HC Deb 07 July 1858 vol 151 cc1064-7

Order for Second Reading read.


said, he rose to move the second reading of the Insurance and Assurance Institutions Bill. He might perhaps be met with the objection that, from the length of the Bill and the lateness of the Session, there would not be time to deal with it. It was true that there were a great number of clauses, but 150 of them had received the assent of the House in former Sessions, and the remaining forty clauses he thought would receive the assent of this House. Of those forty, five were necessary for the purpose of extending the benefits of English companies to Ireland, from which, at present, that country was positively excluded by the operation of the Insurance Act of Geo. III. He thought Her Majesty's Ministers would not object to this extension. Nine of the clauses referred to the guarantee business of Government. A practice had recently grown up by which insurance companies guaranteed persons employed in places of trust; but that guarantee business had been practically stopped, in consequence of the employment by the Government of one guarantee society which did not combine life insurance in its operations. He did not seek to deprive that company of its privileges, but he wished to extend those privileges to other societies, so as to enable them to trade upon equal terms. He believed that the Company to which he referred enjoyed its monopoly mainly because it transacted its business on the principle of unlimited liability, which certainly looked as if the late Government, which gave the British Guarantee Company its exclusive privilege, thought limited liability was good enough for the subjects, but that it was worthless where the interests of the Crown were concerned. No individual could become security for a servant of the Crown, because the moment he did so the Crown estreated the amount of the security, entered the judgment up against him, and caused it to become known all over the country. More than that, a person thus becoming security was unable to assign any real property. Some time since he became security for a matt in the War Office, and shortly afterwards he wanted to sell some property in Kent, but he found he was unable to do so, although the accounts of the gentleman for whom he had become security were perfectly correct and satisfactory. In fact, he found himself a debtor to the Crown to a large amount, and that his hands were seriously tied in consequence. It was therefore extremely difficult to get individuals to become security for servants of the Crown, and forced the individuals appointed to seek their security in a public company, all which went to enhance the percentage of the monopolist company. There were also clauses by which provision was made for the proof of birth; for a better mode of dealing with what were called days of grace in the renewal of policies. Provision was made for the better auditing of accounts of insurance companies. Power was given to the shareholders by requisition to have an examination of the accounts. There was a clause which dealt with the amalgamation of insurance companies, and enabled them to do so safely. These were the only clauses that contained no new matter. Another objection had been urged, that this measure ought to have been left in the hands of Government. He agreed in that general principle; and the insurance companies had waited for years for Government to take up the question, but they had waited in vain. These companies, indeed, had little to thank the Government for; and if they could be sure that Government would leave the question altogether alone, the companies would not interfere; but as they were threatened with legislation of some kind, he had come forward to propose a measure which would be equally beneficial to the companies and to the public. He thought, therefore, that under the circumstances it was better to leave this question in the hands of private individuals. He could not hope to carry this Bill through in the course of the present Session; but if he could obtain a promise from the Government that they would not oppose its introduction early in the next, he would not go further at present. He should therefore move the second reading, pro formâ, with the view of eliciting the opinions of the Government.

Motion made and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."


observed, that he wished to state distinctly that the Government were not disposed to give such a pledge. The Bill as it stood could be considered in the recess, and if there were any clauses which could be carefully incorporated in a Government measure, they would be accepted, but he was not prepared to endorse the measure of the hon. Gentleman. Indeed it would be absurd to expect that the Government could give any opinion on a Bill of 190 clauses, without going into it seriatim. He might state, however, that the Secretary to the Treasury had a Bill prepared on this very subject. When the Government came into office they found a valuable Bill drawn up by the late Government, and upon it the Secretary to the Treasury had drawn another, not in all respects the same. But it would he absurd to bring it forward without some chance of its passing, though he hoped it would be brought forward early next Session. This, perhaps, would not be very satisfactory to the hon. Gentleman, but he believed it would be satisfactory to the House, because he could not at all assent to the views of the hon. Gentleman, that a measure of this kind was better left in the hands of the hon. Gentleman. He admitted that the hon. Member deserved much credit for the pains which he bad taken in preparing the Bill, but, for the reasons he had stated he must oppose the second reading. He begged, therefore, to move that the Bill be read a second time that day three months.

Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day three months."


said, that as the Government was to bring in a Bill next Session, it would contribute greatly to the convenience of the parties interested if it was brought in at an early period.


said, that as the present Government intended to adopt the draft of the Bill of their predecessors, it was sufficient to induce him not to press his Bill.


said, he must take leave to deny the statement of the hon. Gentleman that respectable insurance companies could not venture to do business in Ireland. The most respectable companies, like the Sun and the Royal Exchange, did large business in Ireland, and never disputed any policy. But there were a set of reckless bodies which should be rather called "assurance" companies, which invariably disputed policies, and so conducted their business as even to lead to an impression that human life was not fairly dealt with. One of these companies, which professed to have a capital of a million, had assets to the amount of £8,000, of which £6,000 was composed of unpaid premiums.


said, he hoped the Government would take into their consideration the propriety of reducing the duty on insurances.

Question "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question," put and negatived.

Words added.

Main Question, as amended, put and agreed to.

Bill put off for three months.