HL Deb 15 June 1926 vol 64 cc398-402

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, I do not think that I need detain your Lordships for any length of time over this Bill, but I ought to make a few observations on its provisions in moving that it be read a second time. As your Lordships are no doubt aware, the participating Governments contribute to the expenses of the Commission in proportion to the number of the graves of their dead. The United Kingdom has 452,730 graves; in other words, 81.52 per cent. of the total. Part VI of the Commission's Charter, which is dated May, 1917, provides, amongst other things, that the Commission is authorised and empowered to establish an endowment fund consisting of such part of its funds as shall from time to time be treated as capital. In the second place, it is empowered and authorised to receive the income which is produced from that fund and to apply it, together with all other income of the fund, for the purposes of the Charter. The endowment fund, when established, is vested in three trustees, whose names I will give your Lordships in a few moments; they are appointed with the approval of the President by the Commission itself under their Common Seal. Finally, the trustees are empowered to invest and to change the investment of the fund from time to time when they consider it is expedient so to do.

The Governments represented on the Commission agreed last summer that the work of the Commission had reached a stage when it was necessary to make a beginning towards setting up an endowment fund which would provide sufficient income to ensure the standard of maintenance of the graves in perpetuity. The income which it is estimated will be required amounts to something between £200,000 and £250,000 a year, and it is calculated that that income will be derived from a capital fund of something in the nature of £5,000,000 sterling. The British Government have therefore undertaken to ask Parliament to provide its share, which, as I have stated, is 81.52 per cent. of the total. This share will not be made over in a capital sum, but will be contributed by instalments, and since we are at present contributing fairly substantial sums towards current maintenance of the graves and also for certain constructional work which has to be completed during the next four years, these contributions from the Imperial Government will be small during the early years. The sums which it is proposed to ask Parliament to provide are as follows:—£50,000 for the years 1925–26, 1926–27 and 1927–28, £125,000 for the years 1928–29 and 1929–30, £300,000 in the year 1930–31, and a similar amount for each subsequent year until the capital sum thus accumulated at compound interest reaches the total of the British share of 81.52 per cent. of the total of £5,000,000 sterling. Assuming that these instalments accumulate at compound interest of 4⅜ per cent., they will provide our share of the £5,000,000 — namely, £4,076,000—in fifteen years, that is, by about 1940. The Dominions and other Governments concerned will contribute their shares either proportionately with that amount, or by means of instalments, whichever may be more convenient to them.

I said a few moments ago that I would give the names of the trustees. They are General Sir Herbert Lawrence, managing partner of Messrs. Glyn, Mills and Co., and a member of the Coal Commission. Mr. E. R. Peacock, who is a partner of Messrs. Baring Bros. and Co. and late director of the Bank of England, and Major General Sir Fabian Ware, who is permanent Vice-Chairman of the War Graves Commission. These proposals having been agreed, it was found that before the endowment fund could properly be set up legislation was necessary to confer certain powers on the trustees themselves. In the first place there is nothing whatever in the Charter of 1917 to incorporate these trustees, and in view of the fact that the trustees will have to administer the fund in perpetuity their incorporation is absolutely essential. That is provided for in Clause 1 of the Bill. Further, the Government having been advised that a special Act of Parliament is necessary to allow a corporation to settle funds on trust for accumulation, this point is dealt with in Clause 2 of the Bill. I think I ought to mention in this connection that as the headquarters of the trust are situate in Great Britain it is absolutely necessary that the trust should conform to our laws.

Before I sit down I should explain to your Lordships that this Bill is slightly different in form from that in which it was introduced. When it was on its way through the House of Commons the Bill, being a hybrid Bill, was referred to a Select Committee, and that Select Committee cut out certain provisions which were in the original measure. The provision that the Imperial Government's contribution should be invested in British Government securities was struck out and in its place a private undertaking was given by the Commission itself that this fund would be so invested. Next they deleted the provision that our contributions should be accumulated until the fund reached £5,000,000 or such less sum as the contributing Governments might substitute therefor. The Government were advised that under the Commission's Charter the Commission would be bound to apply the income of the endowment fund to the actual maintenance of the graves and that legal authority would be necessary to enable the Commission to accumulate the income in the Fund. On reconsideration, therefore, it has been decided to do this by supplemental Charter rather than by legislation. Lastly, a third provision was cut out from the original Bill, that the Imperial contributions should be subject to examination by the Comptroller and Auditor General. This provision was cut out because it was thought that if this was done so far as imperial contributions were concerned, no doubt the same procedure would be followed by the respective Governments and Dominions interested, and this would mean that the fund would have to be split up into four or five parts, each with its separate auditor. That would complicate matters very much and therefore this particular provision was waived. I beg to move that the Bill he now read a second time.

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


My Lords, notwithstanding that the times are such that economy at every turn is required in the national expenditure, I think you will feel as I feel that the maintenance of these graves is a sacred duty of the nation which we willingly recognise. The noble Earl has made a very clear exposition of the nature of the Bill and there are only two points on which I should like him to enlighten me. The first is this: Why is our contribution so great as 81 per cent?—our contributions to the numbers of the graves cannot be nearly as large. Secondly, is the contribution of the Dominions a contribution in aid of our contribution or is it a contribution supplemental to it? In the latter case my first difficulty becomes even greater. Subject to these two points I have not the least objection to the Bill, which I think is a thoroughly right one.


My Lords, in answer to Lord Haldane's question as to why our proportion of the total is so large, I am afraid I have not had time to work out the sum myself, but the total number of graves for which the United Kingdom is responsible is 452,730 out of a total number of 550,379, so I do not think that our proportion is very far short of being correct. With regard to the second question, so far as I am aware the contribution from the Dominions is supplemental to our own.

On Question, Bill read 2a.