HC Deb 16 May 1850 vol 111 cc106-8

House in Committee.

On Clause 1,


said, he entertained strong objections to this measure. The object of the Bill was to render policies of assurance upon lives assignable. The Committee was probably aware that policies of assurance, like what were called in law "choses in action"—namely, debts and liabilities—could not be assigned so as to enable the assignee to recover in his own name at law upon such debt or liability. Policies of assurance were practically assignable, because he was not aware that any difficulty had ever been made by assurance offices, when they were perfectly satisfied that an assignment had taken place, in paying the amount of the policy to the assignee on receiving a proper discharge. The proposal of this Bill was, however, to take policies of assurance out of the category of choses in action, to give the power of assigning such policies, and to enable the assignees to recover at law. No inconvenience had been urged as the ground for such a change in the law; and he considered that policies of assurance ought to be the last with regard to which this power of assignment ought to exist. There would not be security against gaming in policies. Not having had an opportunity of opposing the second reading, and objecting as he did to the Bill, as dangerous and impolitic, he felt it his duty to move that the Chairman do leave the chair.

Motion made, and Question put, "That the Chairman do leave the chair."


said, that the reason he had brought in the Bill this Session was, that it had emanated from a Select Committee of the House last Session. It had passed the House, and was thrown out by the House of Lords without any observation. He had therefore renewed it, thinking it extremely necessary. He admitted that the hon. and learned Gentleman was right in saying that life policies of assurance were at present practically assignable. They were, but it was with a Chancery suit hanging round them, which might be commenced at any time. But there was one important matter connected with the subject, of which the hon. and learned Gentleman seemed to be ignorant. On all occasions, so far as his experience had gone, the insurance companies required the personal representatives of the person insured to join in the receipt with the assignee or person receiving the amount of the policy; and the consequence was, that the personal representative, who had no interest in the matter, often required to be paid a sum of money for joining in the receipt, to the detriment of the holder of the policy, who had given full value for it. But an extreme difficulty arose out of the practice, where there might he no personal representative. He knew of one case in which a sum of 3,000l. was involved. The insurance office refused to pay the money, there being no personal representative to give a receipt. The policy had been assigned for a valuable consideration, and there was no simple remedy at law. But the hon. and learned Gentleman had given no sound reason, and had offered no practical argument, in opposition to the Bill. In Ireland life policies of assurance were frequently given as securities for loans; but the Bank refused to take the assignments as security, on the sole ground that they were not assignable at law.


deprecated the opposition to the Bill; which he declared his experience convinced him was necessary for the purposes of justice, to prevent the enormous litigation in Chancery which now was common in cases of assignment of policies. In one case, a policy of 5,000l. cost 2,300l. in Chancery litigation; and in another, a policy for 4500l. cost 1,800l. in Chancery, before the right of the assignee was settled, and in one case it was settled against him.


supported the Motion of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Abingdon. He thought the Bill was opposed to some of the recognised principles of English law; that it would operate injuriously on certain branches of life policy assurance; and that it would unnecessarily alter the present system in England and Scotland. He thought, moreover, the proposal would be attended with danger, and that no case had been made out which should induce the House to violate the existing law.


said, that there never yet was a Bill framed which could not be evaded. He believed that several cases of great hardship existed in consequence of the defective state of the law. He hoped, therefore, that the House would take a common-sense view of the case, and remedy the evil, no matter who might complain.

The Committee divided:—Ayes 69; Noes 66: Majority 3.

The House resumed.