HL Deb 15 July 1875 vol 225 cc1468-73

House in Committee (according to Order).

Clauses 1 to 13, inclusive, agreed to, with Amendments.

Clause 14 (Duties and obligations of societies).


proposed an Amendment providing that the audit should be superintended by a Government official. He thought some such Amendment as this was necessary to render the clause more real and efficient, as at present he considered it to be merely illusory.


hoped the noble Earl would not press the Amendment. The Friendly Societies were voluntary associations, and it would be impossible for the Government to assume the responsibility of managing purely voluntary associations. All that the Government wished to obtain was publicity, and that object would be attained by the clause. He, however, would take the matter into his consideration, and see whether he could frame a clause to meet the noble Earl's wishes.


, on that assurance, said, he would withdraw his Amendments.

Amendment (by leave of the House) withdrawn.

Clauses 15 to 27, inclusive, agreed to, with Amendment.

Clause 28 (Payments on death of children).


, in proposing an Amendment to reduce the amount payable by burial clubs on the death of children under the age of five years to £3, and to allow the insurance only in one society, such amount being sufficient to pay the burial expenses, said, the subject to which he referred was one which had for many years been before Parliament. From the Appendix to the 2nd Report of the Commissioners of Inquiry into the State of Large Towns and Populous Places (1845), which contained a passage relating to Lancashire, it appeared that infanticides, either by wilful neglect or direct intention, were perpetrated in order to procure the burial money paid on the death of a child. From the same document it also appeared that on an analysis of the Returns of 232 burial clubs, it was found that on the average the insurance was £8 12s., while the cost of a child's interment rarely amounted to more than £2. Indeed, it was well known that there was a class of men among the undertakers who would not scruple to bury children in the coffins of grown-up persons for a few shillings, and that even where they did not, there were undertakers in Glasgow did not charge more than 14s. for infant burials. The benefit from the demise of a child was stated to be so great that an expected death was often brought forward as a plea for delay in the collection of rates. In the course of the evidence given before the Select Committee of the House of Commons on the Protection of Infant Life which sat in 1871, it was stated that the great mortality of infant life was not due to anything that could be called active criminality, but rather to negligence, and that the amount of actual criminal destruction was very small indeed in comparison with the non-criminal destruction. The ordinary mortality of infant children under one year of age was estimated at 15 or 16 per cent. In the larger towns, where they were put out to nurse, it amounted up to 70, 80, or even 90 per cent. The proportion of illegitimate children born in England to legitimate was about 70 per 1,000, and of these it might be assumed that not more than 10 per cent grew up. That Committee recommended that no infant or very young person should be entered in a burial club or become the subject of life insurance. From a Return made in 1861, it appeared that while the infants of labouring men outside the clubs died under five years of age at the rate of 36 per cent, those of the same class which were insured in the burial clubs died at the rate of 62 or 64 per cent. A vast amount of the mortality among children under five years of age in Glasgow was attributed to culpable negligence on the part of those who had charge of them. On the whole, therefore, he thought there could be no doubt that the great infant mortality which prevailed in certain districts of the country was due to the large insurances which parents were enabled to effect in case of their children by insuring them in several burial societies, and he urged that the inducement to, parental neglect, which the profit to be derived from the deaths of insured children held out to fathers and mothers in the humbler walks of life, should be removed as much as possible. With that object in view, he would move to amend the clause by reducing the maximum insurance on the lives of children from £6 to £3.

Amendment moved to leave out ("added to any amount payable on the death of such child by any other society.")—(The Lord Aberdare.)


opposed the Amendment. The subject had been well considered, and there was no reason to suppose that the sum was more than adequate in most cases to defray the expenses of a decent burial. He would be the first to shrink from proposing anything in the Bill which there was the least foundation for supposing would conduce to child murder. The Select Committee of the House of Commons that had sat to consider this question some few years ago had, however, arrived at a very different conclusion on this matter from that which the noble Lord had come to. According to the evidence of the Judges before that Committee, there could be no doubt that cases of actual child murder by persons connected with burial clubs were exceedingly rare, and although among certain grades of society there was unquestionably a low moral tone, yet he could not believe that parents were induced for the sake of the paltry gain of a pound or two to allow their children to die of neglect or to get rid of them improperly. There were quite enough causes of mortality among infants to account for the high death-rate among children without resorting to the odious charge that the parents got rid of them for the sake of gain. When there was nothing more than the expression of an opinion upon one side, it would be a hard thing to withdraw a privilege which the working classes had hitherto enjoyed. No doubt, crime such as was suggested existed, but its commission was much less frequent than formerly, and there was no reason for connecting it with the working classes. Under these circumstances, he hoped their Lordships would agree with the decision at which the House of Commons arrived on this subject, and would not make the alteration proposed by the noble Lord opposite.


denied that his noble Friend (Lord Aberdare) had cast the imputation which was supposed upon the working classes. Except in a particular state of circumstances a husband, no matter what his position in life might be, could not effect an insurance upon his wife's life, and it was no imputation on the working classes to ask that the insurances on their children's lives should be limited to the mere cost of burial. He understood the arguments of his noble Friend to be that by allowing parents to insure the lives of their children at an amount greater than the cost of their burial, an inducement would be given to parents to neglect to a certain extent the children whose lives they had insured, or, at any rate, not to bestow so much care upon them as they ordinarily would do. The answer of the Government in regard to the matter was by no means satisfactory, and he should therefore support the Amendment of his noble Friend, which he cordially approved.


said, he agreed with what had been said as to the difficulty of fixing on the proper maximum sum for insurance of children of a certain age exactly. Of course the noble Lord opposite (Lord Aberdare) had no intention of accusing the working class of child murder. If such a state of things and exist in connection with Friendly Societies to a large extent, no doubt almost any remedy was justifiable, but he thought this was not the case, but rather the exception. The more respectable class would regard the higher rate of insurance as a boon, and it would be hard upon them' to be made to suffer for that for which they were not themselves responsible. It was quite true what had been said that the Bill of this year was not the same as the Bill of last year in this respect, that the Bill of this year provided at first that £3 should be the maximum sum, according to the recommendation of the Royal Commission, that this was altered to £5 and then to £6 by the House of Commons. He should not be inclined to alter the decision of that House, to which the Government had very fairly yielded. He believed that the great majority of the people who insured belonged to the respectable class, who would wish to give a decent burial to their children. He was not prepared to express an opinion as to whether £6 was or was not too large a sum to permit parents to insure their children's lives for, but he was clear that £4 or £5 was not too large a sum.


pointed out that there was a greater amount of mortality among insured than uninsured children. That being the case, he thought the Amendment ought to be adopted.

On Question, That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question? Their Lordships divided:—Contents 37; Not-Contents 41: Majority 4.

An Amendment moved and negatived.

Amendments made: The Report thereof to be received on Tuesday next; and Bill to be printed, as amended. (No. 208.)

House adjourned at a quarter before Eight o'clock, till To-morrow, a quarter before Five o'clock.