HL Deb 27 June 1872 vol 212 cc276-81

(The Lord Egerton.)

Order of the Day for the House to be put in Committee, read.


presented a Petition from the Church of England Assurance Institution, praying that the Bill be referred to a Select Committee. The Petitioners alleged that if the measure passed it would institute a monopoly in reference to insurance, and would be injurious to companies which had already started in the business. He hoped that their Lordships would reject the Bill.

LORD EGERTON moved, That the House do now resolve itself into a Committee on the said Bill.


said, he could not but think that every Member of their Lordships' House was liable to some share of blame for having allowed this Bill to be read a second time without a protest. The Bill proposed to establish a compulsory system of insurance of all ecclesiastical buildings capable of being destroyed or injured by fire; it compelled all ecclesiastical persons in receipt of income from any see or benefice to insure the buildings attached to their benefices and to pay the premiums. Further, they must be insured in one particular Office, and not in any other:—so that this was, in fact, a Bill to take away all fire-insurance business in the case of ecclesiastical buildings from existing Offices. The new Office which was to enjoy so high a system of protection was to consist of the Governors of Queen Anne's Bounty, who were to have an entirely new set of duties cast upon them, because they were to become directors of a fire-insurance company—a business which they would find it very difficult to manage. Fire insurance was a trade which might result in profit or in loss, and if there should be loss on their fire-insurance business the Governors were to be "at liberty to employ any funds in their hands for the purposes of this Act:"—that was to say, they were to pay these losses out of Queen Anne's Bounty Fund. It was quite possible that the whole of the Fund might be swept away. Further, the Bill provided that there need be no policies, but the fact of insurance was to be entered on a register specially provided by the Governors—so that no stamp would be required.


said, that as to the noble and learned Lord's objection that the Governors of Queen Anne's Bounty might exhaust that Fund in paying losses on their fire-insurance business, everyone knew that the premiums were always paid in advance, and that therefore there were always funds in hand: so that the chance of coming upon the Fund at all, much more of exhausting it, was very remote. It was only to be expected that the existing Insurance Offices would object to the Bill; but representations had been previously made to those Offices that they should insure that class of buildings at lower premiums than were charged in other cases, in consideration of the smaller risks to which they were generally exposed:—for the insurance of those buildings had formed a most profitable part of the business of the Insurance Companies:—and it was only after their refusal to accept that offer, and at the earnest request of the clergy of the Church of England in Convocation assembled, that this Bill had been brought forward. The promoters of the Bill were fortified by the authority of eminent actuaries and other experienced persons, and the Regulations to be framed by the Governors for the purpose of carrying on this business were to be approved by the Lords of the Treasury and published in The London Gazette. The Governors were, moreover, to keep separate accounts, and lay before Parliament annually a report and balance-sheet. The Governors were, further, to frame every three years a scheme for the application of any profits arising from their insurances, which was to be laid before Parliament before acted upon. Most probably the application would be to the reduction of premiums.


, in opposing the Bill, pointed out that, under the 6th clause of the Bill, the principle of compulsory insurance was extended not only to the clergy, but to all the laity who held Church leases.


was understood to say that he could not see on what ground Queen Anne's Bounty should be made liable for possible losses in connection with fire insurance transactions.


said, that the Bill was compulsory, and the clergy were bound to insure: but, unfortunately, many of the clergy had very small incomes, and they ought not in all cases to be required to insure to the full amount of the value of their houses. On the other hand, he did not think it would be quite fair to the Insurance Companies to establish the proposed monopoly, nor could he exactly see why those Companies should have been expected to insure a rectory at a cheaper rate than a layman's house.


urged his noble Friend not to press his Motion to a division, for he thought the Bill was one which the House ought not to sanction. His noble Friend had stated as one of the reasons for the Bill that the clergy were extremely anxious that such a measure as this should become law; but he had omitted to tell their Lordships what the reasons were which had actuated the clergy in desiring that such an arrangement should be made. He had also spoken of the advantage it would be to the poorer clergy; but he (the Duke of Richmond) could not see how that advantage would arise, because the clergy would not be able to insure at much less than at present. The clergyman would be able to insure his house on exactly the same terms with the Sun and other Offices as with Queen Anne's Bounty. It would be wrong to compel the clergyman to insure with any Office against his desire, but should be at liberty to go to any Office from which he could obtain the best terms.


said, there was some misunderstanding in the minds of some of their Lordships as to the objects of the Bill. A noble and reverend Lord (Lord Dinevor) had spoken as if the Bill for the first time made it compulsory on the clergy to insure. But it was not the present Bill, but the Dilapidation Bill of last year, which introduced the obligation on a clergyman to insure his house. Insurance was therefore compulsory already. Parliament had put upon the body of the clergy, many of whom were poor, a liability in that respect which rested on no other persons in the land, their houses being regarded in a certain sense as public property. Yet these persons were compelled to lay out their own funds in insuring them against fire. Under those circumstances, the Governors of Queen Anne's Bounty were strongly urged by the Lower House of the Convocation of Canterbury to invent a mode by which the new pressure thus occasioned to the clergy might be in some degree lightened. With this view the Governors were ready to undertake this business of fire insurance in the hope that they might be able considerably to reduce the charges now made for insurance, and also out of their profits to aid the poorer clergy in other respects. The money saved would go, therefore, first to diminish the cost of insuring; and, secondly, to the directly eleemosynary purposes of the Bounty Fund. The whole peculiarity of this Bill was that it required those insurances to be effected with the Governors, and not in any other Office; and the question was whether there was a sufficient reason for such exceptional legislation. It had been thought that Parliament having enforced the peculiar liability, might be expected to give a peculiar benefit as its correlative. Experience proved, on a very large inquiry, that the houses of the clergy were far less exposed to the risk of fire than the ordinary insurances taken, by the Companies; and insurance being now for the first time made obligatory upon the clergy, it had been supposed that the existing Companies might consider whether they would not insure that particular description of buildings at a cheaper rate, but they had declined. The best possible advice had been taken on the subject, and this advice amounted to an assurance that a certain gain of several thousands a-year might be made for the benefit of the poorer clergy, and that the Board might undertake the duty without the smallest risk to the Bounty Fund. The question as to whether the leases of Church property should be included was a question of detail, which with other similar matters might be fairly dismissed from consideration for the present.


stated that the Company whose Petition he had presented against the Bill made an allowance of 10 per cent on the premiums paid by clergymen.


said, if the Bill were rejected, a serious injury would be done to the poorer clergy. The only persons who could have the slightest interest in opposing the Bill were the Insurance Companies, whose profit, as far as it arose from policies issued to clergymen, would be taken away and divided among the clergy themselves—who, in fact, would become their own insurers. It was well known that it paid a man to become his own insurer if his property was sufficiently large. It was bad policy for a large landed proprietor to insure his farm buildings; why, then, should not the clergy, on the same principle, combine to insure themselves?

LORD CAIRNS moved that the House go into Committee on the Bill this day three months.

Amendment moved, to leave out ("now,") and insert ("this day three months.")—(The Lord Cairns.)


suggested, as an alternative course, that the Bill be referred to a Select Committee.


confessed that, on the first aspect, the Bill had been unpalatable to him, and he had considered what could possibly be the view which could induce the promoters to bring forward a Bill which, on its first aspect, appeared so unreasonable. It was unreasonable that there should be compulsory insurance at all; it seemed unreasonable that there should be compulsory insurance with a particular body; and it appeared unreasonable to expose a body like the Governors of Queen Anne's Bounty to the risks of this business. But, on the other hand, it appeared that the clergy having been placed under an obligation to insure would be placed in a difficult position. In the first place, they would naturally seek the offices which took the lowest premiums, and therefore offered the worst security. Under these circumstances, it seemed reasonable that they should have means of insuring with perfect safety at a low rate. The Governors of Queen Anne's Bounty would offer that perfect security, and they would in regard to this matter have only one object—to give the clergy the full benefit of the system, without profit to themselves. Rather than that the Bill should be lost, he would support the proposal to refer it to a Select Committee.

On Question, That ("now") stand part of the Motion? their Lordships divided:—Contents 16; Not-Contents 14: Majority 2.

Resolved in the Affirmative: House in Committee accordingly; Bill reported, without Amendment; Amendments made; and Bill referred to a Select Committee.

And, on Tuesday, July 2, the Lords following were named of the Committee:—

L. Abp. York. L. Bp. London.
M. Salisbury. L. Bp. Manchester.
M. Bath. L. Dinevor.
E. Belmore. L. Portman.
E. Chichester. L. Stanley of Alderley.
E. Powis. L. Egerton.
E. Nelson. L. Penrhyn.
E. Harrowby.