HC Deb 21 March 1881 vol 259 cc1492-3

asked the Secretary to the Treasury, Whether the attention of the Government has been called to the sufferings endured by many deserving persons through the constant failure of so-called benefit societies; and, whether, in the event of any private legislation being initiated with a view of insisting upon more stringent certificates in the case of all future benefit societies, and of restrictions in the case of intended public-house benefit societies, the Government would be inclined to give such assistance as might be practicable towards the furtherance of these objects?


Without more definite information as to the character of the proposed legislation I am afraid it is impossible to say whether the Government would be inclined to assist it. We have not yet had full experience of the results of the Friendly Societies Act of 1875 with respect to Benefit Societies, and I think we should have clear proof of their necessity before we impose the suggested additional restrictions upon such Societies. So far as I am informed, the failures of Benefit Societies are not more constant than those of other classes of Companies; and it is very doubtful whether any move in the direction of greater stringency would not defeat its own object. As to putting restrictions upon intended public-house Benefit Societies, it must be remembered that in many places there is no other accommodation available for Benefit Societies, and a great number—I hope the large majority—of such societies, are perfectly respectable. It may be interesting to the hon. Member to know that the bulk of the Societies which have reached 100 years of age and upwards meet at public-houses, among thorn the oldest English Society, founded in 1687, and the third oldest, founded in 1708, with others ranging in age from 117 to 194 years.


gave Notice that, in consequence of the answer he had received, he should, on a future day, move for a Return from each Poor Law Union in England, stating the number of the inmates of the workhouses whose presence there was owing to the failure of any Benefit Societies to which they might have belonged.