HC Deb 12 March 1918 vol 104 cc175-7

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware that some millions of insurance policies, held in the main by working people, have had to be lapsed during the War owing to war conditions; that this lapsing of policies, whilst benefiting the insurance companies, is inflicting real hardship, especially upon poor people; whether he knows that the Prudential Assurance Company alone have lapsed 3,272,000 policies since the outbreak of war; and what action it is proposed to take?


I am aware that large numbers of industrial assurance policies have been lapsed during the War. My information does not support the suggestion that the lapsing is due to war conditions, as lapses in the years 1915 and 1916 by the Prudential Assurance Company, for instance, were substantially less both in actual number and in proportion to the number of outstanding policies than in the years immediately preceding the War. The great majority of lapses seem to occur in respect of policies which have been in existence for a short time, when the gain to the company is doubtful and the loss to the policy holder is small The number of policies lapsed by the Prudential Company during the years 1914, 1915, and 1916 is approximately that stated in my hon. Friend's question. Steps were taken by the passing of the Courts (Emergency Powers) Act to prevent the lapsing of small industrial policies on which premiums had been paid for two years before the War without an application to the Court.


Does the hon. Member doubt that the special hardships due to war conditions in many families are responsible for the lapsing of many of these policies, involving the robbery of many poor people; and, in view of that, is not his Department going to take some action to get it put right and get the rights of the working people safeguarded?


The hon. Member is utterly mistaken. If he had listened to the answer he would have heard that the lapses are less during the War than before the War; and, further, there is a remedy in regard to the Courts (Emergency Powers) Act which docs protect these people.


Can the hon. Gentleman state the total amount of premiums paid on these policies which have lapsed?


The hon. Member must give notice of that.

Major HUNT

May I ask the hon. Member whether it is the fact that there have been 9,000,000 policies lapsed since the War began, and does he say that is less than for the same period before the War?


The question on the Paper deals with one company alone, and in regard to that particular company the lapses are less since the War began than before,


May I ask if it is not the case that this company, and one or two others of the same class, so far from ill-treating people of the working classes really went out of their way at the beginning of the War to make some valuable concessions to them?


We have made inquiries carefully, and I do not think anyone will doubt that we would be very glad, indeed, to protect the working classes against any exploitation in this matter. Our inquiries show that special facilities have been given during the War in the sense indicated by the hon. Member.

Major HUNT

Has not the hon. Members had a very considerable number of very hard cases sent him lately, and has he done anything in the matter?


I have not had a considerable number of hard cases sent to me.