HL Deb 17 February 1916 vol 21 cc39-42

LORD PARMOOR had the following Question on the Paper—

To ask for information as to the operation of the Government insurance scheme against Zeppelin or other raids; and as to the number of insurances which have been effected in respect of (1) town houses or other town property; (2) farm buildings or agricultural property.

The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, I propose to confine what I have to say to the exact terms of my Question, because I notice that other noble Lords have given notice of their intention to raise general matters connected with air raids and our methods of defence. My Question has entirely to do with a business matter. First, I ask for information as to the operation of the Government insurance scheme against Zeppelin or other raids. I should like to know to what extent insurance has been carried—that is to say, can the noble Lord opposite give information as to the number of insurances effected, and the result so far as premiums are concerned on the one side, and the payment of allowances in respect of insurance on the other. To the second place, I ask the noble Lord whether he can state distinctly the number of insurances which have been effected in respect of (1) town houses or other town property, and (2) farm buildings or agricultural property. I ask for that information for this reason. I pointed out to your Lordships on a previous occasion that it appeared to me that the premiums charged in the Government scheme as regards farm buildings and agricultural property were extremely high, and that although it might be necessary for an agriculturist to insure his property in order to prevent ruin if actual damage was done, yet the chance of damage was very small and the amount of damage would probably be slight. At any rate that was the experience which I gained in presiding over the Commission which dealt with these matters when compensation was provided by the Government. We found that the damage which might be anticipated to agricultural property was in fact extremely small. It might, of course, be very important in particular cases, but in the aggregate it was not large in amount. I do not desire to go into the general question, which will be raised subsequently, but I beg to ask whether the noble Lord opposite can give me an answer on these points.


My Lords, I gather from what has fallen from the noble and leanred Lord that he considers that the rates of insurance in the Government scheme are unduly high. I was under the impression that those rates were fixed more or less upon the principle adopted by the noble and learned Lord himself when he conducted the Inquiry at Scarborough.


That was not so. But I was not at the moment raising the question whether the rates were high or low. I wanted to know what the result had been.


The Government insurance scheme against aircraft and bombardment, risks came into operation, as the noble and learned Lord knows, in July last; and it is administered by the Government. War Risks Insurance Office in the City, and by a very large number of insurance companies which act as agents for the Government. My noble friend is probably well acquainted with the rates, but for the information of the House perhaps I had better specify what they are. The rates fixed by the scheme. are—

Against aircraft only. Against aircraft and bombardment.
1. Building, Rent and Contents of— s. d. s. d.
Private Dwelling-houses and Buildings in which no trade or manufacture is carried on…. 2 0 3 0
2. All other Buildings and their Rents 3 0 4 6
3. Farming Stocks (live or dead) 3 0 4 6
4. Contents of all Buildings other than those specified in 1 and 5 5 0 7 0
5.—(a) Merchandise at Docks and Public Wharves, in Carriers' and Canal Warehouses and Yards, in Public Mercantile Storage Warehouses, and in transit by Rail 7 6 10 0
(b) Timber in the open
(c) Mineral Oil Tanks and. Stores (Wholesale)

Insurances under Class 5 may be accepted for short periods at different rates.

It is not possible to give the specific information asked for by the noble Lord, as the particulars are not available. But I am able to give him the following figures, which meet his demand to some extent. Up to the end of November, 1915, (ever 1,100,000 proposals for insurance had been accepted under the Government scheme. Of these 22 per cent. were for the combined insurance against aircraft, risks and bombardment risks; and 78 per cent. were for aircraft risks alone. In addition to these, 65,900 certificates of insurance against aircraft and bombardment risks have been issued through the Post Office to owners of small property tip to the week ended February 12, and the sums insured aggre- gate £3,800,000. As the noble Lord is no doubt aware, the latter was a special scheme introduced in November of last year to meet the case of small owners and other people who desired to insure property of less value than £100. A policy for £25 can be obtained at a Post Office for 6d., one for £50 for 1s., and one for £75 for 1s. 6d.


May I ask the noble Lord whether there is any intention of revising the rates of premium which he has quoted. Those rates appear to be enormous when compared with the ordinary rates against fire insurance. It is obvious that while there is risk of fire everywhere in the ordinary way, the risks as the result of hostile aircraft must be comuaratively few and far between. If the rates could be revised and made more in accordance with the real risk incurred, surely lower premiums might be charged, certainly in parts of the country which are far remote from Zeppelin visits.


I shall be glad to make any inquiries which the noble Earl desires, but I have no information at the moment on the point he has raised.


I am sorry that the noble Lord cannot give any separate information with regard to farm buildings and agricultural property. It is as regards those that the risks appear to be slight, yet the premiums are no less than 3s. per cent. against aircraft only and 4s. 6d: against aircraft and bombardment. I hope that on a future occasion there will he more information forthcoming on this point.

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