§ Mr. G. ROBERTS
Yes, Sir. I.appointed a Committee consisting of the right hon. Sir Walter Phillimore, Bart. (Chairman), Mr. Samuel G. Warner, president of the Institute of Actuaries, and Mr. Frederic John Young, president of the Institute of Chartered Accountants. They were requested to inquire and report whether the financial position of the respective companies and collecting societies who (were parties, together with their commitments, would permit of a war bonus being granted. It was agreed that the Committee would not sit as a Court of arbitration, but would report to me separately for each company or collecting society.
The agents were represented by counsel, and submitted to the Committee their case on six of the companies and societies. Witnesses were called, and facilities were given for cross-examination.
After the cases of these six companies and societies had been heard, counsel for the agents requested the Committee to give some intimation of the opinion that they had formed on the cases. The Committee did so, and were thereupon informed that it was not desired to bring other cases forward. The Committee inferred from this that the agents did not consider the remaining cases would put their claim in a more favourable light than those already heard.
The Committee reported separately on the six cases, and in no case did they consider that the financial position of the companies or societies would permit of the agents receiving a war bonus of 10s. per week, the amount of the original claim. In certain cases the Committee thought that a small war bonus might be payable, but this would generally be of a 2228W negligible amount, and could be paid only at the expense either of the ordinary policy holders, who were entitled to a return on their policies out of surplus, or by using the whole of the next dividend in paying the agents by way of anticipation.
In coming to this conclusion the Committee emphasise certain considerations which were before them. All insurance companies have suffered by reason of the War, in the general depreciation of Stock Exchange securities and such investments as freehold ground rents, and this situation necessitates the creation of substantial reserves.
All companies have paid on the death of civilians who had voluntarily enlisted in the forces and been killed, although such payments were not in all cases legally binding. They have made allowances to members of the staff who enlisted.
They have also suffered owing to the increased losses due to the increase of deaths of men of military age over the actuarial expectation of mortality on which the premium tables are founded, and this is particularly the case with the companies which do industrial business.
Finally, the operation of the Courts (Emergency Powers) Act, 1914, has weighed heavily upon industrial assurance companies, because it forbade the lapsing of industrial policies not exceeding £25 in value which had been paid up for at least the two years preceding the war. This provision has been used largely, and whatever may be the position of these policies when the Act is repealed, the immediate burden of them upon the companies is heavy, as in the case of any payment the companies are entitled to deduct only the amount of the premiums unpaid but no interest, whereas interest lies at the root of all premium calculation.
The task before the Committee was not easy, and I desire to place on record my appreciation of the way in which they carried out their inquiry.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
asked the Minister of Labour whether he has yet decided to publish the Report of the Committee that sat on the insurance agents' bonuses; and, if so, when it may be expected?
§ Mr. G. ROBERTS
I would refer the hon. Member to the written answer which I am giving to-day to the hon. Member for New bury.