HC Deb 06 October 1831 vol 8 cc132-3

Mr. Wilks rose to present a Petition, which he considered well worthy the attention of the House; it was from the members of certain Friendly Societies, complaining of the laws by which such societies were regulated. One point of it had made some considerable impression on his mind; it was, that by the Act passed in 1829, all such societies were compelled to enrol themselves within three years: now, it, appeared that 10,000 such institutions existed at that time, and, although they had been previously enrolled, they were, compelled to repeat, their enrolment, which was attended with considerable expense and inconvenience, for the Magistrates of various counties would not tolerate the enrolment until the provisions, besides being approved by a barrister, had been examined by actuaries, whose fees were 5l. each. The Act directed that the Clerk of the Peace should file the rules of these societies without any expense, but, by the decision of the Magistrates, counsel and attornies were obliged to be employed, which subjected each society to an expense of about 25l. This expense was paid out, of the pockets of the poorer classes of the people, and the societies to which they belonged were compelled to incur this trouble and expense to obtain the advantage of placing their funds in Savings' Banks, and of being recognized by Parliament as communities worthy of its attention. He, therefore, thought that it was probable in the next Session of Parliament he should bring in a bill to remedy these defects.

Mr. Strickland

said, he had much experience in the affairs of these societies, und as he knew that many of their funds were not in the most flourishing state, he thought they ought not to be subject to the expense mentioned by the hon. Gentleman, which could never have been contemplated by the framers of the Act. He believed the expense arose principally from the misconstruction of the Act by Magistrates at the Sessions. He did not believe the practice was general of requiring the rules to be submitted to the inspection of an actuary. It was of the utmost importance, therefore, that the hon. Gentleman should make himself thoroughly acquainted with the circumstances before he attempted to legislate upon the subject.

Mr. Wilks moved that the petition be printed, and on that occasion he begged to be permitted to make some few further remarks, which struck him as being of some importance. According to the last, returns it appeared that nearly 1,000,000 persons were associated in friendly societies; he had, therefore, endeavoured to make himself acquainted with the law and practice on the subject, and he could say, that, some county Magistrates, and he would instance those of Cheshire and Warwickshire, required the rules to be examined by actuaries; other practices also prevailed, which increased the expenses improperly. It was, therefore, important that those hon. Members who attended Sessions, should make themselves fully acquainted with the subject, that the House might have the benefit of their advice in any future proceedings it might be necessary to institute.

Petition to be printed.

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