HC Deb 25 November 1909 vol 13 cc451-4

"Policies issued by collecting societies, industrial assurance companies, or mutual insurance societies, under the terms of the Friendly Societies Act, 1896, or other Act relating thereto, or under the provisions of this Act shall not be held to be invalid or void because of the illegitimacy of any of the parties concerned in such policies."

I move this new Clause for the purpose of enabling the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade to give us the result of the further consideration which he has given to this matter as he promised last night. The object of the new Clause is to bring in illegitimates as persons who would be able to take out policies and as being entitled to act in regard to policies that have been taken out. In other words, it is to remove the bar that at present exists in law to these persons. I should like, in the first place, to remind the House that it is a matter of very great importance that this bar, which was revealed last night for the first time, should be removed. I have a long experience of friendly societies, and I never heard it suggested that the legal liability of friendly societies or trades unions in respect to an illegitimate child was any different to what it was in respect of a legitimate child. The Debate last night revealed the fact that there is this legal difference, and what we fear now is that it will be made known to a large number of people interested in getting out of their financial obligations and their moral obligations as well. Therefore the matter ceases to be one of abstract interest and becomes a matter of great practical interest. We desire to put this claim forward upon its merits. I should like to remind the right hon. Gentleman of the grounds on which a similar matter was submitted to the House three or four years ago when we put forward a similar demand in respect to the Workmen's Compensation Act. We put forward the plea that a parent, either mother or father, might benefit in the event of the death by accident of a child, and I remember quite well the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil appealing to the House and putting the case of the poor woman who had an illegitimate child and had in consequence suffered from that fact, so that she, more than others, was deserving of consideration. Exactly the same thing applies here, and we do think the right hon. Gentleman might have given this matter more sympathetic and favourable consideration than he did last night. We put forward this claim now in the sincere hope that further consideration has induced him to take a more humane and, as I think, a more Christian view of the situation, and we hope that he may give a more favourable reply than he gave last night.

The PRESIDENT of the BOARD of TRADE (Mr. Churchill)

I have had an opportunity of considering this matter since last night, and I also had an opportunity of consulting with the Chief Registrar of Friendly Societies and some of my colleagues, and I am bound to say my opinion has not been altered. I think the case of the illegitimate child would be gravely prejudiced if insurance companies were made liable. Having very carefully considered this matter, I have concluded that this is not the place to make an alteration in this particular law. I am sure that in some cases what is proposed would not be at all to the benefit of the illegitimate child. There is a great deal of difference between including an illegitimate child to the benefit of the Workmen's Compensation Act and what is now proposed. That is what I have in mind, and I do not think I am drawing any invidious and hard distinction. In these circumstances I am not able to alter the view which I put to the House last night, and I hope this Bill will now be allowed to go through.


It has now been put forward that it would be illegal for the illegitimate child to have the benefit. I think that is a point which very few officials of trade unions are aware of, and I am quite confident that the point has never yet been raised with regard to the management of trade unions. If that is so, then this question is going to open a very difficult position.


This Bill does not alter the law in that respect.


Supposing, for the sake of argument, the official of a trade union happens to have a spite against a man because he knows that he was an illegitimate child. It would be possible for that official to prevent the relative of that man receiving the benefit he would otherwise be entitled to.


But we are making no change whatever in the law in that respect.


That may be so, but the new law which is now going through this House obviously brings this question into prominence again, and both the officials of trade unions as well as the officials of the different assurance companies will have this point brought prominently before their notice. It is obvious from that point of view that results not expected at all to arise may easily arise in the future, both in regard to assurance companies and trade unions. If that is the case a great amount of injustice is sure to arise, and as far as we are concerned it raises a very critical point for the millions who are connected with trade unions. It is a fact that the trade unions of the country do not raise any question of legitimacy or illegitimacy in regard to any individual who desires to join the union, but it would be within the power of any individual who happens to have a spite against a man when his claim for funeral benefits is made to prevent the relatives obtaining those benefits if he happens to be illegitimate.

Question, "That the Clause be read a second time," put, and negatived.

Amendments made.

Bill read the third time and passed.

ADJOURNMENT. — Resolved, "That this House do now adjourn until Wednesday next, December 1st." —[Mr. Joseph Pease.]

Adjourned accordingly at Two minutes before Nine o'clock.