HC Deb 23 April 1964 vol 693 cc1496-8
27 and 28. Mr. Abse

asked the Secretary of State for Industry, Trade and Regional Development (1) whether he is aware that discriminatory practices exist among some insurance companies against non-European and other minority groups; and whether, in order to ensure that all insured persons pay premiums based upon genuine commercial risk and actuarial assessments, he will seek to amend the Insurance Act, 1958, so as to provide that no insurance company may conduct business if it refuses insurance cover or requires extra premiums solely because of the race of a party seeking to be insured;

(2) Whether he is aware that immigrants, non-European people, and persons whose parents were born abroad are encountering difficulties in obtaining motor insurance cover at reasonable rates; and whether, with a view to introducing legislation to relieve hardship, he will conduct an inquiry into the underwriting practices of insurance companies relating to such minority groups.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade (Mr. David Price)

My right hon. Friend has made inquiries and is assured that all premiums are fixed on the basis of genuine commercial risk and, where appropriate, actuarial assessment. In these circumstances, he does not propose to amend the Insurance Companies Act or to conduct an inquiry.

Mr. Abse

In the course of these inquiries, has the hon. Gentleman seen private and confidential circulars which have been distributed to branch managers throughout the country by some of the leading insurance companies? Is he aware that within those circulars there are instructions to branch managers that they must do everything that they possibly can not to take premiums from coloured people, or, as they describe them, Asiatics or immigrants, and that if they are forced to take them they must be heavily weighted and must exclude certain risks? Is it not clear that there are, unfortunately, extreme prejudices ranging within the insurance world which can act with severe detriment to the whole community? Will the hon. Gentleman have another look at this matter again if I give him some evidence on it?

Mr. Price

I shall be happy to look at any evidence which the hon. Member cares to let me have. However, he is not being strictly fair to insurance companies. If they find actuarially that there is a far higher accident rate among certain types of citizen rather than others, it is not unreasonable that they charge a higher premium, as one found when, as a student, one tried to get one's car insured.

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