HL Deb 23 July 1860 vol 160 cc1-4

presented petitions from various Courts of the Ancient Order of Foresters Friendly Society, and from the Bury District of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, of the Manchester Unity Friendly Society, who represented an im- mense number of Friendly Societies all over the country, and who complained of a clause in the Friendly Societies Act of 1858, wholly altering the constitution of Friendly Societies in the most important particular of winding up and the distribution of their funds. The clause in question was never mentioned in the House of Commons, and no notice was taken of the subject till the Bill reached their Lordships' House. The Bill was reported without Amendments, and on the Report an Amendment of a most extraordinary character was added to it. By the Consolidated Act of 1855 great care was taken of the whole matter of winding up and dissolving, and the 13th section, to which the petitioners referred, required that no Friendly Society should be dissolved without the consent of five-sixths of the members. It laid down the manner in which the vote should be taken most minutely, detailing the regulations for the purpose of preventing surprise or fraud. Even where the consent of five-sixths was obtained to the dissolution and winding up the appropriation of the funds was restricted to the purposes of the society—evidently a most just, a most fit, an absolutely necessary condition. But what did the clause in the Act of 1858 provide? Why, that only one-fourth of the members of a society might present a memorandum to any actuary who had been five years connected with an Insurance Company, who was then to consider the subject, and, if he chose, was to wind up and dissolve, it was expressly said, without any regard to the requirements of the 13th section of the Act of 1855; so that members who had paid only two years and six months or three years might have the funds distributed among them in equal proportions with those who had paid twenty or twenty-five years. He really thought there must have been some mistake in the petition until he looked into the Act of 1855, and compared it with that of 1858; when he also found thia—that, no doubt the clause objected to was moved regularly as an Amendment on the Report on the 27th of July, 1858. On the 29th of that same month the Bill was read a third time and passed. The consent of the Commons being obtained on the 2nd of August it became law. He wished the noble Earl (the Earl of Derby) who made a most important statement the other evening relative to the business of the House, had been present in order that he might hear how many Bills passed that day. No fewer than forty-nine Bills were passed on the 2nd of August, and the space given to the Commons and Lords for considering this entire revolution in the state of Friendly Societies was the interval between the 27th and 29th of July, when the Bill passed the third reading. He thought he could not do better than call the attention of his noble Friend on the woolsack to this case. He was anxious to contribute as far as lay in his power to the promotion of that great object, the facilitating of the business of the two Houses of Parliament; and with that view he could, he thought, make no better proposition than that their Lordships should assent to the twenty-four Resolutions, which, after considerable discussion, had in 1846 been brought forward on the subject, being printed and circulated.


said, he recollected that the clause in question was discussed by their Lordships in 1858, and the objections then taken to it having been answered and overruled, the clause was agreed to as part of the Bill.


observed, that the Resolutions to which the noble and learned Lord referred related to the passing of private Bills, and therefore had no bearing upon the measure to which his remarks were especially directed, that being a public Bill.


said, he was aware that the proposition which he had made had nothing to do with the point to which he had more immediately risen to address himself. In making it he had in view the discussion which had taken place on Thursday last, and the fact that the great mass of private Bills which came before Parliament tended to obstruct the progress of public business.


suggested that if the noble and learned Lord desired to move that the Resolutions of 1846 be reprinted and circulated he should give notice of his intention to do so.

The Resolutions (Private Bills and Business of the House) moved and Ordered to be printed on the 4th May, 1846; To be reprinted.