everybody is asking, "What are you doing with your great accumulated funds?" I find that on December 31, 1898—the Report for this year has not yet been published—the total of all funds—(we have some eighteen funds besides the original Patriotic Fund)—was £889,867. We have sunk £237,332 in the endowment of schools, nominations to Wellington College, and the like. We have capital sums amounting to nearly £181,000, and there are a certain number of sums amounting to nearly £4,500 which are absolutely required—I shall say a word or two later on about them and then there is an available surplus of £150,000. The Royal Commissioners are accused of alienating the funds from their original purpose. What business have we, it is asked, to take away funds from those for whom they were originally intended, and spend them in endowing schools and the like? The answer is—and probably I am the only member of the original Royal Commission who is still alive and can give it—that when we had first to deal with the: funds raised from the Russian War we had such an overflow of children that it; was perfectly impossible to find boarding-schools for them. We sent children to some boarding schools where the discipline was all wrong, and we got into hot water owing to the way in which the children were treated there, and from the first we felt the necessity of building the girls' school and the boys' school. But at that time we had no idea of endowing the schools. We believed, as everybody else did, that the war was likely to be protracted, and that the money was subscribed under that impression, so that when the war suddenly ceased, and actuarial advice had been obtained as to the sum necessary to deal with the case, we thought we were justified in using the surplus in endowments. That is how came about. The course we took was accepted by a Royal Commission and by Act of Parliament. As to the large balances, they are necessary to secure the allowance to widows. It stands to reason that, if you promise that you will give so much a year to a widow for her life or widowhood, you have to invest a certain sum to enable you to do it. The balances decrease year by year as the number of widows decreases. That is the real history of the great accumulations. There was a surplus of £4,000 from the Zulu War Fund, and we paid £3,000 of it to the general fund for the Army. Then we had at the end of 1895 a sum of £117,000, as to which we have been asked: "Why did you husband that up and allow it to accumulate? Why did you not appropriate it to other purposes?" The reason was simply this. There were a certain number of Crimean widows whom we were obliged to refuse because they could not prove that their husbands' deaths had been caused by disease or wounds received in the war, and therefore we thought it right and just to throw open this fund to every Crimean widow who had been married before the termination of the war. The old rule caused much heartburning and abuse, but under the new arrangement there was still more heartburning and more abuse. It was thought that the widows who would become eligible for relief under it would lie about 600, but, unfortunately, they jumped up to about 1,300. It was only possible to assist 500, so that there were about 800 unprovided for. It has been said that we are keeping these unhappy widows out of their rightful heritage. It is quite untrue to say that this was their rightful heritage. The sum had never been raised for them at all, but it was recognised that the door had been opened to them, and we are doing all we can to meet their case. At the last meeting of the Royal Commissioners we decided to submit the matter to an actuary to find out how far the remainder of these widows could be assisted, although this step will have the effect of eating up all the funds, which, I am afraid, will not go even far enough. I am sorry to have taken up so much of your Lordships' time, but before sitting down I should like to explain our mode of work. Our mode of work is illustrated by the manner in which we dealt with the Zulu War Fund. I mention this fund because a gentleman in another place pitched into us for the manner in which we dealt with it. The Zulu War Fund was a very small fund, and the actuary advised that in the lower ranks an allowance of 3s. 6d. a week only could be made to widows until their remarriage. This fund was examined by the actuary every three years, and it was found at the end of the first three years that so many of the widows had remarried that there-was a surplus. We immediately raised the allowance of the remaining widows to 6s. a week, and as more of the widows remarried it was found possible to renew the allowance to women who had been rewidowed. Out of fifty all but three were traced. We still found there was a balance, and we paid it over—we were blamed by a gentleman in the other House who moved an Amendment to the Address for having paid it over—to a general fund for the purpose of another war. I think I have given a complete answer to the accusations made against us. It has been said that we have dealt only with the interest of our funds, and have hoarded the capital, and that the original sufferers have in this way been defrauded. There is a complete answer to that charge in the eighteenth Report of the Commission, presented in July, 1880. The figures would be much better if I had them up to date, but I find that to the original £1,500,000 which was entrusted to our care and trusteeship there had been added, by dividends, interest, annuities, and changed investments, a sum of £1,502,000, and there had been given to the Russian war widows up to that time—1875—£1,518,000, or £18,000 more than the original sum, so that all the endowments and expenses of management and all the pensions have been met without encroachment on the original sum. Up to date we have helped from the Russian War Fund alone 3,047 widows of privates, 231 widows of officers, 5,168 children of privates, and 880 children of officers. As to the present war, I find that the Lord Mayor has transferred to the Commissioners £250,000, and of this we have expended £3,000 in relief. Immediate relief has been given to 319 widows and 315 children in anticipation of being placed on the fund, and 170 widows have since been granted weekly allowances, which have been paid in advance up to March 31st. Thirty-three dependent relatives have been granted donations; and three officers' widows and one dependent relative have been given assistance. We have been asked to state what we have done in order that it may be compared with the grants from other funds. We are bound to be guided in our grants by consideration of what the total claims on the fund may be. Before we squander our funds we must know how many widows we will have to deal with. Then we can try to make arrangements which will ensure the widows support for the rest of their lives and promise them greater benefits in old age. I am very much obliged to your Lordships for the kind way in which you have listened to what I am afraid has been a very tedious statement; but knowing the way in which we have been attacked, I am sure the House will not grudge the time I have occupied in explaining the position and endeavouring to wipe off some of the mud which has been thrown upon us.


My Lords, as chairman of the Royal Patriotic Fund, I wish to add a few words to what has fallen from my noble friend, who has given a very detailed account of our proceedings. I can assure your Lordships that, far from wishing to hoard money, the Commissioners have been desirous of spending it in the most proper and systematic manner. It is very easy to throw away money; but it is a very different thing to spend it in such a manner as to give the greatest amount of relief, not only at the moment, but in the future. That has been the object of every member of the Royal Patriotic Fund Commission. Those members only meet when it is necessary to support the executive committee, who carry out the work from day to day, and their duties have been so fully explained by the noble Earl that I need not further enlarge upon them. I hope your Lordships will understand that there is but one object which the Patriotic Fund Commission, from myself and every member of it downwards, has at heart, which is to enable the liberal and generous amount which is subscribed by the public to go to the fullest extent which it can in relief, but on reasonable and judicious principles. We are in communication constantly with the War Office—and, in fact, more or less we act under the direction of the War Office—and we are also in communication with other departments of the State. We are not able to do things offhand without any consideration. Of course, these subscriptions that are got up under peculiar circumstances have no sort of further control than the momentary impulse of the public and the subscribers themselves. We are obliged to look to the future as well as to the present, and we have endeavoured to do so. I hope it will be found the more this question is gone into that the attacks made on the Commissioners are unreasonable and most unjust. They may produce more money for the special subscriptions which have certainly been raised, and which, of course, have greater attraction for the public; but we do not look for attraction. We look for real advantage—permanent advantage and useful advantage—and that is the object with which Her Majesty's (Government originally, I believe, introduced the Patriotic Fund Commission; and I firmly believe the more this question is gone into as to the principles upon which we are acting the more it will be found that we have acted not on any irregular or unjustifiable principles, but on common sense principles. This is only, my Lords, what every individual who undertakes such tasks would have done his best to accomplish had it been left entirely in his own hands. I thought it right to add these few words to the full explanation which has been given by the chairman of the executive committee, who, with the other Commissioners, exerts himself to the fullest extent to do the best even under very difficult circumstances.


There was one statement made by the noble Earl which, if I understood it rightly, will give very great satisfaction. I should like an answer "Yes" or "No" to the following question—Do I understand the noble Earl to say that if ladies who are working different districts of the Soldiers' and Sailors' Families Association in different parts of the country send in authentic cases of widows who require relief, those cases will be put on the list of the Patriotic Fund? I need hardly remind the noble Earl that the Association works for the wives and families of soldiers and sailors, and not for their widows; but it would be very satisfactory if it could be distinctly understood that if authentic cases are sent in from the different districts, and confirmed by the War Office, they will be put on the list of the Patriotic Fund.


I have no hesitation, my Lords, in saying that they will be, and I will go further and say to these committees that the Commissioners will be only too happy to welcome their assistance.


A great deal has been said in the very interesting statement of the noble Earl, confirmed as it has been by His Royal Highness, as to future widows, but I confess I have a feeling for the Crimean widows. I should like to know, and I ask the question with the most friendly feeling, if the statement is true—and I gather that it is true from a letter from the secretary of one of the local committees of the Patriotic Fund—that there are still many Crimean widows unprovided for. I understand also from the noble Earl's statement, that there is still a fund of £4,000 annually available. If so, I should like to know whether that fund is going to be expended in the relief of these widows, or whether it is going to be distributed amongst the widows of the Transvaal War.


It is curious how difficult it is to make people understand. The £4,000 referred to is the interest on the money which stands to the credit of the Soldiers' Effects Fund, and, therefore, cannot be touched by any general funds including sailors as well as soldiers. It would be, I venture to say, a pity if that £4,000 was alienated from the soldiers' widows who are now applying for it every day. I have great hopes myself that we shall have sufficient funds to deal with the Transvaal widows, and I am perfectly certain that if we can only restore confidence in the Patriotic Fund Commissioners we need only make an appeal to the generous public to obtain sufficient money. I believe that there has just been placed on the Fund the last of the original Crimean widows, and they are all now provided for. But when we opened the door to every widow whose husband had served in. the Russian War, and who had married before peace was signed, we found that there were still 800 widows outstanding. At present the fund does not appear sufficient to deal with all of them, but we propose to lay the matter before an actuary.


The War Office, I need not say, is largely interested in the administration of the Patriotic Fund controlled by the Commissioners, and therefore I may be permitted to say a word before this discussion closes. I think it is idle to conceal from ourselves the fact that there has been a certain amount of dissatisfaction—I do not say for a moment well founded, but still dissatisfaction—with the procedure of the Royal Commissioners during recent years. I have no doubt that the Commissioners are closely tied. They are in the position of trustees, and therefore not entirely free agents. The noble Earl who spoke on behalf of the Commissioners suggested that they had been accused of defrauding persons, entitled to relief. My Lords, I never hoard any such suggestion made. I believe the only suggestion that has been made is that the Commissioners may have shown themselves too tenacious occasionally of the funds which they had to administer. Matters have been a good deal complicated quite recently by the manner—I will not say the unexpected, but the extraordinary manner—in which the public has subscribed to the various funds for the relief of the families of soldiers engaged in the present war, and I think it is natural that the public, having subscribed these large sums, a part of which will be administered by the Patriotic Fund Commissioners, should be anxious to know a little more about the methods which the Commissioners follow. A suggestion has, I believe, been made that there should be an inquiry of some kind, certainly not a hostile inquiry, but an amicable discussion as to the manner in which those different funds are administered. It is abundantly clear from the statement of the noble Earl that their administration presents many very complicated issues, and that the subject is one that will bear a little examination. What I think the public is most anxious for is that I in all these liberal distributions of money there should be no overlapping between one fund and another. I have no doubt that if the Royal Commissioners are approached, as I have no doubt they will be, in a most respectful spirit they will not discourage an inquiry of the kind which has been suggested.


I forgot to mention that we are actually at this moment assisting those whom we know to be widows and orphans. That, I think, is an important point. We give £5 to every widow and £1 to every child when we get the intimation from the War Office that the woman has become a widow and that she has children. Then we make our inquiry for the purpose of the permanent pension which it is intended to give. But we actually give, and at this moment we are giving, £5 and £1 respectively to 287 widows and 290 orphans. We have given a permanent allowance to 139 widows of this war, and donations to thirty-one dependent relatives. We have also assisted three officers' widows and one relative, so that it is not really a correct statement to say that we do not already assist to the best of our ability the widows and orphans.


I should like to say one word with regard to the question put by Viscount Knutsford. Originally the Patriotic Fund, as has been stated by the noble Earl the chairman of the executive committee, amounted to £1,500,000. That amount, with the accumulations, has been gradually exhausted, and there remains of that fund only sufficient, in the opinion of the actuaries, to ensure that the Crimean widows shall receive their allowances while they live. It will be seen that the Patriotic Fund has to be dealt with in quite a different way from a fund which has no permanent claim upon it. A Supplementary Commission was appointed in 1897, and the surplus, which amounted to £130,000, was placed into a different fund called the Patriotic General Fund. That fund was extended to cover the cases of those widows of soldiers and sailors who married before the end of the Crimean War, and whose husbands had subsequently died. When that fund began to be administered it was calculated that a far smaller number of widows of such men existed than has actually proved to be case. On investigation it was found that there wore something like 1,300 or 1,400 widows, and the fund, even in its present state, is not calculated to be sufficient to deal with all those cases. I understand that 500 cases have been actually dealt with, and that allowances on the ordinary Patriotic scale have been given.


We have not been able to come up to the Patriotic scale.


At the last meeting of the Commissioners it was decided to refer to an actuary to ascertain how far this £136,000, exhausting the capital as well as the interest, will enable us to deal with the cases of these widows. The noble Lord will at once see that we are limited by our means, and cannot go beyond them. The actuary will toll us how far we can go beyond what has been done at present to relieve all the Crimean widows.


Do I understand that the widows and orphans of officers and men of the embodied Militia serving in South Africa will benefit from the fund equally with the other branches of the service?


If the widows of Volunteers who have gone out share, I should think those of the Militia would share too.


They will undoubtedly share. We have given a distinct promise that the widows of all soldiers, whether our own or colonial, shall receive the benefit of the funds which have been subscribed.