HC Deb 20 March 1890 vol 342 cc1296-7
(6.45.) MR. PICTON

I wish to draw attention to what I consider is a grievance under which Friendly Societies suffer. It came to my knowledge a short time ago that a Friendly Society, in my own district, when they sent up their fee for registration of their Rules received no acknowledgment. At the end of the year the auditor raises a difficulty, and very properly, and the result is that the accounts are not properly audited. I am sure that all Members of this House are most anxious that there should be a stringent audit. Surely it would not be very much trouble to send an acknowledgment of the fee. It is a matter of principle that these Societies should have their accounts properly audited. I am not suggesting that any blame attaches to the Office of the Registrar; but I think we may complain of a Rule which I think would be better honoured in the breach than the observance.


I should like to join my hon. Friend in complaining of the looseness of the manner in which the business of the Registrar of Friendly Societies is conducted. Last year a Committee sat upstairs, and we made some recommendations with regard to the business of the Registrar. Some few years ago I was connected with a Society who were desirous of altering their Rules. We sent our proposals to the Registrar, and they were returned to us in two or three weeks. We had no idea that two or three very important Rules had been expunged by the Registrar, and we went on working under them for three or four years. It then became necessary to prosecute one of our officers before a police magistrate, who would not, of course, hear the case until the copy of Rules certified by the Registrar was produced. Neither the solicitor who prosecuted, or Mr. Cooke, the magistrate at Marylebone, discovered that any Rules had been expunged, and it was only some two years after that case had been heard and determined, when some of our members had occasion to see the Registrar, that we discovered that we had for years been working under Rules that were absolutely illegal. Last year the Committee made certain recommendations as to the work of the Office of Registry; and I wish to know from the hon. Gentleman whether those recommendations have been adopted, especially the one which, proposed that the Registrar should use a stamp to obliterate any Rule which is not in accordance with the Trades' Unions or Friendly Societies' Acts. Is that recommendation now being acted upon by the Registrar, so as to avoid in the future that illegality and confusion which has been experienced in the past?


Of course, I am not able to say what form of acknowledgment should be made for the fee; but it seems to me that the proposal of the hon. Member for Leicester is a reasonable one, and I will inquire whether it can possibly be done. With reference to the question of the hon. Member (Mr. Cremer), there has been, as he knows, a Committee of Inquiry into the working of Friendly Societies and the Office of Registry, and some considerable alterations have been suggested, and some have been promptly adopted. I am not able to say off-hand whether a stamp could be used or not; but I will take care to bring the question before the Registrar of Friendly Societies, with a view to preventing in some form or other a repetition of the circumstances to which the hon. Member has referred.