HC Deb 16 April 1872 vol 210 cc1407-9

Order for Committee read.


said, that even in the view of the right hon. Gentleman himself (Mr. S. Cave) this Bill must raise very serious questions. The right hon. Gentleman could not but be sensible that nothing but the most extraordinary circumstances could warrant the House in going into Committee on a Bill an essential part of which was the proposal that the affairs of certain private companies should be examined by a Commissioner appointed at the public expense. He regretted that the principle of the Bill had not been fully discussed; and that being so, without offering any opposition to the House going into Committee, he must object to their proceeding that night with the clause which would authorize the payment of the expenses of the inquiry out of the public funds. What he wished to state particularly on the part of the Government was this—that the great reluctance which was felt by all Governments to interfere in any respect with private commerce of whatever kind had prevented them from seriously entertaining the question of life assurance upon a large scale. It had been attempted by the Government, and had worked satisfactorily so far, but within a special and limited sphere. But if the character of this business was such that it was idle to dream of any effective control whatever by policyholders upon the managers of companies, the time must certainly be considered to have come when it was the duty of the Government to examine with care whether they ought not to offer to policyholders an absolute and simple security for the moneys which they invested, and for the promises held out to them in the shape of Government assurance. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had made the practicability of this kind of assurance the subject of inquiry, and the experience which the Government had attained within its limited sphere had improved its judgment on these matters. It was most desirable that the House should have an opportunity of expressing its opinion fully upon the subject, and he hoped that when they came to the important clause of the Bill an opportunity would be given for its further consideration.


said, that as he understood the right hon. Gentleman he wished, when they came to the clause which provided for the payment of the expenses of the Commission out of the Consolidated Fund, that its consideration should be postponed. It was reasonable that an objection should be raised to going into Committee on a Bill of this kind at so late an hour; but if he lost this opportunity he had no prospect of being able to proceed at an earlier hour another evening. It was impossible for him to refuse the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman to move that the Speaker leave the Chair, and then report Progress; but he was anxious to explain the object of the Bill, which was for a public inquiry for the sake of the public, and not in the interest of the private companies whose cases were to be investigated, and with respect to one of which the Government and Parliament were responsible for having given what was practically a guarantee to it.


said, as there were some objectionable clauses in the Bill discussion was desirable.


observed that the Bill involved a most important principle, and it was understood when the second reading was passed, that ample time for explanation would be given at this stage.


understood the right hon. Gentleman to renew the pledge that if he was allowed to take this stage it should be done without prejudice, and he would at the proper time give the grounds of his proposal.


believed it would be irregular to discuss the principle of the Bill generally when upon clauses.

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

Committee deferred till Friday 3rd May.

House adjourned at One o'clock.