HC Deb 15 December 1953 vol 522 cc190-1
36. Mr. Hay

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government whether he is aware that various local authorities are operating schemes for insuring the contents of their tenants' houses, collecting the premiums by weekly instalments with the rent, and acting as agents not only for the insurance office from which they receive commission, but also for the tenants; what is the authority under which these schemes are operated; and whether he will circularise local authorities that it is improper for them to engage in the business of insurance agents.

Mr. H. Macmillan

I have no direct information but so far as I am aware, only one or two local authorities operate such schemes. I do not know of any specific power which enables them to do this. I do not think that any general circular to local authorities is needed.

Mr. Hay

Would not my right hon. Friend agree that it is quite improper for local authorities to compete with insurance agents who are trying to earn their living in this way, particularly when they try to do so at a cut rate? Will he investigate and see what advice can be given to local authorities?

Mr. Macmillan

The reason why I was a little restrained in my answer is that the precise legal position, I am advised, is somewhat obscure.

Mr. Sparks

Will the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that he will not deprive council tenants, who are also ratepayers, of these facilities where local authorities are able to offer them?

Mr. Macmillan

It is not a question of whether I have deprived them or not, but the present position of the law is rather obscure.

Mr. M. Lindsay

Will not my right hon. Friend agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Henley (Mr. Hay) that this practice of expansion of municipal trading is highly undesirable—[Hon. Members: "Why?"]—and one which a Conservative Government, above all, should set its face against?