§ Mr. D. G. SOMERVILLE
I beg to move,That leave be given to bring in a Bill to ensure the proper financial control and management of sharing-out clubs.I do not think there is any need to stress the necessity for a Bill of this description. [HON. MEMBERS: "Agreed!"] One has only got to read any newspaper just now to come across cases where the treasurer or secretary of one of these small loan or slate clubs has misused the money. One also reads of cases where the unfortunate man, rather than face the members of his society or the auditors, has put his head in a gas oven or taken prussic acid. Recently the attention of the House was called to the statement of a magistrate, who pointed out that there were some 20 cases of suicide of these treasurers or secretaries within the last few months. On the 13th I read in the "Daily Mail" that a sum of£581 belonging to the Nag's Head Mutual Loan Club had disappeared. There was the case of an inquest on a man called Cave, who had misused a sum of£100. Then 400 men of the National Omnibus Company, Watford, met the other day to receive the sum of£400 which was to be shared out, and they were informed that this money had disappeared.
These are instances taken at random. There are any number of other cases. During the winter of 1925–26, 32 com- 1210 plaints were received at the Metropolitan Police Courts alone. The 'attitude of the Government, when this matter has been brought up before, is that these cases are too small and too difficult to check. There are so many of these clubs; they spring up in a day, last for three or four months and then disappear. This Bill endeavours to remove the temptation from these men, and the method which I propose in this Bill, which, I may say, is supported from all sides of the House, is that the money be banked in the names of two of the contributors, also in that of the secretary, and that no money can be withdrawn except on the signature of one of the two members and the secretary. I do not think there will be any difficulty in enforcing this Bill, because it is not likely that three members will conspire together to cheat the members of the club. If they did, they would certainly not be trusted again. I agree that it is not an absolute remedy for offences of this sort, but it certainly will reduce the number. These men, who, unfortunately, commit such defalcations, and then commit suicide rather than face their fellow-members, show that they are men with conscience. There are many cases where their relatives have offered to find the money which these men have pilfered.
Then I want to put in a plea for the unfortunate people who have subscribed to these slate clubs. They are certainly very poor people who have not got a banking account, and, unless they sub- 1211 cribe so much every week, they are not at all likely to have anything extra to spend for Christmas. I do hope, therefore, that the House will give a First Reading to this Bill and pass it, and so do away with a scandal which has been prevalent in this country for many years past.
§ Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. D. G. Somerville, Mr. West Russell, Rear-Admiral Beamish, Mr. Oliver Baldwin, Mr. Bromley, Mr. Hore-Belisha, and Dr. Morrie-Jones.