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Seanad Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 18 Nov 1953

Vol. 43 No. 1

Friendly Societies (Amendment) Bill, 1952—Second and Subsequent Stages.

Question proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

The law relating to friendly societies is contained in the Friendly Societies Act, 1896, the Friendly Societies Act, 1908, and the Registry of Friendly Societies Act, 1936.

Under Section 56 (1) of the Friendly Societies Act, 1896, a member of a registered society to whom money would be payable on death may nominate a person to whom the money should be paid on the death of the member. The amount so nominated may not, as the law stands, exceed £100.

In the Dáil, Deputy Cowan introduced, by way of a Private Member's Bill, a measure proposing to increase that sum which could be so nominated from £100 to £300. The amendment entailed certain consequential amendments.

The Bill as introduced was referred to a Special Committee. The consequential amendments were introduced at the meeting of the Committee and subsequently passed by the Dáil. The Bill, as originally introduced by Deputy Cowan, and the consequential amendments subsequently inserted, now form the Bill as it appears before the House.

I have referred to the increase of the sum that could be nominated from £100 to £300. That is contained in Section 3 of the Bill.

Section 2 of the Bill is an amendment of Section 8 (1) of the Act of 1896. That sub-section of the Act of 1896 provides that a friendly society which contracts for the assurance of a gross sum exceeding £200 or an annuity exceeding £50 may not be registered under the Friendly Societies Acts. Since it is proposed in the following section to increase the sum which may be nominated to £300, it would be anomalous to retain the upper limit contained in the sub-section at £200. Therefore, it is proposed in that section to increase that sum to £300. It is also proposed to increase the annuity to £52 per annum instead of £50. I think the House will agree that that is the more convenient sum.

Section 4 (a) of the Bill before the House refers to Section 57 (1) of the 1896 Act which provides that, on receiving proof of the death of a nominator, the friendly society shall pay to the nominee the amount due to the deceased member not exceeding £100. It is clear, having accepted the sum of £300 which may be nominated, that that sum of £100 should also be increased to £300. Paragraph (b) of Section 4 refers to the deletion of subsections (3) and (4) of Section 57 of the Act of 1896. Sub-section (3) provides that, on the death of a nominator, if the amount payable to the nominee exceeds £80, a certificate that death duties have been paid must be produced to the friendly society before payment may be made to the nominee. The level at which liability to death duties arises has been raised considerably since the year 1896 and, as the law stands to-day, liability to death duties commences at the sum of £2,000. In the circumstances, it is indeed feasible to dispense with sub-section (3) of Section 57 of the Act of 1896. Similarly with sub-section (4) which provides that the Revenue Commissioners shall give a certificate that the death duties have been paid in accordance with sub-section (3). That certificate will no longer be necessary in the case of a nomination to the extent of £300 since the death duties will not be payable in any event.

Section 5 of the Bill is an amendment of Section 58 (1) of the Act of 1896 which provides that where a member of a friendly society, entitled to a sum not exceeding £100, dies intestate or without having made a nomination, the society may, without letters of administration, distribute the sum due to the deceased among such persons as the trustees decide provided that, if the net sum exceeds £80, a receipt for death duties must first be procured from the Revenue Commissioners. That is a means of protecting the trustees of a friendly society from claims by other parties who may allege that they are entitled to benefit under an intestacy in respect of a person whose life was assured by a friendly society.

Again, since the sum which it is proposed may be nominated under this Bill has been increased to £300, it is unnecessary that such a receipt as I have referred to should be procured before the estate is administered. The effect of the section is to substitute the sum of £300 for the sum of £100.

Section 6 relates to Section 59 of the 1896 Act which provides that, where the principal value of the estate of any person entitled to make a nomination exceeds £100, any sum paid without probate or letters of administration shall be liable to estate duty and the trustees may, before making payment, require a statutory declaration by the claimant that the principal value of the estate, including the sum in question, does not, after deducting debts and funeral expenses, exceed £100. I might remind the House that liability for death duties does not arise, except where an estate exceeds £2,000, and therefore the necessity for retaining the sum of £100 no longer arises, and, to bring it into line with the present liability for death duties, the figure of £2,000 is inserted in the section. These are the provisions of the Bill and I think the House will have no difficulty in agreeing with it.

I agree with the Parliamentary Secretary that there should be no difficulty in agreeing with the Bill. It brings certain provisions of the Friendly Societies Acts into accordance with the present value of money and with the law in regard to the limit after which death duties are payable. One wonders—I have no knowledge of the matter—this being one example, whether there must not be a great many other examples of the same kind which perhaps should be dealt with, not by a private member, but by some form of governmental machinery. We are administering a great many Acts of the past and this is an example of sums being fixed, up to this moment apparently, in accordance with an Act passed in 1896. There must be a great many other examples which would certainly need amendment.

I have one mild criticism to put forward and it may sound curious coming from this side of the House. This Bill is entirely a Bill making certain amendments by reference to other Bills and no one would know anything at all about its effect unless he went back to the parent Bill. This is a matter on which a particular opinion has been given expression to time and again in this House, and I think it would be far better, if all Parties recognised that it is preferable to set out in an amending Bill the entire paragraph as amended, rather than, as in the case of Section 2 of this Bill, to refer to the substitution of £52 for £50. It would be better to set it out in a completely new section. While, as I have said, it may sound rather queer coming from this side, this is something about which I feel strongly, in the interests of public appreciation of legislation and in the interests of members of the House.

Will you allow me to say, Sir, that I agree entirely with Senator Hearne? I have said that so often that I did not say it this evening.

Question put and agreed to.
Bill passed through Committee, reported without amendment, received for final consideration and passed.
The Seanad adjourned at 9.35 p.m. until 3 p.m. on Thursday, 26th November, 1953.