That Dáil Éireann approves the following Regulations in draft:
Friendly Societies Regulations, 1992,
a copy of which Regulations in draft form was laid before Dáil Éireann on 10th February, 1992.
I propose to make regulations entitled the Friendly Societies Regulations, 1992. These are designed to allow an improvement in the operation of certain friendly societies. As required by Friendly Societies Acts of 1896 to 1977, a draft of the regulations has been laid before each House of the Oireachtas and each House must pass a resolution approving the draft before I in turn can make the regulations.
The effect of these proposed regulations would be to allow friendly societies registered under section 18 (1) (b) of the Friendly Societies Act, 1896, and which operate loan funds under section 46 of that Act to increase their limits for the taking of deposits and the making of loans, last set in 1896; to allow increases in certain other financial limits applying to the friendly societies registered under section 8 (1) of the 1896 Act, and to require all friendly societies due to benefit from the increased loan and deposit limits to appoint supervisory committees.
A little background information will help us all to understand better what I hope to achieve by these regulations — I include myself in wanting to know all about it as well. The Friendly Societies regulations of 1988 raised loan and deposit limits for a category of friendly societies called Specially Authorised Loan Societies, usually known as SALS, fixing £5,000 as the maximum for a single fixing £2,500 as the maximum loan that could be made. This was done in order to update limits set in 1896 to more realistic levels in line with prevailing money values. There are 11 such societies registered with the Registrar of Friendly Societies with total assets of about £2.4 million. The increase in limits which was allowed in 1988 meant that those friendly societies covered by the regulations have the capacity to handle considerably larger sums of money, so closer supervision was required. The 1988 regulations, therefore, required the Specially Authorised Loan Societies to appoint supervisory committees and also required all of the friendly societies to have proper accounting and proper auditing procedures.
In the years leading up to the finalisation of the 1988 regulations, approved by the Oireachtas, there was no representation that friendly societies other than the Specially Authorised Loan Societies needed updated deposits and loan ceilings. However, since 1988 it has been represented to me that there is such a need. I would add that your colleague, the Leas-Cheann Comhairle, has been to the fore in seeking to resolve this matter.
I have considered the matter in consultation with the Registrar of Friendly Societies and officials of my Department and have accepted the case. Accordingly the regulations I am now proposing will extend the scope of the increases in deposit and loan limits, allowed in the 1988 regulations, to a limited further group of friendly societies comprising those societies registered under section 8 (1) (b) of the Friendly Societies Act, 1896, which operate loan funds in accordance with the legislation. There are 15 such societies registered with the Registrar of Friendly Societies within a total of 130 registered friendly societies. They are engaged mainly in the provision of assistance to members at times of financi pressure arising from the birth of a child or from a death in the family, with the provision of a loan fund being seconda to their main activities.
As these societies will be handlir larger sums of money the regulations-as made in 1988 for the Specially Aut orised Loan Societies — will require them to have supervisory committee I am conscious that these societies are mutual help bodies serving social need in a limited area and I would not intend change their basic nature. I am proposir these increases as the limits under which this type of friendly society operate present are £200 maximum for a depos and £50 maximum by way of loan to an individual. Those limits were set in 189 and are clearly in need of updating.
This extension of higher limits for deposits and loans, already permitted the Oireachtas since 1988 in the limited group, is being limited — as I have already mentioned — to another sma further group where the end has bee established to our satisfaction and where the Registrar of Friendly Societies has indicated his satisfaction with this particular proposal. The proposed regulations also will increase certain benefit that may be paid by friendly societies to more realistic levels by today's standards updating the figure of £10,000 set by the 1988 regulations. Again, the Registrar of Friendly Society has no difficulty with this proposal.
By way of background social historical information the current legislation governing the friendly societies dates bac to 1896. That Act in itself was legislation that consolidated earlier Acts going back to 1875. One can imagine the social and economic milieu of the day at that time which would have led to its need in community-type way for people in particular difficulties of social or economi-stress prevailing at that time, as well a in the present day but in an altered environment and in an altered sense.
The basic friendly society was set up to provide for the relief of members of the society, or of their close relatives, or fam ilies at times of illness, birth of a child or death. Cash was provided by voluntary subscriptions of members of any donations that might be made. They also gave help to members who were seeking work and they had special regard to the difficulties that could face fishermen; a form of fire insurance was also provided. Other types of friendly societies provided insurance against loss or death of livestock. Also, societies were set up for charitable purposes to enable social contact to provide help in crisis and to make loans available. The time at which they were set up was of a different era. Yet the various crises which affect people and which lead them to go to their local community self-help friendly society remain as pressing as ever. With those few words I would ask the House to approve the draft regulations which are largely technical in nature.