§ Mr. CHARLES BATHURST
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he can state what proportion of the existing friendly societies have a membership of 5,000 and upwards; and whether he is aware that there exist all over the country hundreds of village friendly societies, many of them over a hundred years old, and most of them having a substantial financial balance to their credit, whose members are most tenacious of their separate corporate existence, and who could not in any case by associating with neighbouring villages constitute a joint association of 5,000 members; and how he proposes to render the Bill acceptable to such societies?
§ Mr. HOBHOUSE
My right hon. Friend has already stated that he is prepared to consider amendments on the subject of numbers. I may point out, however, that societies which associate together for the purposes of the State scheme need by no means lose their individuality. Particulars are not available of the proportion of societies with a membership of 5,000 and upwards; but the hon. Member will realise that, owing to the great influx of new members which will take place in many cases when the Bill passes, information on that point would throw very little light on the number of societies which would be affected by any specified numerical limit.