Page images
PDF
EPUB

be said to be the maintenance and improvement of the Friendly Society system; that is to say, of a system which allows and encourages persons to form themselves into societies to provide themselves with pay in sickness, at death, or at other periods; which recognises such societies on their registering their rules with a Government officer, and gives them certain advantages, either in the courts of law or otherwise, which without some special legislation they would not possess.”

One school said, the State had better leave the whole affair alone; the other school, that the State should make its interference more effectual.

His own bill went with neither school:
“ It aims in the main at these two objects:

“1. The giving of information, which may be of use to the founders and managers of societies, and may assist them in framing proper rules and tables; and,

“ 2. The requiring the managers of societies to give such information to the public as may enable intelligent persons to judge for themselves (and for those in whom they may feel an interest) what the real position of any particular society is, and whether it offers an eligible means of investment or not.

In order to accomplish the first object, the bill provides for the preparation of good model tables of contributions and benefits, to be issued by the Government for the use of such societies as choose to adopt them. It also proposes to give additional facilities for the audit of accounts and for the valuation of societies, by a proper 1871.]

FRIENDLY SOCIETIES BILL.

45

attention to which managers may ascertain from time to time how their society stands, and whether any measures for strengthening it are required.

"In order to accomplish the second object, the bill provides for the registration of societies, not only at headquarters in London, but in the various counties in which they carry on their business, and for the registration, not only of their names, places of business, and rules, but also of the periodical valuations of their assets and liabilities, which are henceforth to be made compulsory, and which are to be made, or at all events abstracted, on a uniform principle. It is hoped that these may by-and-by be made so simple that any ordinary village schoolmaster or other fairly educated person will be able to understand them, and give useful advice to persons in humbler positions who may think of joining any particular society.

Subject to these two conditions—the giving of sound advice, and the requiring of correct information for general use—it is the general intention of the bill to leave the managers of societies as free as possible to follow any course they please with regard to their constitution and management. There are, however, certain classes of societies for which some particular regulations appear to be needed. The principal of these are the great Burial Societies.

“These Burial Societies, composed, as they are, of the poorest and most ignorant part of the population, and to a large extent of mere infants, have for the most part a central managing body in some great town, which directs

[ocr errors]

their operations all over the kingdom. The danger here lies, not so much in their adopting unsound tables of contributions and benefits, as in their spending too much on the management, and in their oppressing the distant or helpless members. The bill, therefore, contains some provisions for meeting the principal evils connected with this class of societies. These provisions will be found in the 30th clause of the amended bill of last session. They are, to a great extent, founded on those contained in a bill introduced by Lord Lichfield in 1868, which was defeated mainly by the opposition of the great Burial Societies.

“The bill also contains some restrictions upon the insurance of infant lives. This is a subject which is sure

. to evoke much popular interest on both sides of the question. On the side of the Burial Societies it will be urged that these restrictions will prevent parents from fulfilling their natural desire to make provision for the interment of their children. On the other side, it will be contended that they are necessary to prevent much culpable neglect, if not actual infanticide. It will be seen that this part of the bill has been much modified. In the first draft it was proposed absolutely to prohibit the insurance of children under three years of age. In the revised draft (sec. 27) the provisions are, that no child under three years of age shall be insured in more than one society, nor for a larger sum than 30s. ; that none but the parent or his personal representative shall receive the payment; and that greater strictness shall be observed in the matter of certificates. These latter regulations apply

1871.]

FRIENDLY SOCIETIES BILL.

47

[ocr errors]

to children under ten years of age. They are to be enforced by making the breach of them offences' under the Act, and as such they will subject the offenders to penalties of from £l to £5.

“These, then, being the leading objects of the bill, we have next to consider the machinery by which it is proposed to attain them. This is partly old and partly new. In the main, however, it may be described as machinery constructed on the old lines, but strengthened and improved in some material points.

In the first place, the bill proposes to consolidate and re-enact the bulk of the present Friendly Societies law; to continue a system of registration, though one which will differ in some particulars from that now in force; and to continue to registered societies the legal advantages which they now possess. It proposes to make it easier for societies to register, and to place stricter limits on the arbitrary power of the registrar to refuse his certificate, which is now a cause of complaint.

“With these objects in view, it purposes to consolidate

1

1 "These advantages are thus described in the Report of the Royal Commissioners :

They can hold property in the names of trustees : Can sue and be sued in representative names : “Can proceed against their officers in case of any fraud or misconduct : “Can recover property from their estates in certain cases :

May make provision for the settlement of disputes among their mem. bers by arbitration :

“Can invest their funds with the Commissioners for the Reduction of National Debt:

Are exempt, within certain limits, from stamp duties : “And can be dissolved on cheap and easy terms when occasion arises." VOL. II.

D

[ocr errors]

the registries of the three kingdoms, which are now very inconveniently kept distinct, so that a society intending to carry on business in more than one kingdom may register for all alike at the central office. It proposes also to allow societies which carry on their operations within a single county, to register each with the clerk of the peace of its own county. It proposes to remove the restrictions which, according to the construction placed on the law by successive registrars, prevent the registration of the dividing' or 'sharing-out' clubs which abound in the rural parts of the country, and in some of the country towns, and in fact to admit to the privileges of the law almost any type of society. It proposes to give to the promoters of societies a right of appeal to a court of law, in case the registrar refuses them registration.

“ But, in addition to these advantages, the bill proposes to call upon the registrar's office (which is to be strengthened for the purpose), to render other services to the societies. Tables of contributions and benefits, and model forms of accounts, balance-sheets, and valuations, are to be prepared there, and published for the use of societies, though their use is to be entirely optional on the part of the managers. These tables will afford a standard with which to compare the tables in use by different societies. The Institute of Actuaries are at the present moment kindly giving their attention to the number and classes of tables which should be prepared; and I hope to

; be in possession of their views before the meeting of Parliament."

« PreviousContinue »