My Lords, I rise to ask His Majesty's Government whether they would have any objection to furnishing a Return of the various nautical charities existing in the United Kingdom, giving fall information as to their administration, the amount of funds at their disposal, how raised and apportioned, the qualifications essential for candidates desirous of obtaining assistance from these charities, and any other information practicable. In putting this Question, I may say that I do so simply because it is believed that certain funds to which our mariners are entitled have fallen into desuetude and are lying idle, when they might be of inestimable benefit to those who follow, or have followed, an arduous and dangerous calling on the high seas, or to those whom they have left behind in poverty or distress, simply because of the hand-to-mouth existence which a sea life means now-a-days. Our nautical charities are so sprinkled and scattered as to render it an almost impossible task for those having no alternative but charity to ascertain where and to whom they may apply. A Return of the kind I suggest would be valuable not only in this, but in bringing before the public many deserving nautical charities which are struggling along and in dire need of that pecuniary assistance which many of our shore-going public might give on knowing the beneficent work they were performing. I have been informed in this House that pensions are granted by the Board of Trade (1) from moneys voted by Parliament to masters who contributed to the Merchant Seamen's Fund previous to August, 1851, and who continued the contribution during the period of their service at sea; (2) from the Greenwich Sixpenny Fund to masters who served at sea for at least five years previous to 1st January, 1835, and who contributed 6d. a month during that period. I fancy that the Board of Trade are not, for instance, overburdened with applications for pensions from masters who have served at sea five years previous to the year 1835, and it is about time that such funds were put to some practical use. A proper Government Return would be of great help in this, and it would be a most useful document for any 268 who are connected with the sea or have a spark of sympathy for the service without which this great Empire could not exist.
My Lords, in answer to my noble friend I have to say that the Board of Trade regret that they are not in possession of the information which would enable them to prepare the Return asked for. The Charity Commissioners, with whom the Board of Trade have conferred in the matter, possess information only in regard to the charitable institutions supported by endowments, and these are classified geographically, and not according to the nature of the benefit. It would be possible to prepare a list of the endowed charities in which seamen are entitled to participate, but such a list would be an incomplete one of nautical charities., and the time and labour expended in preparing it would be out of proportion to the result to be obtained.