HC Deb 04 March 1864 vol 173 cc1526-8

Order for Committee read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."


said, there was a strong objection to one of the clauses of this Bill, and he would express a hope that the Chancellor of the Exchequer would not proceed with the Bill at so late an hour (ten minutes past twelve o'clock).


said, that he proposed only to proceed with that portion of the Bill which was not objected to, referring to annuities, and to take what related to life assurances on another occasion, when it might commence the business of the evening, and a full discussion might be had on it.


begged to observe that Clause 2 was the debatable part of the measure, for it was one by which the Government proposed to undertake the business of life assurance proper to an amount of £100 and under; a question which excited a large amount of interest, and required full discussion. So far as the Bill related to annuities, he had not the least opposition to make, but he had been solicited to request the right hon. Gentleman to postpone the consideration of the objectionable clause until after Easter.


said, he was of opinion that the discussion of an. important measure of that description should not take place at so late an hour. He regretted that the name of the Bill should have been so unfortunately selected as not to convey an idea of the real character of the measure. In his opinion, it was one that trespassed upon the domain of private business, and, therefore, that it ought not to be proceeded with, except with great deliberation. He would, consequently, move the adjournment of the debate.


said, he could not understand why the House was asked to discuss that measure at that late hour. Before they went into Committee on the Bill, they ought to hear a statement from the right hon. Gentleman, which could not then conveniently be made. He was not prepared" to say that he would oppose any of the clauses of the Bill, but he had a strong prejudice against one of them, which might possibly be removed by the explanations of his right hon. Friend.


said, he was anxious that that stage of the measure should be postponed. The title of the Bill conveyed no idea of its real meaning. Instead of being a Government Annuities Bill, it was a Bill to enable the Government to set up as life insurers; and it must either prove a dead letter, or destroy the existing life insurance offices. He did not see what object was to be attained by dividing the Bill. If the measure only consisted of three clauses, there would be no difficulty in disposing of those which were unopposed when the measure came on for discussion at a future day. He protested against such a measure being hurried through the House, and would suggest that its further consideration should be deferred until after Easter, or, at all events, for a longer period than until Monday next.


said, he begged to join his entreaties to those which had already been addressed to the right hon. Gentleman to induce him to postpone the further consideration of the Bill. Its effect would be to enable the Government to become a great trading firm, to which the taxpayers of the country would be involuntary parties; and a measure of such importance ought not to be forced on at half-past twelve o'clock at night. The very classes for whose benefit the measure was designed were opposed to it. He had been overwhelmed with letters against the Bill, but had not received a single one in its favour.


said, he had given notice of his intention to move the omission of the second clause. He did full justice to the desire of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to advance the interest of the industrial classes, but in his opinion the Bill would not promote that object. The measure would not affect the large insurance offices, but there was a vast number of smaller insurance offices of respectability which were immensely interested in the issue, and those persons who were insured in those offices were proportionally interested. There was an office in London in which the policy-holders under £100 were 175,000, while there was a society for insurance at Liverpool in which there were no less than 345,000 members, which might be affected by the provisions of this Bill. The measure had been pressed on in a manner that was altogether unpre- cedented, and lie was quite at a loss to understand the reason for so much haste. If the right hon. Gentleman wished to pass the first clause he would support him, but the second clause touched upon a great principle, and the statement by the right hon. Gentleman respecting it had been misunderstood. They all knew what deferred annuities were, but as to Government insurances, unless the right hon. Gentleman could show how they were to be effected, the whole matter would require much consideration, and the Bill ought to be postponed beyond Monday.


saidthat,in his opinion, the opposition was unreasonable, especially as it related to a mere point of form which they had all understood was to be agreed to in order that a full discussion might take place on Monday. He was sure that the more the measure was discussed the more would its benefits appear.


said, that either there was a connection between the two parts of the measure or there was not. He was sure that the right hon. Gentleman was animated by the best intentions in introducing the measure, but as it had created considerable alarm he hoped ho would, in justice to himself, proceed with it in a full House.


said, he had been asked why he had combined two distinct subjects in the same Bill, and his answer was to be found in the history of previous legislation upon the subject. He was prepared to detach the two questions in considering the Bill, in order to give the House an opportunity of fully discussing the main point at a reasonable hour, and if the course which he had proposed were acceded to, he would be prepared on Monday to begin the discussion with the subject of life assurance. He submitted that the course he proposed was the obviously proper one, but if it were desired, he would agree only to go into Committee that night, without passing any of the clauses.


said, he hoped that the House would agree to the course which his right hon. Friend proposed; for the only object was to go into Committee, so as to secure the position of the Bill on the order for Monday, when a full discussion could take place.

Debate adjourned, till Monday next.

House adjourned at One o'clock, till Monday next.