HC Deb 04 June 1875 vol 224 cc1405-14

Clause 28 (Payments on death of children).

Amendment proposed, in page 30, line 24, to leave out the word "three," and insert the word "five," instead thereof.—(Mr. Callender.)

Question proposed, "That the word 'three' stand part of the Clause."


further proposed that under 5 years of age the sum receivable or insurable might be £6, and under 10 years of age £10.


expressed a hope that after last night's debate the slanderous statements which had been made with regard to the habits of the working classes would be for once and all abandoned. The remarks which had been made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer had been deeply felt by that portion of his constituency (Oldham). As the case the right hon. Gentleman had quoted was in the Report of Mr. Lyulph Stanley it might be accepted as tolerably correct; but it must be taken as an isolated case, and not be allowed to east the slightest slur upon his constituents, which for elevation and morality would bear comparison with any in the country. With regard to the concession which had been made at the instance of the hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. Callender) that was no special boon to the working classes, inasmuch as their right to insure for that amount (£6) was conceded by the Act of 1855. The change by dividing that sum into two parts was rather against, than in favour of, the working classes, and if any change at all had been made it should have been by increasing the sum from £6 to £7 or £8. If the Chancellor of the Exchequer would make a further concession, and instead of allowing two insurances of £3 each in two separate Societies, would allow the whole £6 to be insured in one Society, it would be a real boon. There were many instances in which there were not two Societies to insure in, or in which one was of such a character as to render the working classes unwilling to effect an insurance with it. He urged this strongly upon the right hon. Gentleman, as the working classes resented warmly any interference with their rights and privileges; and it would show to them that under recent legislation they need not have recourse to democratic agitation, as the redress of any grievance could be best obtained through the constitutional medium of their Representatives in Parliament.


said, the imputations that had been cast upon the members of the working classes had been felt by them most acutely, and he had, therefore, applied to the coroner of the borough he represented (Ashton-under-Lyne) and the coroner for Oldham, and they had severally informed him that they had never had a single case in which they had been compelled to withhold a certificate, and, so far as their experience went, there was no cause to suspect that the lives of children had been taken away for the purpose of obtaining insurance money from the Burial Societies. He therefore thought the Chancellor of the Exchequer would do well to allow a class who were remarkable for their prudence to insure in one office for the sum of £6, thus saving the double expense.


could not suppose for one moment that any hon. Member had intended to say that fathers and mothers killed their children to obtain money from the Burial Societies. He would ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he really entertained such a suspicion of the working classes as to refuse them a privilege which they had enjoyed for years. So far as he could see, the proposal now made could lead to no mischief.


said, he saw no difference in principle between the Amendment of the hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. Cal-lender) and that which had just been proposed, and therefore, after listening to the discussion which had taken place, he was willing to allow the whole £6 to be insured in one Society. There had been many remarks with reference to the kind of authority to which he had looked for information on this matter. The Report of Mr. Lyulph Stanley gave an account of the existence in Macclesfield of a remarkable Society. He had his information from Mr. George Simmonds, who was Secretary of an amalgamated Association of Burial Societies, formed to watch the action of the Act of 1855, limiting Burial Societies—the Act alluded to by the hon. and learned Member for Oldham (Mr. Serjeant Spinks). There were 10 Societies in this Association. Mr. Simmonds, writing some time after the Act was passed, stated that it had remedied many evils. He said he knew a case in which a child was insured in eight Societies, which would have produced £30 in case of its death. Since the Act the Societies had entered into arrangements between themselves, by which, in such a case, the insurers would only receive the maximum allowed by the Act, which would be paid pro ratâ by all the Societies in which the child was insured. This was interesting as showing how the Societies themselves had found out the proper mode of using that Act. They availed themselves of the clauses relating to returns, and printed inside their books of membership the special provisions of the Act. He (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) had been much struck by the communications he had received from working men, and the spirit in which they had conducted the controversy on a subject, as to which there had been undoubtedly much irritation. The deputations of working men which had waited upon him had discussed the matter in a reasonable, fair, and temperate manner, and had given him great assistance in his inquiry into the cost of burials. The working men all acknowledged that there ought to be no insurance which would give any profit over and above the actual cost of burial. Circumstances varied so much in different localities that it was difficult to fix an uniform rate: they had, however, fixed upon £6—which, although more than enough for the South of England, was hardly enough in the great towns of Lancashire and in the North of England.


remarked on the frequent changes of opinion which the Chancellor of the Exchequer had undergone with regard to this point, and congratulated the Committee on the fact that his suggestion for reporting Progress last night had been agreed to, inasmuch as it had given opportunity for a fresh proposition on the right hon. Gentleman's part.


, for his part, desired to acknowledge the great mastery of the subject which the Chancellor of the Exchequer had displayed.


believed the concession of £6 would give general satisfaction to the country.


said, he thought the House should pause before it sanctioned the £6 limit. He was of opinion that it would have been better had the concession just intimated by the Chancellor of the Exchequer not been made.


thought the Committee and the country ought to be thankful to the Chancellor of the Exchequer for the concession he had made in reference to this clause. There was no ground whatever for the imputation thrown on the working classes of this country, that because infant mortality had increased it was owing to their lives being insured by the parents. He represented a large constituency, and he warmly resented on their behalf the imputation cast upon them by those who objected to these concessions.


thought the Committee ought not to cast a gratuitous insult upon the working classes, and he therefore hoped the compromise offered by the Chancellor of the Exchequer would be accepted readily. He thought great credit was due to the right hon. Gentleman, as well for the knowledge he had shown of the subject as for the manner in which he had dealt with the Bill, and that both the right hon. Gentleman and the House had shown that they were not actuated by any Party feeling, but only by the desire of doing what was best for the country. He protested against those who had been striving to get what the Chancellor of the Exchequer had now given them turning round upon him and denouncing him for his concessions.


protested against the assumption that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had ever cast any slur upon the working classes. On the contrary, he had been just and considerate towards them. His (Dr. Cameron's) objection to multiple insurance of infant lives was based upon the belief that it would encourage baby-farmers to neglect their charges, and not that it would induce working-class parents to destroy their children for purposes of gain.


said, he had no sympathy whatever with the carping criticisms by which the Chancellor of the Exchequer's concession had in some quarters been met. On the contrary, he would join in giving his most hearty thanks to him for what he had done in connection with this matter.


said, a Society existed in his neighbourhood which granted insurances on the lives of children, and no suspicion had ever been entertained that there had been any wrong-doing in the case of any of the children who died. He took that opportunity of expressing his opinion that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had acted wisely and generously in making the concessions which he had made. In the conduct of this Bill, the Chancellor of the Exchequer had manifested a desire to meet the wishes of those who were interested in this subject. If hon. Members had followed the example of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, a good deal of time would have been saved. Under these circumstances, he should not move the Amendment which he had placed upon the Paper—to leave out the clause.


said, he could not allow this discussion to close without acknowledging the kind expressions which hon. Members had used with regard to his conduct of this Bill. Ever since he had taken this matter in hand—now nearly four years ago—his only object had been to propose arrangements which he believed to he best for the classes for whom these Societies existed. He had had a good deal of anxiety on one or two points connected with the Bill, and he admitted that from time to time he had been com- pelled, in the course of the discussions on this Bill, to abandon opinions which he had formed after due deliberation. He ventured to make an observation the other day in the country to the effect that he remembered reading a book written by a Frenchman, in which the author said that when he had been three weeks in this country he could write a book giving a full account of it; that when he had been here a year, he discovered that it would take much more time than he had supposed; but when he had resided here two years he discovered he had undertaken a task that was well nigh impossible. So with this question. Having begun to study the question of Friendly Societies about four years ago, he (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) thought it was an easy one; but the more he studied it, the more difficult he found it. But one thing he observed with regard to the working people from whom these Societies had sprung, and that was that they were conducting their business in a spirit and manner from which they all could learn, AU the lessons he had learnt on this matter he had learnt from working men.

Amendment (Mr. Callender) negatived.

Amendment (Mr. Hopwood) agreed to.

Words inserted.


, referring to the sub-section of Clause 28, said, the words "all persons and bodies corporate and unincorporate" were introduced to meet the case of certain Insurance Companies which were not registered as Friendly Societies, and yet were doing industrial business. The principal of them was the great Prudential Assurance Company. These Companies were at present outside the law, and there was a great deal of difficulty in ascertaining what their position was with regard to the insurances which they had effected. The object of the clause as it was drawn was to bring these Companies, which were to all intents and purposes doing the same business as Friendly Societies, within the provisions of this section with regard to insurance. He proposed to introduce in some part of the Bill a full definition of Industrial Companies, and to strike out of this subsection the words "all persons and bodies corporate and unincorporate," and insert the words "Industrial Companies."


said, he doubted whether the proposed alteration would carry out the object of the right hon. Gentleman. He doubted whether the point could be cleared up except by adopting something like the Amendment of which the hon. and learned Member for Marylebone had given Notice.


said, he was inclined to think that the words proposed to be introduced would not include Burial Societies.


said, there could be no doubt that Burial Societies would be included. The point was what would be included beside them. The word "Society" in this clause was intended to include all Companies like the Prudential Company which were doing industrial insurance business.

Amendment agreed to

Clause, as amended, added to the Bill.

Clause 29 agreed to.

Clause 30 (Societies receiving contributions in two or more counties by collectors).


moved the omission of the words "in more counties than one (whether of England, Scotland, or Ireland)." If the clause remained unaltered, all collecting Societies would be divided into two distinct classes, one class carrying on their operations within the boundary of a single county, and the other conducting business in two or more counties. His intention was, by striking out the reference to more than one county, to give the clause a general application.


said, the object of this clause, one of the most important in the Bill, was to deal with Societies carrying on operations by the agency of collectors at a great distance from their headquarters—and, in fact, all over the United Kingdom—without being subject to local influence or supervision. It was in connection with such Societies that so many abuses had been found to exist, as there was a difficulty in exercising control over the collectors, who had the real working and management of these Societies. There might, however, be cases of Societies carrying on their operations within a single and populous county, such as Lancashire or Yorkshire, in a manner very little different from that of the more extended Societies; and, no doubt, it would be anomalous that a Society which happened to be on the borders of two counties should be brought within the meaning of the clause, while another Society of precisely the same character inside one of those counties was exempted. He would, therefore, accept the Amendment, but must limit the effect of the section by inserting words applying it to any Society receiving contributions "at a greater distance than ten miles from the register office of the Society." Interference with small local Societies would cause inconvenience and hardship.


feared that collecting Societies in large cities would escape from these wholesome restrictions.

Amendment, with the proposed alteration, agreed to.

Clause, as amended, agreed to.


objected to the second sub-section of the clause, which required the sending of circulars to members who fell in arrears. He knew it was principally intended to benefit those who inadvertently fell into arrears; but he was afraid it would favour dishonest men who systematically fell into arrears. The expense to the Societies would be something enormous. There was, for example, a Society in Glasgow which had 50,000 members. The average payments were a ½d. and 1d. per week, and it would cost quite as much to send them notices. He thought notice should not require to be served till the member was, say, eight weeks in arrear.

Amendment moved, to add at end of clause— Provided always, That such notices shall not he necessary in Societies where, by the rules thereof, it is provided that no member shall fall out of benefit until his contributions are at least eight weeks in arrear, and that a member may, on reasonable conditions as to the state of his health and the time within which he will again be in benefit, be restored to the full rights of membership, so long as he shall not be more than twenty-four weeks in arrear."—(Mr. Anderson.)


said, he could not agree to the proposal of his hon. Friend.

Amendment negatived.

Clause, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 31 (As to cattle insurance and certain other societies).


objected to the power given to Societies to cause members in all parts of the country to answer suits brought in the Courts where their head office happened to be. He proposed an Amendment to make it necessary for the Societies to sue in the Courts of the locality in which members resided.


explained that Irish suits would require to be brought in the Irish Courts. In regard to England, he thought it might be desirable to make it optional for the Societies to sue either in the locality of their headquarters, or in that where defaulting members happened to reside.


said, he would consider the matter.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause agreed to.

Clause 82 agreed to.

Clause 33 (Summary procedure and appeals).


said, that the Scotch appeal was to be in accordance with 20 Geo. II., c. 43; but as this statute only gave an appeal where there was malice or oppression on the part of the Judge, there would be no real and efficient appeal under the present Bill. He therefore moved to omit the words which would limit the appeal.


admitted that it was of great importance that there should be a proper appeal, and he would therefore assent to the Amendment, and insert fresh words upon the Report, if necessary, after the matter had been considered by the Lord Advocate.

Amendment agreed to.

Clause agreed to.


proposed a new clause—

(No Company depositing annual statements with Board of Trade to be affected by this Act.) No company or society corporate or incorporate, which deposits its annual statements or abstracts of accounts or periodical valuations with the Board of Trade in conformity with the provisions of 'The Life Assurance Companies Act, 1870, and Life Assurance Companies Amendment Act, 1872,' shall be held to be affected in any way by the provisions of this Act: Provided, That this Clause shall not refer to or be construed as exempting from the provisions of this Act companies or societies corporate or incorporate which grant assurances on any one life for a less sum than twenty-five pounds, and which collect and receive premiums at less intervals than three calendar months, and which companies or societies, but for this Clause, would have been held to be within the provisions of this Act. The hon. and learned Member said, the object of his clause was to exempt Insurance Companies from its operation, except so far as regarded Clause 28, and that was inserted because some of the present Insurance Companies might do the business mentioned in the Act, and then they ought to be subjected to the provisions of the Act.


said, it was rather a difficult subject. He was anxious to take care that these Companies were not unduly affected, and as there was considerable doubt upon the point, he proposed to have a conference with those interested on the subject before he assented to the proposed clause.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

Remaining clauses agreed to.

Bill reported; as amended, to be considered upon Monday 14th June, and to be printed. [Bill 196.]