asked the President of the Board of Trade the nature of the advantages under the War Risks Insurance Act enjoyed by those firms which registered before the outbreakof war, compared with those who applied for insurance after the outbreak of war; and whether, if there is no advantage, he will consider refunding the registration fee?
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade (Major Lloyd George):
As was explained by my right hon. Friend on the Second Reading of the War Risks Insurance Bill, the advantage of registration before the emergency occurred was the security that there would be no gap between the occurrence of the emergency and the full cover for insurance. It is true that, owing to the sudden outbreak of war during the early days of the operation of the registration scheme, it became necessary in the national interest to confer an equivalent advantage on persons who had not registered, but I would pointout that this did not diminish the work incidental to the work of actual registration in respect of which the fees were charged. The registration fees were very small and represented no more than the cost of the services rendered, and my right hon. Friendhas no power to return them.
asked the President of the Board of Trade the number of cases in which firms have not yet regis- tered under the War Risks Insurance Act since the outbreak of war; in how many cases action has been or is being taken against them under the provisions of the Act; whether he is aware of the seriousness of discrimination in view of the fact that a firm which registered has to pay full premium on the value of their stock at the outbreak of war, whereas firms which did not register can remove 'their stock to the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands and then not insure at all; and whether he can make a full statement on the operation of this Measure?
Major Lloyd George:
Detailed information as to the number of firms which registered under the peace-time scheme and have so far insured under the commodity insurance scheme is not at present available. The Board of Trade have refrained in the early weeks of war, and while important modifications of the insurance scheme are being made or considered, from taking action against firms for non-compliance with the compulsory insurance provisions, but I cannot undertake that this forbearance will continue indefinitely. I do not accept my hon. Friend's suggestion that there is, or has been, any discrimination. Arrangements have been made for the premiums to be adjusted so that traders will not be required to pay a premium on amounts greater than the value of the stocks actually held from time to time during the period of insurance, and premiums are not payable in respect of goods which are not situated in the United Kingdom whether they are owned by persons who have registered or not. My right hon. Friend has already announced his readiness to consider representations from responsible bodies in regard to the operation of the scheme, and in response to such representations a number of exclusions of goods on the ground of indestructibility or unsaleability have already been announced. Other representations are still under consideration.
May I respectfully and humbly ask the hon. and gallant Gentleman whether he is aware that he has already fallen into the very bad habit of reading his answers to questions so rapidly that it is impossible to follow them on this side of the House, and nor do I imagine that they can be taken down in another part of the House.
Will the hon. and gallant Gentleman bear in mind that the exclusion of certain trades from this scheme has made it all the worse for those who remain, and will he not abandon the whole scheme?