§ MR. SEALE HAYNE (Devonshire, Ashburton)
I beg to ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether his attention has been called to the statistics of building societies and the comments thereon given in this year's "Whitaker's Almanack;" whether certain building societies continue to grant appropriations by lottery-ballot, and to re-purchase them, at the expense of their members, at about £12 per cent; whether he is aware that this practice has been characterized as "pure gambling" by the Assistant Registrar in March 1886, and strongly deprecated by the Chief Registrar in his Report for 1885; whether it is true that 199 Starr-Bow-kett societies are insolvent, and that 72 societies mentioned in Mr. Starr's work 707 on Starr-Bowkettism (April 1883) are not to be found in the Government Return to the end of 1886; and, whether, having regard to the large income of these societies (over £700,000), he will take any steps to stop the serious evil of gambling in appropriations in them by putting in force the Lotteries Acts?
§ MR. MATTHEWS
The answer to the first three paragraphs is in the affirmative. With regard to the fourth paragraph, the annual Return for the present year is now being prepared, and the precise figures cannot yet be verified; but it is true that a large number of Starr-Bowkett Societies show a balance deficit in their accounts, especially when the amounts expended in the purchase of appropriations are excluded as the Act of Parliament requires. Many have been dissolved, and are, therefore, not now included in the Return. I am informed by the Registrar of Friendly Societies that the practice extends far beyond the Starr-Bowkett Societies, who are not by any means the worst offenders in this respect. I am advised that it is doubtful whether the practice of balloting for appropriations falls within the Lotteries Acts. It is a practice of very old standing; and I should not think it advisable to institute prosecutions against these societies, especially as no representation has reached me as to any necessity for any such interference of the Government.