§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ THE FIRST COMMISSIONER OF WORKS (LORD EMMOTT)
My Lords, this is a small Departmental measure which has for its purpose the appointment of new trustees and the reorganisation of the management of the Naval Medical Compassionate Fund. The fund exists for the benefit of widows and orphans of members of the Naval Medical Service. I do not think that your Lordships will desire that I should take up your time in further describing the measure, but if there are any questions I shall be glad to answer them. And if your Lordships agree, I should like to ask the House to pass the Bill through all its stages this evening.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Lord Emmott.)
THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN
My Lords, the noble Lord has introduced this Bill in a very few words, but I understand, at least as announced in the other House, that the intention of the Board of Admiralty is that this fund should be utilised for the benefit of dependants of medical officers who have been killed during the war. That is an entirely new purpose to which to devote this fund. By the Act of 1861—the Naval Medical Supplemental Fund Society Winding-Up Act—there was a certain Compassionate Fund which it was proposed should continue, and the interest was to be distributed among the orphans of those members of the society who had died and the orphans of those naval medical officers who had theretofore contributed. This Bill now proposes to appropriate these funds in an altogether different way and by means of an entirely new body; and although no doubt it is the intention of the Admiralty, as was stated in another place, to devote these funds to the widows and orphans of officers killed during this war there is not a single word in this Bill which enacts that. I only mention this because it is an instance of the very loose way in which Bills are passed, and this is especially the case with regard to what are called emergency measures. Almost every measure becomes an emergency measure in these days. 631 To take this particular case, what is the necessity of dealing with this as an emergency measure?
Let me tell your Lordships what this Bill does. It creates a new board of management altogether, and it places in the hands of this board the determination of the persons who are to receive benefits from this fund. It does not in any way say that they are to be relations of medical officers killed in the war; it never mentions the words "killed in the war." But it does much more than that. It enables persons to become subscribers to the fund; that is to say, it creates a new form of subscription. In the third place, it enables the board to make eligible to benefits the widows and orphans of all persons who at the time of the passing of the new Order may have contributed to the fund. Well, are there such persons? If there are, let me point out that the interest of the existing beneficiaries, if there are such, under the fund is not in any way preserved. The object of the Bill, no doubt, may be excellent. All I say is that it contains nothing to carry out what the Admiralty says is its intention.
§ THE EARL OF SELBORNE
My Lords, I think the protest of my noble friend is well justified, and that the explanation we have had of this Bill is inadequate. As far as I understand, there once was a fund to which all medical officers of the Navy had to contribute. That fund was wound up in 1861 and restarted on a voluntary basis, and now there is a sum of £10,000 outstanding as the capital belonging to this fund. I should like to press the question put by my noble friend. Does that £10,000 represent the capital accumulated during the compulsory period, or has it been partly accumulated during the voluntary period? Because if there are many members of the naval medical profession still existing who have sustained this fund by their voluntary contributions, surely it is scarcely fair to enable all the naval medical profession to draw upon this fund on terms equal with those whose voluntary contributions have created it. That may not be the position. I do not say it is. But it might very well be from the information which we have on the face of this Bill and the explanation which we have received.
632 It seems to me either one of two things. First, that this money represents the proceeds of a fund to which all naval officers at that time contributed. In that case it might very well be considered the legacy of all the existing naval medical officers in the Service, and all that would be necessary would be that the fund should be administered in the future in accordance with the wishes of all the naval medical officers. In that respect I wish to point out that under the Bill His Majesty may, by Order in Council, constitute new trustees of the said fund. I do not doubt that the intention is to make the trustees really representative of the Naval Medical Service, but according to the wording of the Bill His Majesty may appoint anybody, not necessarily real representatives of the Naval Medical Service or of the Admiralty. In the other case, if this fund represents to any extent the voluntary contributions of medical officers since 1861 it is scarcely fair that the fund should be thrown open to the representatives of the whole Naval Medical Service. I wish the noble Lord would look into these points and give us an answer when we come to the next stage. I would not advise my noble friend Lord Camperdown to endeavour to stop the Bill at this stage, but I think that before we proceed further we have a right to an answer to these questions.
§ LORD EMMOTT
My Lords, I shall be very glad to get the information for which the noble Earl has asked. With regard to the trustees, I understand that it is intended to appoint the Permanent Secretary of the Admiralty, the Medical Director-General, and possibly the Director of Greenwich Hospital. As regards the other point, I gather from the Preamble to this Bill that certain naval medical officers have contributed to the fund, and in Clause 1, paragraph (f), it is evidently intended that the dependants of those officers should have the benefit of the fund to a reasonable and proper extent. I am, however, quite content to put off the Committee stage of the Bill until tomorrow. I did not call it an emergency measure. It is not an emergency measure in the ordinary sense of that term. In the meantime I will obtain information about the specific questions which have been put as to medical officers who have recently contributed to this fund.
THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN
I am quite content to accept the proposal of the noble Lord, and I will draw his attention to the actual points. In the first place, are there persons who at the present time are enjoying the benefits of this fund? If so, I think if he will look at the Bill he will see that their interests are not preserved. And with regard to the way in which the funds are to be appropriated, it is left entirely to this new body. By Clause 1 (c) it is left entirely to the trustees to determine the persons who are to receive benefits. They may be any persons, myself for instance. And there is nothing in the Bill to preserve the money which has been subscribed or contributed. I am perfectly well aware—I give the Admiralty credit for this—that what they wish to do is to apply this £10,000 in a way which will be to the benefit of the Navy. But what I complain of is that this Bill does not do that at all, and that it places in the hands of trustees the power to apply these moneys in any way they see fit.
§ On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House To-morrow.