HC Deb 09 April 1948 vol 449 cc545-6

(1) A collecting society and an industrial assurance company shall, as respects each year as respects which they are required by the Commissioner in the prescribed manner so to do, send to him within such period as may be prescribed a return giving prescribed particulars as to policies of industrial assurance issued by the society or company which were in force at the beginning of that year, in force at the end of that year, issued during that year or discontinued or converted to free policies during that year.

(2) A requirement under this section may be made either generally as to all such societies or companies, or as to any class thereof, or as to a particular society or company, and the regulations may prescribe different particulars to be given in the case of different societies or companies or classes thereof.

(3) Section sixteen of the Act of 1923 (which authorises the Commissioner to reject returns under the Act of 1896 or the Assurance Companies Act, 1909, which are incomplete or incorrect or do not comply with the requirements of the Act applicable, and to give directions for the variation thereof) shall apply to returns under this section.

(4) In this section the expression "year" means, in relation to a collecting society, a year ending on a thirty-first day of December, and, in relation to an industrial assurance company, a financial year of the company.—[Mr. Glenvil Hall.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

2.13 p.m.

The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Glenvil Hall)

I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."

This Clause has been put down by agreement with the societies and companies affected. It is intended to meet criticisms of the lack of uniformity in the existing provisions and to complete the powers required by the registrar to obtain all the statistics that he may need from time to time. I should say that the Commissioner has no intention of calling immediately for a host of figures or of putting a great deal of additional work on the collecting societies and companies.

Mr. Molson (The High Peak)

I wish to congratulate the Government upon this new Clause. It was, I think, an omission from the Bill as originally drafted. It was one of the recommendations of the Cohen Committee that more detailed information should be available dealing with this im- portant matter of industrial assurance. The Treasury has a responsibility to Parliament for supervising this activity. It is common ground that since the Act of 1909 that supervision has not always been very effective. I hope and believe that, after this Bill, it will be more effective. It has been a curious anomoly that the two different kinds of bodies which were concerned with this form of insurance were dealt with under two different statutes.

The friendly societies operated under the Friendly Societies Act of 1896, and the only particulars for which the Industrial Assurance Commissioner could call were those which were authorised under that Act. In the case of industrial life offices, the matter of industrial assurance is dealt with under the general insurance Act of 1909. There the returns which have to be sent in to the Industrial Assurance Commissioner are contained in a Schedule to the Act. Therefore, in the past it was impossible legally to obtain from both kinds of bodies the full information which really was necessary in order that industrial assurance should be surveyed as a whole.

It is a good feature of the new Clause that there is a certain flexibility. The figures in the returns which have to be sent in are to be in a form prescribed by the Industrial Assurance Commissioner. I am sure that the Government will give an assurance that this elasticity will not be used in any unreasonable way, and that the information which is required will be called for in a form which will fit in reasonably with the mechanical apparatus of the industrial offices concerned. Therefore, I feel that a most important Amendment has been made to the Bill. It goes a long way to rectify one of the omissions of the past. I thank the Government for what they have done in the matter. I would not like to look a gift horse in the mouth, but I do not think that this is a particularly gracefully drafted Clause. There seem to be an Extraordinary number of verbal repetitions. I wish that it might have been a better example of elegance in Parliamentary draftsmanship. However, I will overlook any deficiencies that there may be.

Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.