§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ MR. BARNETT
, in moving that the Bill be now read a second time, said, that in the absence of his right hon. Friend the Member for New Shoreham (Mr. S. Cave), whose Bill it was, he hoped the House would consent to the Motion, and at a subsequent stage allow his right hon. Friend to state his case in favour of the measure. The collapse of great companies, whose liabilities amounted to several millions, was calculated to throw discredit on the whole system of life assurances unless matters were properly explained. He had no doubt the result of the inquiry would show that, with ordinary prudence in the management of life assurance business, such catastrophes could not occur.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. Barnett.)
§ SIR HENRY SELWIN-IBBETSON
said, he should not then canvass the merits of the Bill, but should on a future occasion take exception to Clause 4, which provided for the payment of the expenses of the inquiry out of the public Exchequer. Such a course taken in the case of what was essentially a Private Bill was very irregular, and would establish a bad precedent.
§ MR. H. B. SHERIDAN
postponed any remarks he wished to make until the Bill went into Committee. He would merely say that anything fair and just in the shape of a tribunal to inquire into the failure of these companies would meet with his approval.
§ MR. HERMON
said, he thought the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. S. Cave) had done good service in bringing in a Bill to make an investigation into a Society which had brought ruin to thousands of families; but he agreed with the hon. Baronet (Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson) that the expenses of the inquiry should not be paid out of the public Exchequer. He would suggest that some of the gentlemen who were receiving pensions from the Government should be appointed to the office of Commissioners under this Bill, and should be obliged to accept the appointment or abandon their pensions. He trusted the action of the Government with respect to the Bill would be closely watched, because it was not with an economical, but an extravagant administration that the House had to deal.
§ MR. CHICHESTER FORTESCUE
said, there was no doubt that if the sanction of Parliament was to be given to the proposal that this Commission of Inquiry should be carried on at the expense of the State a very strong and exceptional case should be made out. But he believed, for his own part, that the case was of a very exceptional character, and he could not help looking with some favour on the proposals of his right hon. Friend now absent. The arrangement proposed was a perfectly fair one, and meanwhile Members should suspend their judgment on the question.
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
said, that he was sure his right hon. Friend (Mr. S. Cave) would feel very grateful to the House for the consideration it had 1904 extended to him, and that he felt it to be a great disapointment not to be able to attend on this occasion. He (Sir Stafford Northcote) agreed in the necessity that the House should suspend its judgment.
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Bill read a second time, and committed for Wednesday 10th April.