HC Deb 17 February 1846 vol 83 cc1048-9

, in pursuance of the Notice he had given, rose to ask leave to bring in a Bill to amend an Act of the fourth and fifth year of his late Majesty Will. IV., relating to friendly societies, in order to give protection to those very valuable institutions. The first Act that had been passed for the regulation of those societies was the 10th Geo. IV., cap. 56, which was amended by the 4th and 5th Will IV., cap. 40. The object of those Acts was declared to be to give greater security and power to extend the objects of friendly societies for any purposes which "were not illegal." Now it would appear to every one not learned in the law, that those words were sufficiently comprehensive; but he was sorry to say, that very lately a doubt had arisen upon the subject, in consequence of a case which had been tried in the Court of Queen's Bench, in which Mr. Justice Wightman had pronounced judgment. That judgment had had the effect of paralysing the certificate given to those societies. The case had arisen in consequence of a dispute between the directors and one of the members (named Scott) of the South Shields Investment Friendly Loan Society. That society had duly submitted its rules to Mr. Tidd Pratt, who had certified it in 1841. The directors, on the dispute arising with Scott, summoned him duly before the magistrates; but they refused to entertain the case, which was finally and consequently brought before the Court of Queen's Bench, when it was ruled by Mr. Justice Wightman, that the society did not come under the provisions of the law. The learned Judge had said, "I am of opinion this society is not a friendly society, and that the words, 'for any purposes which are not illegal,' must be considered so as to bear some relation to the objects of the Act." Now, it would be probably found that two-thirds of the friendly societies in the kingdom might be disputed on the same grounds, and the object of his Amendment was simply to make more plain the meaning of the words, "purpose which is not illegal." Those societies were most valuable, and it would be a very serious detriment to their utility if they were not supported in time. The Amendment which he was about to propose had received the approval of all the persons connected with loan societies to whom he had submitted it, and it had the approval also of Mr. Tidd Pratt. With respect to the opinion of Mr. Justice Wightman, he should say that the Solicitor General had given another opinion, to the effect that Mr. Tidd Pratt was right in certifying to that very society the rules of which were now doubted. The Solicitor General had given a similar opinion with regard to another friendly society; and when they saw such doubts upon the subject it was evidently highly necessary that they should be removed. He, therefore, asked permission of the House, and the right hon. Baronet, to bring in a Bill to amend the law relating to friendly societies.

Leave given. Bill brought in and read a first time.

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