Clause 2 — Restriction on voting rights

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 10:25 am on 6th March 2015.

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Photo of Tony Baldry Tony Baldry The Second Church Estates Commissioner 10:25 am, 6th March 2015

My hon. Friend Jonathan Evans is owed a debt of thanks from the House for navigating the Bill through the Commons and it is clear that he has strong family reasons for doing so.

It is worth observing that half the UK insurance market was mutual as recently as 1995, but since then, in just over 20 years, it has shrunk to just over 7.5%. Mutual insurers have 50% of the market share in Holland and 45% in Germany and I think that in this country the insurers demutualised in large part because they needed to raise additional capital and improve the services they thought they were offering to their customers.

During the debate on the amendments, my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff North made a telling point. What is important to investors in mutuals, as for those investing in any other financial instrument, is the return on their investment. Sometimes, the process of demutualisation has not been helpful to policyholders because in many instances since that process they have seen falling returns.

Let me give one example, Scottish Widows—I think we all love the lady in the Scottish Widows advert. Scottish Widows converted to a plc in 2000 and paid out, some of us will recall, a £6,000 windfall to each policyholder. Before demutualisation, in 1998, it paid out £107,000 for a 25-year with-profits policy based on premiums of £50 a month. Someone who invested £50 a month for more than 25 years got £107,000 at the end of that policy period. Statistics posted in 2011 show that that has plummeted since demutualisation to £28,000.71, which is more than 34% less than the average mutual was paying out. As regards returns for investors, this is not just a piece of regulatory tinkering but is very important.

My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff North mentioned Michael Foot. I, like my hon. Friend, am soon to leave the House. When I joined the House, there were three former pupils of Leighton Park—Michael Foot was one and I was another. So interested was he in my political career that in the 1983 general election he came to Banbury with a view to trying to see that I did not get elected. In the 1983 general election, Banbury was the seat that Labour would have needed to win to get an overall majority. Michael Foot had a run of bad luck, because he came to Banbury street market and went up to the first person, surrounded by television cameras and wanting a quote. He did not know that the man running the fruit and veg stall ran the bingo in the local Conservative club in his spare time. Michael Foot said to Denis, “Denis, what you think of life?” Denis said, “Not very much, but this, Mr Foot, I do know: No. 10, Maggie’s den.”