HC Deb 31 May 1875 vol 224 cc1186-202

(Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr. Secretary Cross, Mr. William Henry Smith.)


Order for Committee read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."—(Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer.)


, in rising to move— That no legislation with regard to Friendly Societies can be deemed satisfactory which does not provide in some way for compulsory registration and audit and for the gradual introduction in all cases of a properly calculated scale of contributions, said, he did not make this Motion out of any disrespect to his right hon. Friend, nor to stop the progress of the Bill; but he had placed the Resolution on the Paper because he was convinced that any measure dealing with such great interests should be stronger than the Bill now before the House or the question should be left alone. He thought the Chancellor of the Exchequer had been more or less "sat upon" by the great Societies, and had thus left entirely out of view the case of the smaller Societies. But the subject was one which materially affected the working-classes. The debate on the second reading was a weak and half-hearted debate, but as far as it went it tended to show that something should be done by legislation to put a stop to the frauds which had been practised on the working-classes in connection with these Societies for a long time past. That was the view of the Secretary to the Treasury. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said that 4,000,000 of people were directly, and 4,000,000 indirectly, interested in these Societies, and that the money subscribed by them was between £11,000,000 and £12,000,000; and he described it an heroic effort on the part of the people to save themselves from the degrading effects of the Poor Law; but he did not see his way to any compulsory legislation. The Bill proposed to register those Societies only which were already registered, 22,000 or 23,000 in number. Since 1795 it would be found that 36,000 Societies had been registered and of these about 13,000 had failed. His right hon. Friend took no account of the unregistered Societies, of which he believed there were from 18,000 to 20,000. Now he (Colonel Barttelot) had letters from various persons, members of Boards of Guardians, trustees and Secretaries of Friendly Societies, and working men in favour of his Motion, and saying that unless there was some compulsion in favour of registration and audit the Bill would be of little or no avail. He should like to know from the right hon. Gentleman what objections he had to his Motion. The right hon. Gentleman's Bill would undoubtedly operate most beneficially on some of these Societies by causing 22,000 or 23,000 of them to be at once registered under its provisions and by requiring a quinquennial valuation of their property. The latter provision was the most valuable one in the Bill, and he was only surprised that the hon. Member for Stafford (Mr. Macdonald), who was so much in favour of his proposal, should object to it. Every one connected with these Societies must be anxious to know whether they were in a state of solvency or not. Hon. Members would probably recollect the circumstances of a trial held at Liverpool at the beginning of the year, with reference to frauds committed on the Blackburn Burial Society. In that case one Crossley was arraigned for stealing the key of a certain chest belonging to the Society, and appropriating to his own use the deeds it contained; and it appeared that his father, who had been the secretary of the institution, had been during his life what the world called a most respectable and flourishing man, and that after his death he had been buried with all the pomp and circumstance of an alderman. It soon afterwards, however, turned out that all his respectability was fictitious, and that he had been guilty of great frauds upon the Society. But who were the auditors of this Society, which numbered 120,000 members, and possessed £20,000 of assets?—why they were two members of the Society who had been made the tools of Crossley, who kept two bank books—a forged one for the inspection of the auditors and a real one for the use of the bank. The fact was, that auditors should be men sent down by the Government who had nothing whatever to do with the Societies. He wished to know why village clubs should not come within the operation of this Bill and be properly audited. There were at least 20,000 of these clubs spread all over the country, and many of these after being in existence from four or five years became insolvent and swallowed up all the hard earnings of the poor people who had entrusted them with their savings. There were also many instances of other small clubs that had taken the money of subscribers for periods varying from 10 to 40 years, and had then become insolvent, and many of these poor people who had subscribed for these various terms were now in the union workhouses. He wished to know why the right hon. Gentleman had ignored all these clubs, and had excluded them from the operation of the Bill, when it was a matter of notoriety that they had failed by thousands? Parliament had raised the status of the poorer classes, it had educated their children, and they were earning better wages; and the first thing that that House should do was to see that they did not invest their savings in rotten clubs of the kind he had referred to. If those clubs were allowed to go on as they were doing now, this Bill would not have touched the real plague spot of our whole agricultural system. No doubt it would be a great thing to pass a Bill of this kind, but it would be a much greater thing to pass a Bill that was effective. If we wished to improve the condition of the labourers, we must make them thrifty and saving; and if we could not make them sober by Act of Parliament, we could, at all events, offer them the means of investing their savings securely. He hoped that the right hon. Gentleman might see his way to make this Bill something else than a sham one, and would so shape it that it would maintain all the good that must accrue from encouraging thrift among the people, and thus add much to the moral and future well-being of a most industrious and deserving class.


, in seconding the Motion, craved the indulgence of the House on the occasion of his addressing it for the first time, while he advanced what he considered an important point. One of the principal objects of the Bill was to render the investments of the working classes in these Societies secure. Therefore, the purpose of their legislation should be to make these Societies solvent. But that was impracticable. But if that was impossible—if we could not guarantee the solvency of these institutions—we could, at all events, give the intending investors in them such accurate information respecting their condition as would enable them to judge fairly what risk they were running in investing their savings in them. He suggested that a system of discriminating certificates should be united with that of mere registration; because under the present practice there was an idea prevalent among the poorer and more ignorant classes that mere registration was in itself a guarantee of the solvency of these Societies. It was, in his opinion, very important that investors and intending investors in those Societies should be led to inquire as to the difference between one class of certificate and another, and to find out what was the meaning of registration and the result of obtaining a certificate. If they were to legislate for the advantage of the working classes, they ought to look to the causes of the failures which occurred in those Friendly Societies. Apart from fraud and mismanagement, he believed that one chief cause—if not the chief cause—of their failure arose from the fact that the rates of contribution to the Societies were totally inadequate to the benefits which they proposed to confer. There ought, in fact, to be two classes of certificate, and the higher class should only be granted by the Registrar in the case of those Societies which had rates of contribution which, at least, held out hopes of being equivalent to the benefit proposed to be given. This would have the double effect of showing investors and intending investors which of the Societies was most likely to be solvent, and it would act as a stimulus to Societies of the second class to raise themselves to the level of the first. In the interests of the poorer classes of the country, it was only fair and right and proper that a distinction should be drawn between the Societies which were solvent and those which were not in a prosperous condition.

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "no legislation with regard to Friendly Societies can be deemed satisfactory that does not provide in some way for compulsory registration and audit, and for the gradual introduction in all cases of a properly calculated scale of contributions,"—(Colonel Barttelot,) —instead thereof.


said, he entirely agreed with the hon. and gallant Member for West Sussex that all Friendly Societies should be brought under a system of registration: he believed that such Societies were far more numerous than was generally supposed. He found by the Report of the Royal Commission on Friendly Societies that the unregistered Benefit Societies were more numerous than the registered, and he submitted to the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer that the existence of such a state of things must produce the most mischievous consequences. In the first place, its existence inflicted a great injustice on those Societies which were registered, in this way—the Bill compelled registered Societies to have their accounts regularly audited; it imposed on them the obligation of submitting their accounts for an annual inspection, all of which must be done at considerable expense; and, while he by no means objected to such inspection, he thought to exempt unregistered Societies from the same obligation was committing a great injustice. Their business was conducted, as a rule, with less care; the security given was not so good; and yet because they were not registered they were entirely exempt from these obligations. He thought it unfair to allow them the option of withholding from registration, and so escaping the obligations imposed upon their more open competitors. He could not see how effect could be given to the 30th clause when there were many unregistered Societies, the existence of which was unknown to the Registrar, and which were at present not bound to give even the address of their central office or the names of their executive officers. It was said that the members might appeal if such Societies broke the law; but they were usually too poor to bring such a charge. The great Societies, such as the Foresters and the Liverpool Friendly Society, which had large funds invested in Government securities, and which numbered 500,000 or 600,000 members, were registered; but there were innumerable smaller Societies, whose funds and members amounted in the aggregate to very large totals, which were unregistered, and so escaped the obligations imposed by the Act. The only way of dealing with such Societies was to compel them to be registered, and to bring them within the operation of the Act. They ought, at all events, to he brought under the conditions of audit, of making an annual return of revenue and expenditure, and of adopting certified tables of contributions. Only by such means could the members know that the business of a Society was conducted on a sound and satisfactory basis. As the Bill now stood, it would leave untouched the unregistered Societies, which the Royal Commission recommended in their Report should be dealt with in such manner as would compel them to register.


said, he believed that the Bill would confer great benefits on a very deserving section of the community, but he wished that its scope had been more comprehensive. It laid down excellent regulations for the Societies which it proposed to regulate, but it did not interfere in the slightest degree with the smaller and unregistered Societies. They were often founded on an unsound basis, and their scale of contributions was so calculated that, unless they obtained fresh members, they necessarily became insolvent. These unsound Societies attracted members by the smallness of their payments, and thus prevented persons from belonging to Societies which demanded a sufficient scale of contributions. Many of these Societies were recklessly broken up. If they were registered and came under the Bill they could not be broken up without obtaining the consent of five-sixths of their members; but as long as they were unregistered there was nothing to interfere with them. It was very hard, indeed, upon these poor and ignorant persons who had been enticed to become members of such Societies, and who contributed their hard earnings to the funds in the expectation of having a provision in time of need for themselves and their families, that their hopes should be liable to be destroyed through want of proper supervision. With regard to the village Societies, he feared that unless some measure was framed to show their actual state the members could not be brought to believe that they were in an insolvent condition. Those who managed them had no inducement to allow the truth to be known, and the members could not of themselves discover their actual condition. There was great reason to apprehend, from passages in the Blue Book, that an injudicious administration of out-door relief by the Poor Law Guardians was acting injuriously on these Societies. When the labouring classes were allowed to entertain certain expectations of relief from the Board of Guardians they had no inducement to lay by a portion of their savings for old age.


said, he thought the House was much indebted to the hon. and gallant Member for West Sussex for introducing this discussion. He had told them very clearly that this Bill did not, after all, meet the evil which of all others it ought to meet. What had brought this question so strongly before the country, and had at length induced the Government to take it up, was to a great extent the state of the small clubs and Societies throughout the Kingdom, many of which, though originally established with the most praiseworthy motives, were very unsound and in a state almost to insure the loss of the subscribers' money. Now, he knew nothing which would induce hard-working men and women to lay by a portion of their earnings so much as a feeling of security and confidence in doing so; and it was because they had not that security and did not feel that confidence at present that a Committee had been appointed and Bills had been brought in. But he very much doubted whether the object would be attained by the Resolution proposed by the hon. and gallant Member. If the hon. and gallant Member went to a division, much as he sympathized with his object, he did not know that he should vote for the Resolution as it stood. In the first place, he supposed it would destroy the Bill, for he did not imagine that the Bill could at that stage be remodelled to the extent of compelling Societies to be registered—the Bill must therefore be laid aside for this Session. But the Government next Session, might give them a Bill which would really effect this object. But when it came to the question whether they should pass a law compelling registration he must ask how were they to deal with societies for not complying? They could not make it a crime if men would break the rules of actuaries, as if they broke the laws of the land. All they could do was to ignore them and give them no privileges. He hoped the Chancellor of the Exchequer would let them clearly understand, before going into Committee, the exact position of an unregistered Society, to what extent, if any, they would give privileges to such Societies, and how far they would give them a legal status. Would registration alone be effective? They must remember what the hon. and gallant Member (Colonel Barttelot) had stated as the effect of the letters he had received—that registration of legality without guaranteed solvency would do more harm than good. He understood the principle upon which the Chancellor of the Exchequer had framed his Bill to be to tempt Societies to register. But to tempt them to register there must be an inducement to do so. Now registration was an acknowledgment by the State; and an acknowledgment by the State which did not give real security would do no good, and was very likely to do a great deal of harm. In this respect the present Bill was, he thought, less effective than the Bill of last year. The Chancellor of the Exchequer stopped short, too much impressed by the deputations which had been brought to bear upon him. He had not gone so far as he ought to have gone as Chairman of that Commission, which had so thoroughly gone into this subject. What they should demand from these Societies as the requisites for being considered anything like secure associations for the investment of savings were—first, safe tables; and, secondly, sound management. If they did not deal with these Societies in a considerate way they would do harm, and he believed the Chancellor of the Exchequer was anxious to aid by legislation in placing them on a secure basis. The Government might offer good tables and force the officers of the Societies to give information to the public and to the Department looking after them as to their position from time to time, so that subscribers might know that it was safe. And here he might remark that the Manchester Union by taking these very measures had greatly improved their financial condition and extricated themselves from a position of great difficulty. The first of these things the Bill did—it provided that the Government should offer to any Society that would take them tables calculated upon a sound basis; but it seemed of even more importance that they should compel information to be given to the members of such Societies. Here the Chancellor of the Exchequer had stopped short of what he ought to do. No doubt there was to be a quinquennial valuation; but who was to be the valuer? He was to be appointed by the Society. The whole advantage of such a valuation would be neutralized unless they insisted that the officer should, through the Government, be responsible and fit for his office. Then came the other requisite—a sound and an honest management of the Society from year to year. That depended mainly on the accounts, and the accounts mainly depended on their proper audit. Here, again, the Chancellor of the Exchequer had done far less than he ought to have done. If the audit was to be conducted by men appointed by the Societies, with no check upon them from without, we might as well not demand any audit whatever. Such a sham provision for an audit not only would do no good, but might cause the Bill to do great harm. These persons who had it in their power either intentionally or ignorantly to lead on these Societies in the "road to ruin," should be placed under independent check; care should be taken that the persons appointed auditors and managers should be independent of influence and favour, and well fitted for the duties of the office; and the accounts of the Societies should always be subjected to an independent audit. If the Societies did not comply with the requisition for a real audit and valuation, why should they be registered at all? The chief privilege which a Society gained by registration was the status it conferred, and, therefore, it was the duty of Parliament to attach to registration real and substantial conditions. This cast a great responsibility on Parliament—they ought to see that no Parliamentary or Government sanction was given to Societies which did not provide for a real bonâ fide valuation and audit. If the alterations he had indicated were not made, he thought the right hon. Gentleman ought to restore that clause which, in the Bill of last year, stated that registration should not be taken to imply that the rules were legal or that the Society was established on a sound basis. He was not surprised at the right hon. Gentleman having omitted these words, because they appeared last year to be a condemnation of his Bill. If, however, the right hon. Gentleman did not desire the audit to be a real one, it would be hardly just to the working people now to omit those words which explained that he was giving no real security by registration. Whatever might have been the number of deputations from Societies which had waited on the right hon. Gentleman, he believed he would be supported in these Amendments in the direction of increased stringency by the larger Societies. The Odd Fellows in his own borough (Bradford) appeared to be quite in favour of amendment upon both the points he had mentioned, and he thought it would be found that this was the case among the Odd Fellows throughout the country. It would be for the convenience of the House if the right hon. Gentleman would state in a few words the extent to which the Bill had been altered by recommittal—for it was not easy, in comparing the two Bills, to ascertain what were the principal alterations.


said, he was afraid he could not say more than that he did not think that the alterations made on re-committal were of any great consequence. The alterations which had stood on the Paper in his own name had now been adopted into the Bill; and, in like manner, many Amendments which had been suggested by hon. Members, and of which he approved, had been introduced into the measure. He thought the most important of these improvements was one giving greater freedom in the investment of funds. He agreed with the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. W. E. Forster) in thanking his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for West Sussex for having given to the House an opportunity for the present discussion. Considering how long a time had elapsed since the Bill was read a second time, it was right that before going into Committee—if they did go into Committee—something should be said about the principle involved in the measure. He could not complain either of the tone or the substance of the remarks which had been made in the course of this brief debate. With the objects, the wishes, the aspirations—if he might so term them—of those who had spoken he most cordially sympathized and agreed. To a very great extent almost everything which had been suggested had at one time or other passed through his own mind; and he had been brought—unwillingly in some cases—to the conclusion that we could not at present go much, if at all, further than the Bill as it now stood. His hon. and gallant Friend (Colonel Barttelot) had said that if the Government could not make the Bill stronger they had better let the question alone. As he could not accept the Amendment, if his hon. and gallant Friend induced the House to accept it the Bill would drop. He doubted whether this would be a satisfactory result. It was not correct to say that the present Bill owed its origin to the complaints which had been made with regard to the management of the small Societies. No doubt, that was an element in the case, but there were a great many other reasons—the Bill was the result of many causes, which led in the first instance to the appointment of a Royal Commission. He would mention some of the real objects of the Bill, because he thought the popular mind had not sufficiently considered them. One of the great objects of the Bill was to establish the status of the Friendly Societies. Ever since the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of London, when Chancellor of the Exchequer, brought in his Bill, which was not carried, to abolish registration altogether, these Societies had been under a reproach and uncertain as to what their status might be; and the consequence was that a great deal of dissatisfaction existed. This uncertainty had led some Societies to advocate an absolute discontinuance of all connection of the State with them. Others maintained that they ought to be turned into joint-stock companies. Others, again, held that it was the duty of the State to undertake the business for which Friendly Societies were established. By the present Bill a good many amendments in the existing law were proposed, of a nature tending to remove that dissatisfaction; and if it was not passed, and Government were unable—as he feared they would be—to bring in a measure which would please his hon. and gallant Friend, the present system would remain, with all its blots made patent. One object of the Bill was to put a stop to the system by which unregistered Societies, by merely depositing their rules, acquired important privileges. It was proposed, moreover, to unite the three registries at present existing for the different parts of the United Kingdom, so that in future there should be one only. The present plan gave rise to much inconvenience, and even to positive injustice. It was intended also to give an appeal from decisions of the Registrar. Then it was proposed to give greater facilities to affiliated Societies. These Societies were doing the best of the work. They were the standard-bearers in the great reforms which were being accomplished, and but for them the cause of the Friendly Societies would have been in a much more backward condition than it was. Much inconvenience was caused to the affiliated Societies by the requirement that every separate branch should be registered. In this respect, and in others, it was intended to improve their position. It was proposed also to require additional returns and to enforce valuations. In Committee it might be found possible to go still further in this direction; but, however that might be, there could be no doubt that the provisions of the Bill went a considerable way in advance of the present system, and it seemed to him that if they could not gain their end all at once, it would be better to go step by step than to hold back altogether. What he desired was that they should endeavour to enforce that which it was practicable to enforce, and then trust to those who had the means of influencing public opinion, and of watching the Societies to give effect to the sound principles which had begun to be generally adopted throughout the country. The small Societies had been spoken of as if they were in a most hopeless state, and as if somehow, by legislation, they were to be got out of it. He did not deny that a great many of them were in a most unsatisfactory position; but it seemed to him the only way in which a remedy could be applied was by making them, and those who had the power of advising them, thoroughly aware of the facts of the case. When the facts were known, the means of getting them out of their difficulties would not be far to seek. The Manchester Unity had had the courage to look their financial position boldly in the face, and the consequence was that they had reduced a deficiency of over £3,000,000 to a deficiency of over £1,000,000, and in the course of a few years they would extinguish their deficiency altogether. They had done that in the only way in which it could be done—namely, by increasing the contributions in some cases and by reducing the benefits in others. It was only by adopting a similar course that other Societies could set themselves right, and it was not making too great an appeal to the enlightened and liberal spirit of English Gentlemen to ask them to help in getting them out of their difficulties in the first instance, and placing them on a sound footing. The hon. and gallant Member for West Sussex had told them that the village clubs were in a bad way because they did not register. But that was not necessarily so. In the case of one local club in Somersetshire (Staple Fitzpaine), which was mentioned in the Report of the Commissioners, the clergyman of the parish (the Rev. Mr. Portman), although he had not given much in money, had given his advice and assistance to the club, and enabled the working men to conduct it on thoroughly sound principles, and many gentlemen would know what had been done at Abbot's Arm, under the guidance of the late lamented Mr. Best. Other clubs might do the same. Again, county Societies might be established, like those in Hampshire and in Wiltshire. They ought not to ask Parliament to do what it could not do. Three times in the course of this century—namely, in 1819, in 1829, and in 1846—Parliament had attempted to make solvency a condition of the recognition of Societies, and in each instance it had failed, as it would fail again if they renewed that attempt. Something had been said about pressure and about deputations. It was not because the Government had had deputations waiting on them that they had found it necessary to modify the original proposals of the Bill, but because in the course of discussion and consideration of the subject they had been convinced by argument. If the hon. and gallant Member allowed the Bill to go into Committee and would move such Amendments as would make the measure what he thought it ought to be, he would be ready to discuss with him the feasibility of those Amendments. The Government proposed by this Bill to insure greater strictness as to the valuation of assets and liabilities, to give greater facilities for checking fraud, and to enforce against auditors and others penalties which did not now exist. There were other valuable and stringent provisions to correct one of the most flagrant class of abuses—those connected with the collecting Societies. In conclusion, because that Bill did not do everything they could wish, let them not cast it aside and say they would do nothing. They had now an opportunity of dealing with the question fully and deliberately, and if the spirit in which that debate had been conducted was an earnest of the spirit in which it was intended to consider its details in Committee, he had great confidence that a useful measure would be the result of their labours.


said, that as, after the debate which had occurred, he hoped they would be able to improve the Bill in Committee, he would not press his Resolution.

Question, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question," put, and agreed to.

Main Question, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair," put, and agreed to.

Bill considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)

Clauses 1 to 3, inclusive, agreed to.

Clause 4 (Definitions).


inquired whether Life Insurance Companies came under the Bill?


replied in the negative.


said, that the Societies defined by Clause 8 were Societies which insured persons' lives, and that was precisely what Assurance Societies did. Would it not be advisable to have a specific declaration of what Societies came within the scope of the Bill?


said, that if there was any doubt as to what Societies came within the scope of the measure, he would take care to have that doubt removed. It had been suggested by some persons out-of-doors that the 80th clause included Assurance Societies; and the hon. Member for Mid-Lincolnshire (Mr. Stanhope) had given Notice of an Amendment to bring them under the provisions of the Bill. If that Amendment were proposed, he (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) should not be prepared to accept it. The 30th clause referred only to Friendly Societies, and not to Assurance Societies. There was a small sub-section in Clause 28 which provided that the word "Society" should include all persons or bodies corporate insuring children under the age of 10 years, but that was the limit of the Bill as regarded Companies. If it was thought necessary, he would put in some definition to show that by "Societies" Assurance Companies were not intended.

Clause agreed to.

Clauses 5 and 6 agreed to.

Clause 7 (Societies with deposited rules).


rose to move an Amendment with the view of extending the operation of the Bill. He said that the Bill practically dealt only with a part of the Societies in the Kingdom. There were 32,000 Societies in England and Wales, and 4,000,000 persons were interested in them. This Bill from its character afforded a great opportunity of dealing with all those Societies instead of leaving a very large number of them untouched. His point was that both from the magnitude of the Societies and their character, as shown by general knowledge and the Report of the Commissioners, there was a strong case for dealing with the whole question in a somewhat stringent manner. It was very difficult to understand what the position of unregistered Societies was, and that position was so unsatisfactory that it was necessary in some shape or other that the law with respect to them should be clearly defined. Doubts had arisen as to the position of some 15,000 or 20,000 of them, and the law was absolutely inoperative in their regard. He hoped the notion commonly entertained that the Friendly Societies were to be regarded as charities was nearly exploded. They were conducted on business principles, and as other business companies were registered, there was no reason why Friendly Societies should be exempted from a regulation so necessary for the public security. We should know their name, where they carried on business, their rules, and have annual returns of their transactions. This could do the Society no harm if it were properly conducted, and would be of public benefit if it were not.

Amendment proposed, In page 3, line 32, after the word "Act," to insert the words "or until the society obtains a certificate, as provided in this Act for unregistered societies."—(Mr. Salt.)


asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer to state what would be the position of unregistered Societies if the Bill were passed in its present shape.


understood there was no legal difference between the position of an unregistered Friendly Society and a cricket club, or any other body of persons associated together for a harmless object, except so far as the Friendly Society might come within the mischief of the Insurance Acts. They could not sue or be sued by their officers. The object of the Bill was to take the Societies out of the position they were in under the Common Law by inducing them to come and register. At the present moment he did not think they had sufficient information to deal with unregistered Societies, as the subject was a most difficult one; and therefore he was unable to accept the Amendment.


thought it important that the Amendment should be pressed, for this was the most retrograde clause in the Bill. The Amendment simply insisted on these Societies registering themselves for the protection of those who invested their money in them.


did not think Parliament would be justified in giving to unregistered Societies the power of suing or being sued, or allowing them any legal status.

Question put, "That those words be there inserted."

The Committee divided:—Ayes 27; Noes 213: Majority 186.


moved to report Progress.


hoped the Motion would not be persisted in.


said, it was now approaching 1 o'clock, and as the House was to meet again at 2 P.M., he should certainly persist in his Motion.

Motion made, and Question put, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."—(Mr. Bigger.)

The Committee divided:—Ayes 7; Noes 209: Majority 202. Clause agreed to.

Clause 8 (Classes of societies).


moved to leave out the words "the funeral expenses of."


could not assent to the Amendment. Members were allowed to assure their own lives, but it was against the policy of the law to permit them to assure the lives of others unless they had an assurable interest in them. A special exception was, however, made to meet the case of the funeral expenses of a member's family.

Amendment negatived.


proposed, page 4, line 15, to leave out "£15" and insert "£30." The former was the amount to which workmen might assure their tools against fire, and he understood that in the case of some trades, such as cabinet-makers, £15 would not cover the loss.


had no doubt that some workmen would wish to assure their tools for the larger amount, but they would be trenching on the ordinary business of a Fire Assurance Society if they extended the limit.

Amendment negatived.


moved, line 19, to strike out "£30" and insert "£50."


opposed the Amendment.

Amendment withdrawn.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 9 (Limited application of Act) agreed to.

Clause 10 (The registry office).


moved that the Chairman report Progress.

Motion agreed to.

Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow, at Two of the clock.