The Government have agreed that small premiums, not large enough to cover costs, could be increased. I understand that in most cases insurers offer to increase the sum insured in proportion to the increase in the premium.
Is the Minister not aware that the reply he has given and the reply he gave to me in a letter suggest that these insurance companies must be totally incompetent to take premiums which will result in a loss, even when no claims are made against them? This is the answer the Minister previously gave. I suggest that this is the type of thing which causes trouble. These little things all mount up to a big problem for workers. Will my right hon. Friend have another look at this?
The reason for the increase is that insurance companies, like most other people engaged in this kind of business, are now using mechanical devices which means that the costs of the single operation of looking after one policy are of course increased. [Laughter.] This is perfectly true. The increases have been explained to insured customers and are generally accepted. So far as I know, there have been very few complaints. If my hon. Friend has a case in mind where the increased premium has not been accompanied by an increase in the sum insured, I shall be glad to look into it. The minimum figure on which they are working now is a premium round about 1s. a week. Below that it is extremely costly to cover the operations.
Does not my right hon. Friend recognise that in a period when we are applying a prices and incomes policy this is quite reprehensible? These premiums are being paid by those in lower income groups. Although he passes it off as being only 1s. a week, every 1s. per week mounts up in the homes from where these premiums come.
If we go above £3 a week the operational costs tend to come down, and people paying something above 1s. a week are in fact benefiting from this because the insurance companies have given an undertaking that provided we can look after this cost problem they will not increase the premiums above £3 a week.