§ Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee, read.
§ THE FIRST COMMISSIONER OF WORKS (LORD EMMOTT)
My Lords, I move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee, and in making that Motion perhaps your Lordships will allow me to answer certain questions that were put to me yesterday with reference to this Bill. One question related to the trustees. I then stated, and now repeat, that it is intended to nominate as trustees the Permanent Secretary of the Admiralty, the Medical Director-General, and possibly the Director of Greenwich Hospital. I was also asked about the contributions. It was stated that a very small contribution might entitle the contributor's dependants to considerable benefits under this Bill. This and other details will be settled by a scheme under an Order in Council, and I am authorised to say that the Order in Council will be laid on the Table of the House, so that any of your Lordships who are interested ill the matter will have the opportunity of looking at it. The original Naval Medical Compassionate Fund was set up by an Order in Council. It is easier 659 to make changes, according to the information gained by experience, under a system of Orders in Council. In the Act of 1861, which this Bill if it becomes an Act will repeal, a good deal of inconvenience was caused by stereotyping the method of subscription. Those are the reasons why the system of Orders in Council is preferred to setting out all the details in the Bill.
Another question that was put to me was as to the claims of the dependants of those who have subscribed to tins fund in the past. I should like, in the first place, to state that the number who have subscribed is very small—I am told not more than a dozen—since 1862, and the claims of the dependants of those subscribers are a decreasing quantity becoming less every year. The claims of the dependants of the subscribers of the old fund will, of course, have priority, as certainly they ought to have. Then, again, it was said that under the form of this Bill the method of distribution of the fund would be left entirely to the new body. I should like to explain to your Lordships that there is no question of distributing the capital of this fund, but only the interest on the capital. The method of distribution will again be settled by the Order in Council, and the distribution will be made only to the dependants of subscribers; but among those dependants of subscribers it is intended, as regards new subscribers, that the benefits of the Bill may be extended to widows who are in necessitous circumstances. I think I have now answered all the questions that were put to me yesterday, and I hope that the replies which I have been able to give will not be unsatisfactory to your Lordships.
§ Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Emmott.)
THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN
When we go into Committee, will the noble Lord in charge of the Bill move the insertion of words to give the priority which he mentioned to the persons who are at present either beneficiaries or entitled to become beneficiaries?
§ LORD EMMOTT
That will be made perfectly plain in the Order in Council, which will be laid on the Table of the House.
THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN
If there are existing interests and if this Bill is dealing with the fund under which those benefits are derived, surely it is usual and more satisfactory to insert words to preserve or to give a priority to the claims of such persons. I think that words should be so inserted; and if the noble Lord is not going to move anything I shall, when we reach the place in the Bill where I think they will come in, myself move the insertion of words and see whether or not he objects to them.
§ THE EARL OF SELBORNE
Perhaps my noble friend will allow me to add some words to the explanation given by Lord Emmott, as I have had the advantage of discussing this Bill with the Medical Director-General. The noble Lord opposite will correct me if I am wrong, but I understand that the corpus of this fund is not derived from the period since 1861 during which there have been voluntary contributions but from the period anterior to that, when all medical officers in the Navy were obliged to contribute to the fund. The Order in Council of 1861 was so unfortunately framed, as I understand it, that since that date there have been practically no voluntary contributors at all, or at any rate so few that their interests and those of their dependants cannot be said to constitute a very important element in the future administration of this fund. Therefore although I sympathise with the object which the noble Earl has in view I venture to think that the point can be met in the Order in Council, as Lord Emmott suggests.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House in Committee accordingly.
§ [The EARL OF DONOUGHMORE in the Chair.]
§ Clause 1:
§ Power by Order ht Council to regulate fund
§ 1.—(1) His Majesty may by Order in Council provide—
- (a) for constituting new trustees of the said fund and for vesting the fund in such trustees;
- (b) for filling vacancies in the office of trustee and for vesting the fund in the trustees for the time being without conveyance or assignment;
- (c) for vesting the management of the fund, the determination of the persons to receive benefits therefrom, and the distribution thereof amongst such persons in such body as may be determined by the Order, being a body representative of the naval medical service, either with or without the addition of representatives of the Admiralty;
- (d) for enabling all persons who are or who may hereafter become naval medical officers, or who may at any time have been naval medical officers, to become subscribers to the fund;
- (e) for determining the terms of subscription and the manner and time of payment thereof;
- (f) for making eligible to benefits from the fond the widows and orphans of all persons who at the time of the making of the Order may have contributed to the fund, and, subject to such conditions as may be prescribed by the Order, of persons who may after that date have become subscribers to the fund;
§ (2) An Order in Council under this Act may be altered or revoked by a subsequent Order in Council.
§ (3) The Acts mentioned in the Schedule to this Act are hereby repealed.
THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN
I do not know whether there exist any persons who at present are beneficiaries under this fund, but if there are such persons their interest ought to be preserved, and, as the noble Lord himself said, ought to have priority. For that purpose I move the insertion of a new proviso.
In Clause 1, line 27, at the end of paragraph (c), to insert ("Provided always that nothing in this Act or any Order in Council made there under shall abrogate or interfere with the rights or Privileges of any persons at present receiving benefits or entitled to receive benefits from the fund.").—(The Earl of Camperdown.)
§ LORD EMMOTT
I hope the noble Earl will not press this Amendment. As he knows, I was not aware that he was going to move it and I have not had an opportunity of having it carefully considered, but I am advised that it is quite unnecessary. I have told your Lordships that it is the intention that the dependants of the old subscribers should have priority, and that that will be made perfectly clear in the Order in Council. I think it would be better to raise the point on the Order in 662 Council than on this Bill. Anything that I say about a legal matter is, of course, worth very little for I am not a lawyer, but reading this Bill, as I did yesterday, I thought that priority was for all practical purposes given to the dependants of the old subscribers by the Bill.
§ LORD EMMOTT
They are specifically mentioned and nobody else is. I will not, however, argue that. I hope the noble Earl will not press the Amendment.
THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN
My Amendment seems to me to carry out exactly what the noble Lord himself said. If such interests are in existence or can come into existence hereafter, surely it is usual to insert a clause specifically preserving them. Bat if the noble Lord in charge of the Bill is really opposed to the acceptance of the Amendment, I will not ask your Lordships to divide upon it.
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
I quite appreciate the action of the noble Earl opposite in desiring not to divide the House on a matter of this kind, and I merely rise to say that I do not feel entirely convinced, although I have no special knowledge of this particular Bill or of the circumstances, that as a matter of custom and order a provision of this kind would be inserted in the body of a Bill rather than in an Order in Council intended to carry the Bill into effect. I should have supposed that the more usual course was that which my noble friend Lord Emmott has indicated it is proposed by the Department to take namely, to make it quite clear in the Order in Council, which, after all, is laid on the Table of the House, that such is the intention both of the Department and of Parliament.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 1 agreed to.
§ Remaining clause and schedule agreed to.
§ Then (Standing Order No. XXXIX having been suspended) Bill read 3a and passed.