HC Deb 14 July 1914 vol 64 cc1883-6

Nothing in this Act shall be deemed to exempt the society from the provisions of the Collecting Societies and Industrial Assurance Companies Act, 1896, affecting industrial assurance companies (other than Sections 5 and 10 thereof which shall not apply to the society) or the Assurance Campanies Act, 1909, so far as the same are applicable to the society or from the provisions of any general Act passed during the present or any future Session of Parliament affecting assurance companies formed previously to the passing thereof.


I beg to move to leave out the words "(other than Sections 5 and 10 thereof which shall not apply to the society.)"

In moving this I should like to acknowledge the spirit in which the last Amendment was acceded to, and I can assure the hon. Member that I shall try to reciprocate by making my observations as brief as possible. As regards my present Amendment, if I am correct in my construction of these words in the Clause, this is really an alteration of the general law, and in my opinion it ought not to be effected in a private Bill of this character. I understand this is a power which is not possessed by any other similar society. It may be that it is desired by all societies, and that if support is forthcoming on this occasion it will establish a precedent which will be followed by those other societies. As I read it, this is a further disability imposed on the policy holders of this society. I might here say parenthetically that the Bill passed through the House of Lords without this point being inserted, and, if I am correctly informed, it was at the last moment that it was inserted in the Commons Committee. The specific section referred to—Section 5 of the Collecting Societies and Industrial Assurance Companies Act, 1896—deals with provisions for general meetings. Why the society should desire to be exempted from the provisions of the Act with regard to general meetings I do not understand in the least, and I say frankly that I do not think they would be giving away anything in particular if they were to accept this Amendment.

There may be a strong case in support of the retention of the words, but I am not acquainted with the arguments in favour, and I would be glad to hear them. The Clause as it stands seems to have this effect. The House has determined that the industrial policy holders have not the rights of ordinary membership and it seems to me that here these men are placed under further disabilities, because if this society is exempted from the provisions of the Act of 1896 with respect to general meetings, and the advertising and announcement of those meetings, the industrial policy holder will have no means whatever of knowing when those meetings are to be held, and the nature of the business to be transacted before those meetings. I made use of the statement at the commencement of the Debate that it might be decided that this large mass of persons should not have the right of membership. Nevertheless, I feel they ought to have some means of knowing the business that is likely to be transacted at the meetings, and the date when such meetings are to be held, because if they felt anything was occurring which was likely to prejudice their interests, at any rate they should have the opportunity to get the friendly ear of a director, or of some of the ordinary policy holders who have a right to take part in the management of the business. It is under those circumstances that I venture to move the Amendment, and I think the promoters might very well yield on this point.


I beg to second the Amendment.

Question proposed, "That those words stand part of the Bill."


I understand that these words were put in to meet a point which was raised by the Registrar of Friendly Societies, and I believe there is no objection to accepting the Amendment provided some words were inserted in the Schedule to provide that the annual general meeting in Birmingham shall be held at the Central Hall, Corporation Street, and the hour shall be fixed at twelve noon. It is a matter of convenience and of machinery, and there is no point of difference with the promoters of the Bill. As the person in charge of the Bill for the promoters I do not see any objection in principle to the Amendment moved.


I am afraid I am not quite clear as to the exact reason for putting in these words. So far as I remember they were inserted to meet the convenience of the promoters so that they would know where the meetings were to take place, and when they were coming on, instead of having them shifted about.


I understand Clause 5 requires that notice of meetings should be given in one of two ways, either by notice to every member, which would mean sending out 2,000 notices or thereabouts, or else by advertisement in newspapers in every county in which the company is carrying on business. That was reasonable enough when there were very few newspapers, and when the area in which business was carried on was very small; but if it were now insisted upon it would practically mean advertising in every paper in the United Kingdom. What is proposed to be substituted for that is a fixed date and a fixed hour for the meeting, which will be known to every member. Moreover, as far as the notice of the meeting itself is concerned, it is proposed that two advertisements shall be inserted in two newspapers circulating in Birmingham where the head office of the company is situated. That seems to me to be quite reasonable, having regard to the extensive nature of the business, and the large number of newspapers which have grown up since 1854, when the original provision was made. The House, I think, would not do well to saddle the company with the unnecessary expense of observing the old form of notice.


While our friends the enemy are suggesting some modification I should like to say one word on this subject. I do not know whether this was not a question on which a point of Order should have been taken when the Bill was set down for consideration, because I have been given to understand that these words in Clause 37 of the Bill "other than Sections 5 and 10 thereof" is really a repeal of a general Act of Parliament relating to the society. It is not applicable to one particular society, but it is a general law, and I do not know whether it is in accordance with your ruling that it is impossible to repeal a public Act by a Clause in a private Bill of this description. If what the hon. Member for Colchester says is correct, there is nobody on this side of the House who would not be only too delighted to assist in bringing conditions respecting notice of the meeting into something like a moderate shape. But at the same time, we do not like to see these words, repealing, as they do, a public Act of Parliament, continued in the Bill without we know that what we are doing is strictly correct. This is more than ever the case when we are told that this Bill, after full consideration by a Committee in the House of Lords, came down to this House without these words having been inserted.


It may shorten matters if I say at once that I am prepared to accept the Amendment.

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

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