( Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr. Secretary Cross, Mr. William Henry Smith.)
Bill 140 Second Reading
Order for Second Reading read.
, in moving that the Bill be now read the second time, said, that as the hon. Member for Chelsea (Sir Charles W. Dilke) had given Notice of an Amendment that it was inexpedient to proceed with the measure during the present Session, he would not now enter upon the question of the merits of the Bill. He was, how over, anxious to say one or two words as to the course which he proposed to take, and to explain two or three important Amendments which he intended to propose. He stated when he introduced the Bill that, considering the complexity of the subject, and the interest taken in it in the country, it was desirable that the details of the measure should be canvassed outside the House; that, if the necessary Amendments could be agreed upon, the House should go into Committee pro formâ and that the Bill should then be re-printed. Since that time he had received many communications, and had seen a good many members of these societies. He had also conferred with several hon. Members of the House, and had satisfied himself that there were one or two points on which the Bill could be improved without changing the principles on which it was founded. One point which naturally excited great interest, and on which it would be desirable to make a change, was in the matter of infant insurance. Without entering into the arguments which showed that some provisions were necessary to check the evils that were going on, he had come to the conclusion that an absolute prohibition of the insurance of lives of children below three years, as contained in the Bill, was not at present essentially necessary. The danger was not that parents should be able to insure the lives of infants for a sum that would cover the necessary funeral expenses, but that parents and others should have the means by these societies of insuring infant lives very far in excess of the expense of funerals. What he now proposed was, that parents should be allowed to insure the lives of children below three years, as heretofore, bat that the amount should be reduced so as not to be more than was necessary to cover the funeral expenses—namely, from 30s. to £2, as the House might hereafter decide. It would also be necessary to put a stop to the present system of insuring the lives of children in more than one society, and to restrict the permission to the parents themselves. The insurance of infant life would then be put upon a legitimate footing. There were two other points connected with this Bill which required explanation. It had been objected that the measure established a Government machinery much too large, and an idea existed that the Government were going to create throughout the country a very large and important staff for working the Bill. That, however, was a misunderstanding, and it had never been the intention of the Government that a number of new officers should be created. What was proposed was to strengthen the central authority, so that it should include Scotland and Ireland as well as England; and to establish district registration, not by new machinery, but by employing certain officers already known and existing throughout the country. District Registrars were necessary for two purposes—to facilitate the registration of small societies, and to give to the inhabitants of distant districts ready access to information respecting the societies carrying on their operations in the district. The Government, when the Bill was framed, were uncertain what would be the best machinery to employ, and they at first proposed that the Chief Registrar should have the power of framing a system of rules. An impression accordingly prevailed that the Government proposed to establish a much larger and more cumbrous machinery than they had ever contemplated. It was now intended, instead of district Registrars, to employ the clerks of the peace for the different counties, who were to offer facilities for the registration of these societies, and from whom information might be obtained in regard to them. Another change would be made. A clause in the Bill gave the Chief Registrar power to make regulations for carrying out its provisions. That was in accordance with the Trades Unions Act, and a similar provision existed in the Act of 1870, proposed by the right hon. Gentleman the late Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Lowe). It was now proposed, in deference to certain apprehensions which had been entertained, not to strike out the clause, but somewhat to limit it, and when the Bill was reprinted some of the regulations which it was contemplated the Registrar should make would be introduced into the Bill. When the Bill was reprinted, the House would see that in place of the district Registrars, whose appointment should be revised by the Treasury, the machinery of the clerks of the peace would be adopted. In place, moreover, of the general power given to the Chief Registrar to make regulations, the House would see the regulations embodied in the Bill itself. He would now move the second reading of the Bill thus modified. The hon. Baronet (Sir Charles W. Dilke) had given Notice of his intention to move an Amendment, declaring that it was too late in the Session to proceed with so important and complicated a measure. He was himself so well aware of the difficulties and complications of the subject, that he had been from the first far from desirous to press it forward unduly and against the feeling of the House and the country, and if a general opinion were expressed that the Bill should stand over until next Session, he should be by no means disposed to force it on. On the other hand, the general effect of the communications he had received from a large number of important societies was that it was desirable, if possible, to pass the Bill this Session, and that the general lines upon which the Bill was framed had obtained the approval of the persons and interests concerned. He wished it to be distinctly understood that what he desired was not so much speedy as satisfactory legislation. Certainly, he was not prepared to force the measure in opposition to the sense of the House and the country. There was one other remark he wished to make. The Bill dealt not only with friendly societies, but with several other classes of societies, and the reason was two-fold. It was very desirable that the country should see what functions were assigned to the Registrar of Friendly Societies; therefore the Bill was made to include all societies with which he was at present connected. In the second place, he believed it would be found that the legislation with regard to these different classes of societies was very nearly, but not quite, similar. There was some little difference, which it might be as well to get rid of; but if the House thought the Bill should be lightened by confining it to friendly societies, it would be perfectly competent to do so. His object, in including those other societies in the Bill, had been to show how many they had to deal with, how important the Registrar of Friendly Societies was, how analogous the treatment of the Legislature generally had been, and how convenient it would be to deal with them all in a single measure. He adhered to the general principle on on which the Bill was founded—that there should continue to be a registration of friendly societies, and that that registration should be of a local and a district character. He would conclude by moving the second reading of the Bill.
Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—( Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer.)
, who had on the Paper an Amendment to the effect—
said, he thought the changes announced by the right hon. Gentleman would so very largely reduce the proportions of the Bill, and wholly alter the character of the subject with which they had now to deal, that probably most hon. Gentlemen who had read the Bill, would be of opinion that it was desirable to see more of it. He understood the right hon. Gentleman had expressed his intention to omit from the Bill the various societies with which it dealt other than friendly societies proper. If the House should be of that opinion, although the clauses which dealt with the other classes of societies were very important, considering the interests with which they dealt, he should not move the Resolution of which he had given Notice. At present the Bill dealt with cattle insurance societies, charitable societies, burial funds, scientific and literary societies, trades unions, and loan societies, and it excited very great interest in almost every part of the community. It affected the interests of all union and non-union workmen, nearly all shopkeepers' assistants, and a large number of shopkeepers and their dependents. Besides, the subject was one on which they had singularly little general information, while the Report of the Commission, which sat three or four years and examined. 300 witnesses, had only been in the hands of hon. Members for three weeks, and the four great volumes of Reports of the Assistant Commissioners had been published only last week. The members of the societies as well as the officers were affected by the Bill, and in dealing with a subject affecting 4,000,000 of people and enormous funds without the fullest information, they would be risking considerable damage to the provident and self-reliant institutions of the country as they at present existed. The Bill, it was objected, either went too far, or it did not go far enough. It did not touch the great question raised two or three years ago by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for London University (Mr. Lowe) respecting registration. If it were true that insolvency was common amongst these societies, he thought they would be bound to go further than it was proposed to do, and to insist that no societies should be registered unless they were solvent. Would not Government registration be taken as a proof of solvency? If they did not go that length, he thought they should hesitate in dealing with the subject by means of local registers, which might disgust the officials of the societies and break them up altogether. The right hon. Gentleman had made a concession with regard to local registers which considerably altered the nature of the Bill. Had he persevered in his original intention, and if the House had thought it was not too late to proceed with the Bill, he should have voted against the second reading. In introducing the Bill the right hon. Gentleman used words which, though not intended to bear the signification, did suggest that there were to be a considerable body of assistant Registrars, which he said would undoubtedly lead to considerable expense; and, therefore, the House was justified in believing that he intended to create separate local registration officers in every county throughout England, Ireland, and Scotland. If that had been his intention, he ventured to say the effect would have been most disastrous on the prudence and self-reliance which it was the duty of that House to inculcate in the people. The right hon. Gentleman had also made another concession, for he had undoubtedly removed a considerable amount of popular anxiety by the change he proposed to introduce into the Bill with respect to burial societies. The proposal with regard to the compulsory abolition of childrens' insurances gave rise to much ill-feeling, especially in the North of England, where such insurances were very general, and it would have been felt to be a very great hardship upon many working men and women who had been in the habit of providing out of their savings for such a contingency. He believed that the provisions of the 65th clause, which would remain in the Bill, would be amply sufficient, if the Bill should be passed that Session, to secure the result at which the right hon. Gentleman aimed in preventing cases of child-murder, if there were any. The Report of the Commission was very far from confirming the reports which had been made in the newspapers, and sometimes in the House, in regard to those child-murders; and it ought not, he thought to go forth that it was the opinion of the House that it had been established before the Commission that those cases of child-murder had occurred. He still doubted whether the House was in a position to deal satisfactorily with the whole question at present, but after the statement of the right hon. Gentleman and the conciliatory spirit he had shown with respect to suggested Amendements, he felt that he could not press the Motion of which he had given Notice."That it is impossible, looking to the state of Public Business, that the House should give, this year, that amount of time to the complicated question of the relations between the great Friendly Societies and the State which the importance of the subject deserves,"
said, he quite concurred in much which had fallen from the hon. Gentleman who had just spoken. The question under discussion was one of the utmost importance, affecting as it did, directly and indirectly, 8,000,000 of people and a sum of money still larger, amounting to £11,000,000. On so large a scale, indeed, were the affairs of those societies conducted that a single society, the Manchester Unity—a well-managed society—found, on investigating its accounts, that it was no less than £1,000,000 behindhand. If, therefore, anything could be done to place those societies on a better footing, it was the duty of that House to do it, and the Government which effected the object would deserve the thanks of the community. But when he had said that much, he had said everything that could be set forth on the right side of the question. It was now four years since the Registrar of Friendly Societies died, and the appointment of his successor lay with him (Mr. Lowe), and he came to the conclusion that as things then stood, the registry, which was meant as a benefit to those societies, had become a very serious injury, for the reason that it inspired the public with a confidence in the society which there was nothing in the mere fact of a registry to justify. In that view, the late Government, at his (Mr. Lowe's) instigation, introduced a Bill which, if it had passed, would have placed them in the hands of the Registrar of Joint Stock Companies, and have in that way broken all connection between them and the Government, and have thus taken from them that sense of carefulness and security with which that connection had inspired them. It had, however, in consequence of objections received from the societies themselves, been deemed better to refer the matter to a Commission, which had taken great pains to consider the subject, and of whose proceedings the present Bill was the result. There was, he might add, a great distinction between the societies now in existence and those which might here-after be formed, and the present Bill might deal exceedingly well with one part of the subject, though not with another. The treatment of the two branches must, indeed, necessarily be different. What, for example, was the state of things which the Commission disclosed? He regretted to say, excellent as were the objects of the societies, their accounts were, according to the report of the Commission, of the most unsatisfactory character. It was grievous to think that so much good intention had led persons into a condition so disastrous. In the first place, the principle of registration itself had broken down, and it was stated that the country swarmed with unregistered societies which had no legal power of suing or acting in any way, and which were absolutely unqualified to discharge in any way the duties which they took upon themselves. That, alone, represented a most serious evil. Then, it was said that the accounts of the societies were exceedingly ill-kept, and, in many cases, unintelligible; that the law which required valuation was not complied with; and that in those cases in which there was valuation, it was made by persons not properly versed in the business, or who did not properly discharge their duties. There was also, he believed, in most eases, no audit; and, worst of all, those societies which were founded for provident purposes were, it appeared, founded on principles so utterly inadequate that they were perfectly unable sometimes to secure to the poor the benefits which they were meant to confer. That was the picture he gathered from the Report of the Commission; and anything more melancholy, more deplorable, or calling more loudly on Parliament for a remedy, he could hardly conceive. Well, then, that being so, what were the remedies which the present Bill proposed to provide? Why, he must say, that they were utterly inadequate, and really amounted to nothing at all, or perhaps to worse than nothing, for he could not help thinking that such provisions as it contained, instead of tending to amend, would rather tend to make worse the existing state of things. It was, for instance, most important that there should be a correct valuation; but the Bill, while it would render necessary the expense of having a body of valuators, did not provide that the valuation should be made by persons in whom the public would have confidence. The same remark applied to the furnishing of accounts, and while there were to be auditors, the Government did not venture to say to the societies that they should employ those auditors. And that was all that was done by the Bill to remedy the evils to which he referred, for as regarded registration, all existing societies had already been registered, and did not require re-registering. The whole matter, therefore, came to this—that those societies were to be loft in the perilous, and, in many cases, in a more deplorable state than that in which they found them, and that nothing was to be done to protect the weaker and less intelligent societies against persons of more intelligence on whom they relied. Indeed, their case was likely to be made much worse, because one of the peculiarities of Government interference was that Government could not meddle in private affairs without giving rise to the suspicion of being ready to do a great deal more than it would be justified in doing. He thought, therefore, the Government should never attempt to touch these matters, unless it was prepared to exercise sufficient power to justify the expectations formed of it. There were many things which might be suggested to be done; for instance, the audits, forms of account, and tables of which he had spoken might be made compulsory instead of optional. He could not say that he was able to censure the right hon. Baronet the Chancellor of the Exchequer for not attempting to do that; but this he did say, that if the right hon. Baronet was not prepared to go further than merely offering optional auditors, forms of accounts, and tables, it was a great pity that he should have brought forward any Bill upon the subject, because he could do nothing but mislead the public into thinking that some change was really taking place, and further inducing these societies to put off the only safe thing, a thorough ransacking of their affairs. He did not blame the Government for not doing more; what he blamed them for was, that they had done so much, and thus raised expectations which it was impossible for them to satisfy. They might have been advised to take the whole business into their hands, as they had taken that of the savings banks, and to enter into competition with the friendly societies; but the Commissioners had reported against that course, and he could not say that the Government were wrong in declining to adopt it, considering the difficulties with which they would continually have to contend. But there was another reason against that course of proceeding. People now joined these friendly societies without considering that they had another friendly society which was formed for them by the Government—namely, that of the Poor Law. But if the Government was to carry on two systems at the same time, one providing for old age by means of small payments from those who were to be benefited, the other by gratuitous assistance, who could doubt that the same feelings which had attached themselves to the Poor Law system would also come to be attached to Government friendly societies, and that the result would be either that it would undermine the whole system of friendly societies, or that the Government sick fund would become discredited, and would be regarded as a sort of Poor Law relief? What he most admired in these friendly societies was that they were really more ennobling and honourable than they seemed; for to find the people independent enough to pinch and save in their best days in order that they might not have to receive benefit from the Poor Law when old was a noble trait that ought never to be lost sight of. He came to the conclusion, therefore, that neither the plan proposed in the Bill nor a system of Government sick relief was likely to succeed or ought to be attempted. The result was, then, that they should leave these institutions to go on as they were doing, and to manage things in their own way. As had been described the other day in an article in The Times, they would go on as long as they could, and when they were called on to pay, they would pay to the best of their ability, and the only thing remaining for any Government was to give help whenever any of them set about remedying their own defects in the spirit shown by the Manchester Unity. For that reason, therefore, he was convinced the Bill could only add to the mischief already existing, and therefore he most earnestly hoped that the Government, unless they could really see their way to satisfy all the hopes they had excited, would not attempt to press it. He passed now to the new societies, and there they were to have a new system of registration; in other words, they were to have some 50 persons who were to perform the duty of Registrars all through the country. He did not know what the expense would be, but if it would do any good he should not grudge it. What would be the effect of registration? The effect of the registration, as defined by the Bill, was that "it should not be taken to imply that the rules of the society were legal, or that the society was established on a sound basis." People inferred from registration exactly what the Bill said it should not imply, and the inference therefore was, that instead of increasing and spreading the present system, the registration should be taken out of the hands of the present Department and placed under some other body, which should be as far as possible removed from the Government, and thus remove the notion that the Government was responsible for the legality or soundness of an undertaking which was registered. People inferred also that the rules when deposited with the Registrar must be legal, and it was most desirable that that link should be broken and the matter placed in other hands. He would suggest that, as in the case of joint-stock companies, an Act should be passed saying what might be the rules of the societies, and in that way there would be a much greater chance of securing uniformity of rules. He would not leave the rules merely to the approbation of the Registrar, but some body should be appointed who should decline to accept them, unless they were in accordance with the Act. In the same way, wherever a thing was to be provided by the rules, he thought that it should be provided by statute. It resulted very clearly from his observations that the matter was not at this moment ripe for legislation. They could not hope as things stood to make satisfactory progress, because after all it was not so much the future societies as the present that were of most importance in the consideration of this matter, and for them the Bill did little or nothing. The Government must do at least as much as would justify the confidence they were creating, and, failing that, they had better do nothing at all. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would not proceed with the Bill this Session. Indeed, he did not doubt that he would be content to let it rest for another year, unless, indeed, he was prepared to make some suggestion which would enable the House at once to put an end to, or to alleviate to a very great degree, the growing evils which now injured these most valuable friendly institutions.
hoped the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer would not be in too great a hurry to press the Bill. Having had some experience in establishing these societies, he had come to the conclusion that three things were necessary to found and sustain a successful society. The first requisite was registration, without which a society had no legal status; the second was that its rules and tables should be examined and certified by a competent actuary; and the third was an efficient and a regular system of audit. In regard to registration, the Government gave some help; but in regard to the other two requisites, it afforded no assistance whatever. The solution of the difficulty lay in determining how far the certificate of the actuary and a regular audit might be made as necessary to the existence of a society, as registration was under the existing law, and it was a most difficult question to solve. Parliament had been placed in possession of a valuable Report on the subject, for which they were much indebted to those who had prepared it; but that Paper had not been yet sufficiently read and circulated, especially as upon it fresh legislation must be founded. Therefore, he asked that more time might be given to weigh the different clauses of which such a measure ought to be composed. What was meant by the words "other infirmity?" There were questions also concerning annuities, endowments, rate of interest, and other matters of the same kind, which required the fullest consideration and discussion. He had no desire to impede legislation, and his reason for asking for delay was, that such legislation might be rendered more perfect. A very much better feeling was growing up among working men with reference to these societies, which were now managed by intelligent artizans, who thoroughly understood the necessary calculations.
believed that many of these societies were founded on rules which were very unsatisfactory, and the consequence was that few of them were solvent; and, therefore, if Parliament hastily interfered with ill-considered legislation, it would do far more mischief than it could possibly do good. The circumstances of the rules being registered under an Act of Parliament led people to suppose they were correct; but, for his own part, he believed that even the most flourishing and the best conducted of these institutions were either insolvent or in a most dangerous condition, which was likely to lead to insolvency. Under these circumstances, he entreated the right hon. Gentleman to give the House time to consider this important subject, which, he believed, hardly 10 Gentlemen in that House understood. His opinion was, that the House could not really and properly legislate on the subject without full inquiry into the whole matter, and he therefore hoped the right hon. Gentleman would submit the matter to a carefully chosen Select Committee, which might frame rules for the guidance of these societies. He further hoped the right hon. Gentleman would not prosecute the subject this Session, but that he would be prepared to proceed with it next year.
said, he was very glad to learn that his right hon. Friend did not propose to press that part of the Bill which prevented the insurance of children's lives, and that he intended to regulate the amount of insurance. He wished to make a few remarks, however, on the Bill generally. The matter was of such vast importance that it was difficult not to be somewhat uneasy lest, while regulating these societies, they should make the Government responsible. At present all responsibility on the part of the Government was denied; but yet the way in which reports had to be referred to the Registrar, and the rules to be registered, produced such an impression upon the people that they really believed the Government was responsible. That was the substance of what the Commissioners said on the subject, and the question arose, whether the Bill would do anything to lessen that feeling, or whether it would do the reverse? It appeared to do the reverse; because it created an army of Registrars, and intrusted them with great powers. Among other things, they were to draw up tables of insurance. That was a most critical and important duty, because it was a matter in which a very slight percentage might make a great difference. Tables which might be sound in a district where the death-rate ranged from 16 to 20, would be unsound where it ranged from 25 to 35. How far would the issuing of these tables induce the people to believe that the Government was responsible? This was no easy matter to determine. Again, an accusation was made which was absolutely horrible in itself, and what foundation there was for it ought to be definitively ascertained by a Commission, armed with the fullest powers; it was that children were systematically insured with the object of getting rid of them by neglect or by bad treatment, and so obtaining the insurance money. It was his belief that the contrary would be established; because, 20 years ago, he was a Member of a Committee which sat on the subject of Friendly Societies, and which informally entered on this question on the suggestion of the then Attorney General, who gave the names of witnesses whose evidence it was supposed would establish the allegations that were made. The witnesses were examined, and, so far from confirming, negatived the charges. Three or four years afterwards Lord Palmerston, who was then Home Secretary, stated in that House that children were commonly made away with; but the assertion was denied, and, if any evidence could have been obtained, Lord Palmerston was not the man to hold his hand. No doubt, children were neglected, and had anodynes given to them with injudicious kindness; but he was sorry the Commissioners adopted the sensational statement of a coroner as to children being wilfully overlain, because mothers and nurses, with no evil intention, took children into bed in order to allay the irritation of teething by warmth, and it was difficult to avoid overlaying them. But, if the practice did not prevail to the extent supposed, the women of England ought to be freed from this cruel aspersion. The Registration Returns showed a steady diminution in the death-rate of infants under the age of three years, and it would be wise to obtain special Returns from the parts of the country where infant mortality was supposed to be the largest. When he came down to the House he was unaware of the changes which were to be made in the Bill, and the impression upon his mind was that the Government were proceeding upon the principle of "hanging first and trying afterwards." The Government came to the decision not that there should be inquiry, but that people should be prevented from doing that which they desired to do. He was glad now to find that that principle was not to be proceeded with, and he thought that it would have been wiser if the whole question had been left to stand over till another year.
said, that with regard to insurances of infant life, he thought the Government had proposed, not to take away from the working man the means of providing for the possible expense of burying his child, which would be most unjust, and not the less unjust because it conveyed a charge against a class, which it would be almost impossible to substantiate; but—and he thought wisely—to remove the temptation to bad conduct by reducing the sum to be obtained in such cases; for there was no doubt that some persons, not parents, who were entrusted with infant life required most carefully looking after. The general tone of the discussion that evening seemed to prove that it would be almost impossible that the Bill should become law that year. The period of the Session was late; the question was a most difficult and detailed one; the Bill had not been long before the public; and nothing could be more disadvantageous than to give to the large body of persons connected with those societies, the impression that there had been hurried legislation. On the other hand the care taken in preparing and introducing that Bill, and allowing it to be considered during the Recess would render it much easier to deal with the subject next year, and of course the Government would not then be pledged to the details of the present measure. Although, therefore, they might not be able to legislate upon it this Session, he hoped the Government would not give up the matter, for he took rather a more hopeful view than his right hon. Friend the Member for the University of London. He (Mr. Forster) saw the dangers which his right hon. Friend had so clearly described; but they must consider the facts with which they had to deal. There existed a very great and most laudable desire on the part of the working people to do without the Poor Law; they competed with the Poor Law, and disliked coming upon the rates more than they used to do. They were anxious to save, especially upon a safe principle. If statistics could be obtained on that point, he believed it would be found that in regard to providence, the working class could hold their own with any other class excepting men of business. They could hold their own with the professional class, and, perhaps, even with the landed class, in respect to the amount they saved, especially having regard to the difficulties and temptations which beset them. For want of knowledge and information, however, they conducted their saving in many cases upon unwise and unsafe principles. The House, therefore, ought to be certain that it could do nothing to help them, before it determined to leave them in their present condition. Many of those Societies would acknowledge that they were in an unsafe position. Many years ago, before he was a Member of that House, he took a great interest on that subject in his neighbourhood, and then the Odd Follow Societies were in a much worse state than they were now. Many men had put the savings of a life in Societies which were in this position—that without young men constantly joining they must fail. The Odd Fellows, themselves, however, had the real facts brought before them, and they were not afraid to say—"If we go on upon our present principles we shall be insolvent, and therefore we must try to get upon a sounder footing." Other associations ought to be able by means of a levy to do the same, and no doubt, they would be able to do so when called upon. When the Societies faced their difficulties with such courage and prudence the House need not despair of the future. Then came the question—could they do good by further legislation? They must take care to avoid misleading the Members of those Societies, and he was not sure that the details of this Bill sufficiently guarded against that evil. On the card of membership there might be a printed statement showing unmistakably what was guaranteed and what was not. Then he thought the Government was right in giving actuarial information; and the furnishing of sound tables, which could be produced by the best knowledge in the country for almost any condition in life, was a step which the Government might take with safety. That would be a great boon to the working class, and it would have the effect of gradually weeding out the worst Societies. All that, of course, would have to be done with the greatest possible caution, so as not to give the members the notion that the Government had guaranteed what it really had not guaranteed. Those difficulties might be better met if the matter stood over for the year, and the Government would bring in a measure early next Session. Although they had had a Commission, he was not at all clear that it would not be desirable to send the Bill which might be introduced next year to a Select Committee not with the view of collecting further evidence, but to get the assistance of those hon. Members who knew most about the subject, in discussing the details of every clause with a degree of care which was unattainable in that House. A Select Committee could not, of course, sit during the present Session, but if his right hon. Friend withdrew the Bill now, with the view of re-introducing it next Session, he hoped he would consider very carefully which classes of society he would include in its operation. His own opinion was strongly in favour of excluding trades unions, for he saw no advantage in mixing them up with friendly societies.
said, he must congratulate the right hon. Baronet on the able manner in which he proposed to deal with a very large and very complicated question, and for endeavouring to consolidate the laws affecting friendly societies by repealing eight of the number. He believed that those societies were desirous of such legislation as would clearly define their position, and were willing to assent to any regulations and restrictions which Parliament might impose upon them with the view of affording protection to the weak and helpless, and in order to satisfy the public that their business was conducted upon sound principles. At the same time, they viewed with considerable apprehension certain provisions contained in the Bill. First of all, they viewed with apprehension the proposal of having a Chief Registrar with almost unlimited power. They were indebted to the right hon. Gentleman for explaining that he proposed to limit and define the power of the Chief Registrar, and he would suggest that they should have three Registrars—one for England, one for Scotland, and one for Ireland—and that the certificate of either of the three should be valid in the United Kingdom. Another objection which friendly societies had to the Bill was the multiplication of officials. Some of those societies were splendid examples of the forethought and self-denial of the better members of the working classes, who had organized them without the aid of Government; and with that self-reliance and love of independence which characterized the people of this country, they were naturally jealous of any undue interference on the part of Government, and looked upon the appointment of a large number of officials as likely to lead to harassing and needless interference, which would prevent the expansion of existing societies and the establishment of new ones. He did not think it wise for any Government to do for the people what they could do better for themselves. The limit of interference should be the protection of the helpless, and therefore he trusted that the duty of deputy Registrars would be simply confined to giving such information as might be necessary in connection with those societies. He now came to the third provision in the Bill, which had excited more interest than any other part—namely, the 65th clause—by which it was proposed to exclude from the benefits of insurance, infants under three years of age. In introducing this Bill, the right hon. Gentleman said—
This was a most alarming statement, and he agreed with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. Henley) that if there was the slightest foundation for that statement, the most searching investigation should take place. He had carefully examined the Report of the Royal Commissioners, and was glad to say that the evidence contained in that Report did not, in his opinion, warrant the conclusion arrived at by the right hon. Baronet. Doubtless, cases occurred where cruel or careless mothers might shorten infant life, just as adult life might be shortened by culpable neglect; but he did not believe that friendly societies were the cause of the excessive mortality referred to. The Royal Commissioners showed that for every 100 children in this country that died under one year of age, 38 died from one to two years of age; whereas, in eight of the largest towns in England, for every 100 that died under one year of age, 50 died from one to two years of age. The reason assigned in the Report was as follows—"The insurance of infants, it was believed, led to great carleessness, and it was shown that where these burial societies existed, the mortality of infant life was lamentably in excess of what it was elsewhere. They proposed, therefore, not to permit the insurance of infants below three years of age."
Now, he would call attention to this fact—that most, if not all, these societies gave half-benefit for children who died after the age of six months—that was to say, the parents insured a child for £5, and if it lived to the age of six months, the parents received £2 10s. in case the child died, and if it lived to the age of one year, they received the full amount of £5. Now, he put it to any hon. Member whether any mother who wished to get rid of her child, would keep it alive till it attained the age of one year, in order to receive the larger sum? But he would call their attention to another point—that if that was really the cause of the excessive mortality in those places, then it would follow that the same cause would produce the same effect, or nearly so, wherever burial societies existed. But when they looked at the two largest towns referred to—Liverpool and Manchester —they found that for every 100 children who died under one year of age, 58 died from one to two. On the other hand, if they looked to the two smallest towns—Blackburn and Preston—for every 100 children who died under one year of age, 40 died at from one to two years of age; and yet, he believed, there were no towns where the burial societies had a larger number of members in proportion to population than Blackburn and Preston. But the Commissioners asked them to take in contrast with these towns other towns—Macclesfield, Chorley, and Doncaster, where, for every 100 children who died under one year, 35 died at from one to two years. Now, it so happened that Chorley was a place where burial societies had large numbers of members, and a great proportion of them under three years of age. But they were told by the Commissioners that, in these three towns, the burial societies were excellently conducted. He ventured to say that they could find a score of places in England where, irrespective of the existence of burial societies, they would find the same results. But if the argument was worth anything, it showed that they should endeavour to improve these burial societies, and not do away with the insurance of infants under three years of age. He ventured to think that further inquiry into that interesting question would prove that, just in proportion as they found an excessive amount of mortality in any particular town or city, so they would find an increase in the death-rate of all ages, and a greater proportionate increase of the death-rate from one to two years of age than under one year. But the Royal Commissioners were not content, and very properly so, with the information contained in these tables, and they determined to ask the opinion of men well qualified to give an opinion on such a subject. They requested 391 coroners and procurators-fiscal in England, Scotland, and Ireland to answer this question—"The great increase in the infant mortality of Liverpool takes place precisely within the year when infants can just come into full benefit: in the general burial societies. And we find that of the other towns referred to, all but one have large agencies of the same societies."
239 replied; and of that number 75 declined to give an opinion, 4 expressed themselves decidedly in favour of the influence of the societies, 114 said they thought the influence not unfavourable to infant life, and of the remaining 45, only 27 referred to the question of infant mortality, 12 of them saying that no cases had come under their observation upon which they could base opinions. This question received great attention from the Select Committee of 1854, and the conclusion they came to was—"Do you consider that the existence of burial societies exercises any unfavourable influence upon the mortality either of infants or adults, or tends to promote parental neglect? "
The Royal Commissioners, in their Report just issued, said—"That the instances of child murder, where the motive of the criminal has been to obtain money from a burial society, are so few as by no means to impose upon Parliament an obligation, for the sake of public morality, to legislate specially with a view to the prevention of that crime."
It was to be regretted that, having no such power, and having only the limited and imperfect information referred to, the Commissioners should have drawn from so narrow an area of observation conclusions so important, and so calculated to create a feeling of alarm in the country. He was glad that the right hon. Baronet had reconsidered the 65th clause, and that he had been able to state to the House that he proposed to provide against any possible culpable carelessness on the part of parents, and to protect children, as far as he could protect them by legislation, by fixing the amount insured at a moderate sum, not exceeding the cost of burial. With the other guards that had been introduced into the Bill, he believed that every care would be taken against these societies being abused. On the whole, reserving to himself the right to propose Amendments in Committee, he should support the Bill; but, at the same time, looking to the importance of the question, which involved so many interests, he should feel no regret if the Chancellor of the Exchequer saw his way to postpone legislation on the subject until next year."Nothing short of an inquiry, coupled with compulsory power, of obtaining evidence, and with power of indemnifying witnesses against the consequences of self-incrimination, can set the question at rest."
said, it was very much to the credit of the English people that they were pre-eminent among European nations in their support of friendly societies, considering the small amount of support that was given to them by the State. Ever since the time of Mr. Pitt they had been casting about for the best means of giving them encouragement, and what was the result? It was universally admitted that the present action of the State was unsatisfactory, and that the State could not stand still in reference to the question, but must either recede from the position it had taken up, and leave the societies to take care of themselves, or go a very great deal further than it had at present proceeded. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of London at one time laid it down that the State should go back and do nothing for friendly societies except register their names; but he afterwards maintained before the Friendly Society Commissioners that the State should establish minimum tables, and that no Society should be registered which did not adopt rates in excess of those in the tables. There were many objections to this proposal, among which might be reckoned the departure from the principle laid down by the right hon. Gentleman, because it was asking the State to go further in the direction of interference than it had ever done before. It seemed to show that the right hon. Gentleman had abandoned his idea of the State doing nothing; and, as the necessity for some action was almost admitted, it only remained to make it clear what that action should be. If anyone looked back into the history of these institutions, he would find that when first the working classes became conscious of the advantages they could obtain by combination for these purposes, they rushed into them with the blindest zeal and confidence, and thus became the dupes of others who intended, he would not say to defraud them, but to use them for their own selfish purposes. The result was, that there was scarcely a village which had not known the existence of a friendly society that had broken down. Two or three agencies contributed since that time to produce a sounder state of things. First patronage established county friendly societies, which, as a class, alone came out of the recent ordeal satisfactorily; but the time had gone by for patronage, and the classes for whose especial benefit they were established did not join them. Next the affiliated orders introduced sounder principles of management, especially by recognizing the necessity for areas sufficiently large to give average results; but it was a lamentable fact, after all, that one of the best of them— the Odd Fellows—owed more than a million of money; and he knew, from what the Commissioners had stated, that, speaking of the affiliated orders as a whole—a body embracing about a million members—the average funds of the great bulk of the branches were totally inadequate to meet their liabilities. Then, again, the local burial societies laid "no claim to actuarial solvency," while the larger burial societies, about whose financial position he had perhaps better say nothing, were described as presenting "untrustworthy accounts, credited in an unsatisfactory manner." With regard to others the precise state of things could not be ascertained. In these circumstances it was high time that something should be done. Was Parliament to delay for ever, and year after year to allow new members to come into rotten societies without stamping them with its condemnation, or taking care, at least, that men should no longer join them in ignorance of their position? Among the causes which had led to the downfall of these societies might be mentioned—first, ruinous competition, for the founding of a village club was sure to be followed by the starting of an opposition club offering greater benefits, and the resulting competition ended in the ruin of both; a second cause of failure was the insufficiency of the rates; and a third, and most important one, was the way in which members had allowed the rules of the societies to be systematically disregarded. He knew one large society that had not had a general meeting of its members or committee for nine years, without objection being raised by one of its many thousand members; and at present no man knew what its condition was. Nothing was more distressing than the helplessness of anyone who wished to know, for the sake of himself or others, what society was "safe." The Government, he ventured to think, ought to be asked to do for the societies of the poor what it did for the societies of the rich. No hon. Member going to an insurance office was allowed to be in absolute ignorance as to the financial position of the society, Parliament having required of each such society that it should publish its accounts, and show its position by its balance-sheet. Surely there was nothing unreasonable in asking that the societies of the poor should also be asked to publish their accounts, and he would insist on a regular periodical valuation of the societies' property, of which many of them were at present afraid, knowing that actuarial examination would have a discouraging effect on people about to join them—indeed, it would have the very deterrent consequence it ought to have. The principle of the Bill was the provision of means to enforce improvement. The present registration had failed, and the time had come for local machinery to instruct people in the principles on which these societies ought to be managed, and to prosecute when the law was not complied with. The Bill did not go far enough; it was too much of a permissive Bill; he should like to substitute in some of its clauses the word "shall" for the cowardly word "may." He should like to see a public auditor appointed with power to report on the condition of any society on the application of the members. In this matter delay might be ruinous; it must involve disaster; and if he stood alone he would urge upon the Government to press forward some portion of their Bill and try to pass it this Session. But the feeling of the House was clearly against any such course. Many valuable suggestions had been thrown out in the course of the debate, and with the object of enabling the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer to consider them for a short time he would move the adjournment of the debate.
Motion made and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned." ( Mr. Edward Stanhope.)
said, he also wished to congratulate the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer on bringing forward the Bill, but joined with other hon. Members who had spoken in asking him to defer proceeding with it. He quite agreed with the hon. Member who had just sat down that the question was one deserving the utmost and immediate attention; but it was a subject so great in itself that any hasty legislation, he felt assured, would be a great deal worse than delay for another year, in order to ascertain the feeling of the body of the people upon it. Reference had been made to the Reports of the Royal Commission. Many of the large societies had not even seen those Reports at all, and it would be only just that they should see the Reports before any Bill passed, and that they should have an opportunity of forming an opinion carefully upon the recommendations. He asked delay upon another ground. Certain charges had been made in the Reports respecting infant mortality. Those charges were so grave that the House and the country ought to know more about them, and they ought to be ferreted out to the very bottom. If they should turn out to be in any way well founded, he considered that no provision in the Bill was stringent enough to meet them. There was one matter which had not been referred to—namely, the largo sums taken for collection. Having some knowledge of this question, he could affirm that a large amount of the savings of the people was wasted for purposes entirely different from those for which the money was contributed and should be applied. It was extremely desirable to give a spur to the people's providence and economy; and he looked forward to the time when, by the action of well-regulated benefit societies, the country would be able to do away with a Poor Law altogether; for if a twentieth part of the income of the prosperous public were taken from them to-day to support the poor, the time might come when all the income of the provident portion of the people might be applied to the support of the improvident. He, for one, looked with detestation upon a Poor Law as the thin edge of Communism, and for these reasons, and desiring to see a Bill passed that would encourage habits of providence among the people, he would venture to join in the request for delay.
said, it was desirable not to lose sight, in the consideration of this question, of the great difference which existed between friendly societies proper and burial and insurance societies. If the Chancellor of the Exchequer should see his way to pass any portion of the Bill, it would be necessary to keep that distinction clearly in view. It might be that much had been discovered with regard to burial societies; but he apprehended that whatever legislation was required in reference to those bodies, friendly societies, strictly and properly so-called, would be infinitely better if loft to their own domestic, personal, and economic regulations than they could be if interfered with too largely by Government. There was no guarantee whatever in the Commissioners' Reports upon which it would be safe to presuppose—much more unsafe would it be to act upon the supposition—that there was any great increase of mortality arising from the burial societies. He did not believe there was any ground for the somewhat unwarrantable, he had almost said libellous, statement sometimes advanced out of this House, that among the children of the members of burial societies there was an amount of mortality greater than might be expected among a class of people who dwelt in close and unhealthy places. Crowded dwellings did, and always would, produce disease and death, more especially when situated in the lower localities of our large cities and towns. With respect to the debt of the Odd Fellows, it was perfectly true that some years ago there was a deficit of £1,000,000, but it would be a mistake to suppose that the society was therefore insolvent. There might have been a time when that society owed £1,000,000 if then called upon to wind up, but it was perfectly able to go on meeting its engagements. The members, however, had since been continually making up the deficit. As regarded the tables of annuities it might be that, as had been said, it was a silent method of getting the thin edge of the wedge into the matter, and so handing the societies over to Government, which he should strongly deprecate. Anything tending to centralize a society would, so far as economy was concerned, be a very great evil, and he therefore hoped that the Government dealing with the subject, would as far as possible leave the internal regulation and economy of these societies in the hands of the societies themselves, as the less they interfered the better it would be. Although a great improvement had taken place lately, he desired that searching inquiry might be made into the affairs, at any rate of the smaller burial societies, with a view, if possible, to the separating of the legislative requisites, to meet alike their wants and the wants of friendly societies properly so named.
, as a Member of the Royal Commission, expressed a hope that the Government would give the House further time to consider the subject, which affected the interests of 4,000,000 members and 32,000 societies in England and Wales. He felt that the Reports on which the Bill was founded had been too recently issued and too imperfectly read, to enable them wisely, discreetly, and carefully to deal with the subject by legislation that Session. He very much doubted whether the Report of the Commissioners had been read to the end, but it was there stated that there was a supplementary Report; for while eight Commissioners signed the full Report, four Commissioners, and among them a most distinguished Member of the present Government, had signed another Report differing on one of the most vital principles of the Bill—namely, that of discretionary registration. He, therefore, ventured to think more time should be given for the consideration of this matter. It might well be left till next Session, in order to enable hon. Members to consult their constituents regarding it.
objected to being called upon to vote for the second reading of this Bill without having had a fair opportunity of reading the Reports on which it was founded. The Bill took away from people the construction and carrying on of their own societies, and for these reasons, therefore—the shortness of time allowed them to peruse the Report, the uncertainty and the difficulty of the subject—he urged upon the right hon. Gentleman the expediency of giving hon. Members the Recess in which to consult their constituents upon this most important subject. He had felt it to be necessary to send down the Reports to the secretaries of the different societies in the borough which he represented, and it was too much to expect that they could be dealt with in so short a time as had elapsed since their publication. He would beg the Government distinctly to state how they meant to deal with cattle assurance societies. The difficulties attending the proof of pleuro-pneumonia, and the insufficiency of the Government compensation for the rinderpest had, in his (Mr. Hubbard's) district, induced the farmers to take the matter entirely into their own hands. Did the Government intend to guarantee the existing friendly societies; if not, had the new registration a deeper meaning than the old? The Report told the country that the poor law was still the best friendly society—" You put nothing in, and take a good deal out." He thought the Government would do well to consider how far they could not change the whole system of the poor law, and make thrift, and not destitution alone, the object of help, before they touched the friendly societies at all.
said, the friendly societies throughout the country were expecting legislation, but they would be astonished if, before they had a fair opportunity of considering the Report of the Royal Commission, an Act were passed based on that Report. One great advantage of postponing the Bill until next Session would be that the circulation of the Report would act as a means of educating the members of these societies and preparing them for the legislation that was necessary. The House must remember that they could not deal with these societies as they could with factories, for they were mere voluntary associations, and might any day collapse. He did not doubt that many of these societies were sound, and placed on a legitimate basis, while others were not; but, under all the circumstances of the case, he considered that more time should be given for discussion in the country before they proceeded with any legislation.
said, that according to his knowledge, there was a great desire in the country to have a more perfect acquaintance with the proposals of the right hon. Gentleman. He would point out that it was a great mistake to suppose that these societies were managed by ignorant men. That was not so, for the managers of friendly societies had a great suspicion of patronage from without, and an intense dislike for an excess of legislative regulation; but they had no objection to see a well-considered measure pass, and if the matter were allowed to stand over, they would be able to add much to the stock of information already existing upon the subject. What was wanted was a simple Bill which would enable the friendly societies to proceed more efficiently in their competition with the relieving officers and the Poor Laws. No doubt the evidence taken by the Royal Commission had opened the eyes of many persons connected with these societies as to the financial position of them; but he thought that if time were given to them, and they were not checked by any undue threats, their recuperative power would enable them to put their affairs in a sound financial position. Permissive legislation would but give a false security, and undo the good the Chancellor of the Exchequer desired to effect. He, however, considered that no legislation could satisfactorily take place till next Session.
said, he had received representations from different societies imploring the right hon. Gentleman not to force on the Bill, and raising objections to at least 13 clauses. His own impression was, that the Bill was either too large or too small. He also thought it would be well to postpone legislation until further time had been given to the country to consider the whole of a very important and difficult question.
was pleased with the Amendment which the right hon. Gentleman proposed to make in the clause relating to children under three years of age. He also agreed in the wisdom of the suggestion that it would be better to reprint the measure, in order that those interested in it might have an opportunity of deliberating upon the proposal.
said, that it was for the interest of the sound societies that legislation should be cautious and not hasty. If the Bill should be postponed till next Session, it could be well considered by all persons interested during the Recess, and if that should be done, Parliament would be able to make more rapid progress with legislation next Session.
thanked the hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire (Mr. Stanhope) for his able and interesting speech, and also for having proposed a Motion and so enabled him (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) to make a few observations at the present stage of the Bill. He made a few observations on the second reading of the Bill in anticipation of the Amendment placed on the Paper, but not moved, by the hon. Baronet the Member for Chelsea (Sir Charles W. Dilke). He was somewhat surprised that the hon. Baronet had not asked the opinion of the House upon his proposal, the view expressed in which had been supported by all the speakers in the course of the debate. The line taken by hon. Members not only did not surprise him, but was entirely in accordance with his own feelings on the subject. During the time he had spent in studying this question, he had learnt to take a very great interest in it, and also to appreciate its difficult complexion and the importance of not attempting to legislate upon it without carrying the sense and the conviction of the country with them. It was not so much in the excellence of the rules under which these societies were managed as in the spirit with which they had been worked that he saw their chief merit. Many people had been induced to join them, and he should therefore think it a very great misfortune if by precipitate legislation the people were led to think that the management of them had been taken out of their hands and placed in those of Government officials, and that they had been legislated for irrespective of their convictions. But, feeling that, he could not regret the course which the Government had taken, for after looking at the mass of evidence upon the subject in the Library, which, by its very extensiveness, might deter many people from an attentive study, all they wished was sharply and clearly to draw the attention of the country and the House to the points requiring amendment, in order that no time might be lost in legislating upon them. Having succeeded in doing that, they were perfectly willing now to take the second reading of the Bill and then to commit it pro formâ, in order that it might be reprinted with the Amendments which had resulted from the discussion that had already taken place. The Bill in its amended form could then go into the country, together with the Report of the Commissioners and the evidence upon which it was based, in order that early in next Session they might be able to consider a carefully-considered measure, which would settle the whole question in a manner satisfactory to all concerned. He would now say a few words upon one or two important points; and, first, upon the question of the insurance of children, and infant mortality. He entirely repudiated such language as had been held by the hon. Member for Leeds (Mr. Wheelhouse) who spoke of the provisions on this subject as a libel on the working classes. Let it be borne in mind that the very imputation which was said to be cast on the working classes by this Bill was already cast by law upon the richer classes. If his hon. Friend were to go into an insurance office and propose to insure the life of one of his children he would not be allowed to do so, because he would not have an insurable interest in it. An exceptional privilege was given to members of friendly societies in this respect; and now, whereas this privilege which the working classes had was exceptional, and in some cases had led to frightful calamities, the Government proposed to restrict, but not to take it away altogether. It was all nonsense to talk of libel on the working classes. It was well known there was no such idea in the minds of those who made the proposal, nor was it intended to suggest that the working classes were not as fond of their children as parents in the upper classes. But there were many cases in which children were exposed to great danger, not by the action of their parents, but of persons who had interested motives. Investigations into baby farming and other matters of that kind showed that such dangers were real. If hon. Gentlemen would look at the tables of the Registrar General, they would see that whereas in the Kingdom generally mortality in the first year of life was, from various causes, much greater than in the second and third, in those towns where the great collecting burial societies carried on their business, the reverse was the case; and the mortality in the second and third years, by which time benefits on insured lives became payable, largely exceeded the mortality in the first year. When one found that children were insured in two or three societies, in some cases to the amount of £18 and more, and then noticed these remarkable statements, one could not help suspecting that an evil existed which required to be remedied. Well, though the Government had put into their Bill clauses prohibiting the insurance of children under three years, he was prepared to admit that the injury which might be done to innocent people was so considerable that they should try to find out some other means to secure the end in view. He hoped that by limiting the amount and by precautions to prevent double insurance they might meet the evil. But he could assure the House the evil was one which was not to be lightly passed over. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Lowe) found fault with the Bill in what seemed to be a rather hesitating manner, alleging that the present system was unsatisfactory, and that it would be very desirable that Government should no longer be thought responsible for its results. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to think that the Government had better stand out of the way and leave the societies altogether alone, but he rather shrunk from boldly stating that conclusion. On the other hand, if the Government would not do that, the right hon. Gentleman thought they should go further and enforce the regulations of the societies. Several other Gentlemen, and even the hon. Member for Maidstone (Sir Sydney Waterlow), to whose assistance the Commission was so deeply indebted, referred to a difference of opinion among the Commissioners themselves as to whether the Government should not go further and attempt to prescribe certain rules which would promote the greater efficiency of the societies. The House would probably find, on consideration, that the middle course proposed by the Government was the safest and best. He was surprised to hear so high an authority as the hon. Member for Sheffield (Mr. Roebuek) say—" Don't let the House touch these matters, because the societies are in a state of insolvency." That was approximating the state of mind of the gentleman who said not long ago—"I don't care what happens, so it does not happen to me." There seemed to be a feeling in some quarters that as long as the Government kept out of responsibility it did not matter what the societies did. But that was not the view of the Government. He was very much struck by what had been stated by the right hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. Forster), who said that some time ago he had occasion to look into the affairs of the Manchester Unity, and then he would not have liked to recommend that society as he was now prepared to do. He presumed the right hon. Gentleman was referring to a time when the Manchester Unity was kept outside the pale of the law, and not recognized on account of the jealousy which prevailed of what were called secret societies. But he was sure the great improvement in those societies dated from the time when they were brought within the pale of the law. God forbid that the Government should take the work out of the hands of these societies, and make it compulsory on them to use the tables or other machinery which they would be well disposed to use if they found them suitable. But, then, the Government wished to place these tables at the service of the societies. Mr. Radcliffe had been the chief agent in improving the Manchester Unity, and in inducing it to take up sound principles of insurance, and he had given it tables, by which it would by-and-by, he believed, work itself into a state of complete solvency. But other societies were not disposed to take up the tables of the Manchester Unity without reference to their own condition, because the tables which might suit one society might not suit another. He attached much more importance to the periodical valuation. It was all very well for a society to adopt the tables recommended by the Government; but unless their proceedings were watched they might be going altogether wrong. The object of periodical valuation was, as boys said at school, "to prove your sum." He was quite aware that the best societies employed auditors of the highest ability and character to look at their accounts; but it was also true that in a large number of cases the audit was a mere delusion. In order to remedy this state of things it was necessary, first, to provide forms of accounts, the use of which should be compulsory, and which would show the real condition of the society, and in the second place to secure that auditors should be appointed whose statements could be relied upon. Well, the principle of the Bill was that they should afford the societies throughout the country the means of getting the assistance which they required. He desired that the means of registration should be brought nearer to hand than London, so that persons might easily obtain in their own district any information they might require with regard to the societies. If that was done, it might be hoped that, with the growing intelligence of the people and the advice of persons interested in the welfare of the working classes, there would be a great improvement and reform effected in these societies. He shrank from giving any assurances which might seem to imply that the Government could do what they had never done and could not do. What, however, he thought they ought to do was to assist the societies, and at the same time to give the public the means of ascertaining what the societies were doing. He hoped his hon. Friend would withdraw his Motion for the adjournment of the debate, as no advantage could be derived if it was pressed. He proposed that the Bill should now be read a second time, and at an early day they might go into Committee on it pro formâ, in order that he might have the opportunity of inserting certain Amendments which he considered necessary.
said, he was glad that the Government did not intend to press the measure. Many of the provisions, so far as they affected Ireland, were pernicious. It was sought to reserve the decision of many points to the officials in London, and even in some cases the jurisdiction of the Irish Law Courts was ousted. Friendly societies in England had already done much harm in Ireland, and this Bill should contain a clause that no English society should be allowed to be registered in Ireland, unless it possessed property in that country, or unless means were provided for prosecuting claims against the society without coming over to England. If the precaution was not taken of remedying this oversight, great hardship and expense would be inflicted upon poor people in Ireland.
Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
Main Question put, and agreed to.
Bill read a second time, and committed for Monday next.