§ MR. H. HERBERT
said, that in rising to propose the Resolution of which he had given notice, relative to the neglect of Her Majesty's Government in not introducing any measure for the regulation of Savings Banks, he felt that some apology was due to the House. It might be fairly said, that, considering the immense importance of the subject, and the interests it involved, it was one which should have been brought before the House by a more experienced Member than himself; but if the House would bear with him while he stated very shortly the position of this question as regarded the country and the House, he thought they would acquit him of any un- 655 due presumption in bringing it under their consideration. In 1848, after every expedient for postponement and evasion that Parliamentary experience could suggest had been exhausted by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, he (Mr. H. Herbert) was fortunate enough to procure the nomination of a Committee to inquire into certain failures in local Savings Banks; but that Committee was so long delayed, that it was not until a late period of the Session that it could meet; and after sitting for a short time they made a Report, on the Motion of the Chancellor of the Exchequer himself, which concluded in these terms:—Your Committee have proceeded with the inquiry intrusted to them by the House; but, owing to the late period of the Session, they found themselves unable to bring it to a satisfactory conclusion, and they are of opinion that it is advisable that a further inquiry should take place either during the recess or in the next Session of Parliament into the existing system of savings hanks. They are of opinion, however, that it is expedient that a Bill should be introduced in the present Session of Parliament regulating the liability of trustees of savings banks.A Bill was introduced on the 29th of August, and passed in a modified shape. In 1849 the hon. Member for the city of Dublin (Mr. Reynolds) moved the reappointment of the Committee. That proposition was met by the Government with a direct and positive refusal; and, had it not been for the sense of justice inherent in the House which put the Government twice in the minority, the inquiry would not have been brought to a conclusion. Before 1850 events occurred which rendered it impossible for the Government to avoid taking some steps; and on the first night of the Session of 1850 the right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer gave notice of his intention to move in the matter. In answer to a question from the hon. Member for Peeblesshire (Mr. F. Mackenzie), the noble Lord at the head of the Government represented the subject (which was fixed for a Tuesday) as being of such vital importance that he could not consent to one hour's delay. Owing to the indisposition of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the progress of the Bill was delayed till the 29th of April, when a discussion took place; but there was no objection to the Bill except on two points, and that related to the reduction of interest. From that day to this, notwithstanding the declarations of the right hon. Gentleman, notwithstanding the Report of the Committee, 656 then reappointed on his own nomination, the right hon. Gentleman had never brought forward any measure on the subject. The Committee of 1850 reported in these terms:—Your Committee have observed with much satisfaction that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has introduced a Savings-bank Bill which is calculated to remedy several important defects in the existing law, and extends the responsibility of Her Majesty's Government to the depositors, and they therefore abstain from all observations on this part of the subject, further than to state the conviction which this inquiry has forced upon them, of the urgent necessity for further legislation if these institutions (which have acquired of late years an extent and importance so little anticipated by the original founders of savings banks) are to preserve their hold on the confidence of the country, or produce the beneficial results expected from them, in encouraging and rewarding the industry and self-denial of the working classes.To that Report the right hon. Gentleman had acceeded, but from that period no attempt had been made at legislation. He (Mr. H. Herbert), therefore, under these circumstances, thought he had made out a case for asking the House to concur in his Resolution. With the permission of the House he would advert to the actual position of the Savings Banks. If any one were to ask what was a savings bank; the answer would be, an institution for the benefit of the working classes, under an efficient Government control. Either that should be the answer, or that those institutions were private and charitable institutions, not controlled by the Government, but in which parties investing had such security that it was impossible to incur loss. How far did either description hold good? It was not much above fifty years since those institutions were introduced. The first of them were set on foot about the year 1799, he believed, at Wendover; others were founded at Tottenham and Bath. The whole responsibility then rested on the parties who established the banks. It was not till 1817 that legislative interference took place. At that time there were only seventy such banks in England, four in Wales, and four in Ireland; but in 1844 a complete change of system in those banks was introduced by one single clause of an Act of Parliament. Up to that time trustees had been liable for any loss that might accrue; but in 1844 a Bill was introduced which subsequently became law, and which contained a clause absolving trustees from all liability. The clause enacted that no trustees or managers of 657 any savings bank should be liable to make good any deficiency that might thereafter occur, unless they had declared by writing under their hands, deposited with the Commissioners of the National Debt, that they were willing to be so answerable. Could it be believed that, although that Act contemplated at the same time that such trustees should take on themselves a limited liability, it was given in evidence in 1848 that in only two banks in the kingdom—Ashby-de-la-Zouch and Tunbridge—had the trustees complied with the Act of Parliament in that respect? He would ask how those trustees bad acted who had been absolved from all responsibility? There were, no doubt, many exceptions, and in many cases the trustees properly performed their duty; but he might cite the right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer himself as a witness of the fact that it was exceedingly difficult to obtain regular attention on the part of the trustees to the business of the bank. On the 29th of April, 1850, the right hon. Gentleman stated that—With regard to all persons who had taken part in the management of the affairs of those institutions, that however active and energetic might have been the zeal of individuals in forming the establishment, it was exceedingly difficult to insure their regular attention to its concerns for any length of time. Without being disposed to attribute blame to individual trustees for the management of savings banks—for, if be were to do that, he believed he should himself come in for a fair share of it—he was afraid that, with some exceptions, the general practice was, that no very regular attendance was given, and that the affairs of the bank were left very much to the management of the secretary, treasurer, clerk, or by whatever other name the person left in charge was called, and that salutary cheek was not exercised by the trustees or the manager which was perfectly indispensable to the proper management of the establishment. Even in some establishments which had the reputation of being by no means ill managed, he had reason to believe that the trustees had been in the habit of signing blank forms, and even cheeks, to be filled up by the acting manager, at his sole discretion; and, in point of fact, the check exercised according to the existing practice was much more nominal than real." [3 Hansard, ex. 895.]So that it would appear that the parties who had the management of the savings of the industrious depositors in savings banks were as uncontrolled in that management as if they were disposing of their own private money; so that a body of irresponsible men were intrusted with the deposits of the industrious classes of this country. How long would any Member leave his money in a private bank, of 658 which it was not only stated that the proprietors of the bank never overlooked the business of it, but that a special Act of Parliament had been passed to absolve them from all responsibility? With regard to the administration of the law in reference to savings banks, his opinion was, until that administration was taken away from the irresponsible parties who now exercised it, a long time must elapse before any efficient change in the system would be effected. There was a gentleman who rejoiced in the name of Tidd Pratt; a gentleman of very great power. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had said that that gentleman was not a Government officer, but was appointed by Act of Parliament to be the Barrister for carrying out the provisions of that Act, and for settling disputes arising under the Act. And why was this gentleman not accounted a Government officer? Because, said the right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer, he was paid by fees, and not by salary. But Mr. Tidd Pratt, in his cross-examination before the Committee of 1848, admitted that he had an office in the National Debt Office; that he was consulted by the Government previous to any legislation on the subject taking place, and that without any extra pay; and that he was referred to on all occasions by the Chancellor of the Exchequer on matters connected with these savings banks. And when he was asked whether he had ever heard of any professional gentleman who gave advice and assistance free of any extra pay who did not consider himself regularly appointed by the Government, he stated that he did not know. Was that an answer with which the country would be satisfied? Was it not an unworthy quibble to say that a person in such a position was not a public officer, and responsible as such? How had Mr. Tidd Pratt acted on several occasions? Why, in a manner that had entailed not only great loss on the unfortunate depositors in savings banks, but also on the country. In 1831 a serious deficiency occurred in Cuffe-street Savings Bank, Dublin; the trustees were anxious to wind up the affairs of the bank, but Mr. Tidd Pratt, who went over to Dublin to investigate those affairs, advised them to keep it open. They did so, and for seventeen years after Mr. Tidd Pratt's visit to Dublin was the Cuffe-street Savings Bank continued, notwithstanding that the annual return of the trustees to the National 659 Debt Office showed a progressive embarrassment. The result was, that eventually, in 1848, the bank failed, in consequence of a deficiency in its funds, to the amount of 64,689l. It would be in the recollection of the House that in the Session before last the Chancellor of the Exchequer proposed a vote of public money to remunerate the depositors in that bank for the loss they had sustained, and which loss he (Mr. H. Herbert) contended was attributable to the advice given by a public officer to the trustees seventeen years previously, to keep open the bank; and thus granting money for the relief of persons into whose case he refused any inquiry. He would mention another case. In the county of Kerry a savings bank failed in 1848. Mr. Tidd Pratt came there to arrange the affairs of the bank, and he made an award against the trustees appointed previously to the year 1844 (when the Act exonerating trustees from all responsibility was passed) for all deposits made previous to that date. Many of the depositors, acting upon this award, sued the trustees; but on the trial the award was set aside as grossly illegal by the Judges. He mentioned this fact on a former occasion, when the right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer thought it fit to say that the trial took place before an Irish Judge and an Irish jury; and he also stated that the awards were set aside on mere technical and legal grounds, in consequence of some informality of the notices. He (Mr. H. Herbert), with all courtesy and respect, would give that assertion the most unqualified contradiction. Lord Chief Justice Blackburne, in giving the decision of the Court, said—This determination I should have regretted if I had found that in fact the arbitrator had gone through the due course of inquiry, by the result of which alone he could have been warranted in awarding that this defendant was indebted to the plaintiff and the other depositors in the whole amount of their deposits. But, as far as I can judge, this conclusion was arrived at as the consequence of a very large deficiency of the back funds, without inquiry into the causes of the deficiency, without ascertaining to whose misconduct it was attributable, and without taking the accounts necessary to establish the right of the plaintiff to be paid twenty shillings in the pound by the defendant as his personal debtor.He (Mr. Herbert) believed that on numerous other occasions that gentleman had acted in such a way as to injure the persons depositing money in savings banks. It appeared to him that Mr. Tidd Pratt had been guilty of something very like a 660 breach of privilege, if he might use such an expression, in reference to one of those banks. In 1848, shortly after the failure of the Rochdale Savings Bank, that of St. Helens also failed, and Mr. Tidd Pratt was called in on the 27th of April, 1850, to give his advice as to the course to be pursued by the trustees.Mr. Coupe asked the opinion of the learned Gentleman as to a new bank, for public confidence had gone in the old one. It would be a calamitous matter if there was not another savings bank, but established upon a safe principle, in which people could deposit their money without fee. Perhaps Mr. Tidd Pratt could give some information. Mr. Pratt said there was a new Bill now before Government, and it was only the business of the House of Commons that had prevented its being brought on. It was all ready, and he had no hesitation in saying that the provisions in it were such as would entirely prevent any occurrence of frauds of the kind perpetrated in St. Helens, or of any kind whatsoever, provided the depositor paid his money at the office, and during the office hours in which the bank was open; and, therefore, he hoped that until this Bill became law—and he apprehended the time would not be long before it was—the gentlemen of the neighbourhood would, among themselves, form an institution to go on until the new provisions came into force. And, as he said before, he hoped the Bill would be such that no fraud could occur under its provisions, or, if there did, no depositor could lose a halfpenny. Mr. Coupe: Do you expect passing this soon? Mr. Pratt: Not a doubt about it; the Bill is not only written, but it is printed, and all the provisions are such as will prevent any fraud of this kind.He would ask the House whether, if upon this advice a bank had been formed, money had been deposited, and a failure had taken place, the depositors would not have had a strong moral claim upon the Government for compensation? The Chancellor of the Exchequer denied his responsibility for the acts of Mr. Tidd Pratt; but was such an individual to go about the country speaking with the authority of a Government officer, and inducing persons to deposit their money in these savings banks, and then for the Government to say that neither Mr. Tidd Pratt nor the Government was responsible? There had been failures in savings banks in many places—in Rochdale, Brighton, Hull, Scarborough, Aylesbury, St. Helens, Dublin, Tralee, and in some of those cases the loss had been made good by the trustees, but in others ruinous loss to the depositors had occurred. He (Mr. H. Herbert) had been an eye-witness to the disastrous consequences resulting in many instances from those losses. He had for four years waited patiently for the Government to take some step in the matter; but the right hon. Gentleman the Chan- 661 cellor of the Exchequer not having given his attention to it, he (Mr. H. Herbert) felt it no longer consistent with his duty to remain silent. If none of the statements he had made could be contradicted, he thought he had made out a case to justify the House to interfere by giving expression to an opinion on the subject, with a view to induce the right hon. Gentleman to discharge those duties which, he was sorry to say, the right hon. Gentleman had not hitherto performed.
Motion made, and Question proposed—
That this House has observed with regret the continued neglect of Her Majesty's Government to fulfil their promise of introducing a Bill for the regulation of Savings Banks, by which those important institutions may be enabled to preserve their hold on the confidence of the Country, and a due encouragement be thus given to the industry and providence of the working classes.
§ The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, his hon. Friend had introduced into his speech a number of topics not very closely connected with the Motion which stood in his name on the notice paper. He (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) would, however, attempt very shortly to dispose of one or two of those extraneous matters. First of all, with regard to his remarks on the personal character and responsibility of Mr. Tidd Pratt. Mr. Tidd Pratt was not a Government officer, because he was appointed under an Act of Parliament; nor was he under the control of the Government. He was named as the person whom depositors or trustees of savings banks might call in if they thought fit; but unless they called him in, he had no right whatever to interfere in their affairs; and it was not in his (the Chancellor of the Exchequer's) power to send Mr. Tidd Pratt to make any inquiry into the state of savings banks, unless that gentleman was requested by the trustees or depositors so to do, or to arbitrate with respect to any dispute between them. Therefore, when his hon. Friend said Mr. Tidd Pratt was a Government officer, he must have known, from his experience in the Committee which sat on savings banks, that such was not the; case. With regard to the Dublin case, he would go no further into that question at present than to state that when Mr. Tidd Pratt was sent over in 1831 to inquire into the state of the hank, he was utterly deceived by those whose duty it was to give him information on the subject. He gave certain advice on a certain representation of 662 facts made to him by the trustees; and if that advice had been followed, much of the mischief which afterwards occurred would have been prevented. But that advice not having been followed, he confessed he did not think Mr. Tidd Pratt could be justly charged with the result of the proceedings which afterwards occurred, and which he (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) as sincerely regretted as the hon. Member himself; in proof of which he had felt it his duty to repair, in some measure, the distress which had ensued, by a vote of money. His hon. Friend had in a courteous manner contradicted a statement made by him (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) a year ago. He hoped his hon. Friend would acquit him of any want of courtesy in repeating the statement which he (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) formerly made, namely, that the decision of the Court of Queen's Bench in Ireland was upon a point of form, and that the extract which his hon. Friend had read from the judgment of Chief Justice Blackburne formed no part of the judgment of the case, but was merely an opinion given by the Judge in the course of his judgment. When he (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) first made that statement, he was not in possession of the judgment of the Lord Chief Justice; but he would undertake to say, if the hon. Gentleman would submit the decision to any legal friend on his own side of the House, that friend would confirm the statement he (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) now made, namely, that that decision turned simply on a point of form—the notices not having been affixed at the proper time and in the proper places. He, however, considered the case of Mr. Tidd Pratt to be altogether irrelevant to the question which was really before the House. The real question was as to the remedy to be applied with regard to savings banks. He did not see how he could have acted more speedily on the Report of the Committee of 1848, which was laid on the table of the House on the 24th of August, than by introducing a Bill founded on the Report on the 25th of August, the day following. The Bill in its original state was applicable to the United Kingdom; but in consequence of the opposition with which it was mot in that House, its operation was limited to Ireland. It did not propose to place the entire control of the savings banks in the hands of the Government. All that the Government could do in such a 663 matter was to provide that when the money was paid into the hands of the Government Commissioners by the trustees, under the provisions of the Act, the Government would be responsible for it; though there was a notion, which prevailed to a considerable extent, that the Government was responsible for all the sums invested, which the hon. Gentleman very well knew they could not be. The great question of responsibility was raised at the time when he had proposed to appoint a treasurer, and what was asked seemed to be this—that the uncontrolled appointment of all officers of savings banks should be left to the trustees and managers, and that all the responsibility of loss should be left to the Government. Now, he was willing to accept Government responsibility so far as Government were allowed to appoint officers; but he had been told, that if he persisted in asking for the appointment of such officers, the trustees and guardians would resign, and that the country would lose the benefit of savings banks. With such a threat he did not venture to press such a provision upon the House, as by so doing he should not have promoted the interest of those classes of the population for whose benefit these establishments were instituted. He had introduced a Bill in 1850, but was prevented from going on with it by the great press of other public business. He was perfectly ready with a Bill in 1851; but he had not thought fit to bring it on when there was no chance of carrying it, as the management of savings banks formed a subject on which the House should not attempt to legislate, unless they had a fair chance of passing the Bill; and hon. Gentlemen would remember how many measures Government were obliged to give up last Session in consequence of the pressure of business at the close. Hon. Members must not suppose, however, he had been negligent of the question in the interval; on the contrary, he had devoted much time and pains to the subject. A new Comptroller of the National Debt Office had been appointed, who had also devoted himself with great diligence to the examining the state of the savings banks, and a great number of additional facts and a large amount of useful information had been obtained by inquiries addressed to local managers, trustees, and gentlemen connected with savings banks, which would have an important bearing upon any measure that might be introduced on the subject. He might, certainly, have given 664 notice of his intention to bring in a Bill at the beginning of the Session; but he thought it desirable to have an opportunity of consulting with many hon. Members who were familiar with the savings-bank question and the state of local banks; and since the meeting of Parliament he had communicated to a considerable extent with them, and had made alterations in the Bill which he proposed to introduce in the present Session of Parliament. It was not very easy to do this, when Gentlemen were all scattered in the country. Considering how necessary those inquiries had been, he did not think much time had been lost in bringing the matter to a practical conclusion. His firm conviction was, that the delay had tended not only to improve the Bill, but to diminish the chances of opposition to it when introduced. He was fully prepared to admit that the present law was in an unsatisfactory state, and that it was desirable it should be amended. At the same time he thought that great harm would have been done if the subject had been brought forward for discussion at a time when there would have been no possibility of coming to any definite or satisfactory conclusion. During the last three years the greatest pains had been taken to frame such a measure as should effectually remove the evils complained of; and he believed, also, that the chance of opposition had been diminished by the communications with different parties which had taken place. It should be borne in mind, that had the trustees of the various savings banks properly performed their duty, very little of the evils now complained of would have been felt. No legislation could compel such parties to perform their duty. He believed that the great body of the trustees and managers throughout the country were now more sensible of their duties, and, he might add, more ready to perform them. No legislation could enforce the voluntary and unpaid attendance of these parties at the meetings of the bank, and such attendance could only be left to their good feeling towards their poorer neighbours. With respect to the Motion of his hon. Friend, he did not know in what light to look upon it, except as a censure upon his (the Chancellor of the Exchequer's) conduct in not bringing forward the Bill at an earlier date. He did not consider that he was deserving of such censure. He had examined the subject very closely during the last few years, and hoped to be able at a 665 very early day to introduce a measure on the subject.
§ MR. REYNOLDS
said, that in agreeing with the Motion of the hon. Member for Kerry (Mr. H. Herbert), he thought he had a right to express disappointment at the conduct of Government; but he derived some satisfaction from the pledge of the right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer, that he would introduce a Bill to amend the law relating to savings banks in the present Session. Recollecting what had occurred in the Committee of 1848, he could not reconcile the statement of the right hon. Gentleman, that Mr. Tidd Pratt was not an officer of the Government, with the proof that had been given of his conduct. Mr. Tidd Pratt had acted to all intents and purposes as a Government officer, interfering and advising, and in many instances giving most improper and pernicious advice; and now they were told Government were not responsible for his acts. Who, then, were responsible to the unfortunate creatures who had lost upwards of 64,000l. in the Cuffe-street savings bank? The Chancellor of the Exchequer said, Mr. Tidd Pratt gave advice in 1831 which would have saved the bank from its calamities; but, if so, why had the right hon. Gentleman given 10s. in the pound to the sufferers? It was because the Commissioners for the Reduction of the National Debt knew, as had been proved before the Committee, that for seventeen years before the bank failed, it was insolvent, and yet they had allowed it to go on. He quite agreed if Government were to be responsible, they ought to have the appointment of all the officers; but he contended that the poor, thrifty, and deserving people who thought they were getting Government security for their savings, should not be subjected to loss. He certainly was not aware that any proposal had ever been made, similar to that mentioned by the right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer, with respect to the appointment of officers and the responsibility of the Government. He could not conceive how the right hon. Gentleman could reconcile it with his conscience to sit for four years on the Treasury bench, and not bring in some measure on the subject. In any Bill that he might introduce, he (Mr. Reynolds) trusted that the Government would consider it as a permanent one, and one calculated to apply a thorough and complete remedy for the evils complained of. Let the Government take the sole and entire control of the deposits; let 666 them appoint a manager, clerks, and as many inspectors as were necessary; let them inquire into the character of the men whom they employed; let them take ample security for the trust reposed in those persons; and, that being done, there could be no risk to the Government. He (Mr. Reynolds) did not mean that local trustees should be dispensed with; he would have the Government take care that in every locality the clergy of all denominations, and the gentry, merchants, and traders of the highest character, should be asked to give their voluntary and unpaid assistance in managing the affairs of the bank, yet that not they, but the officers who were behind the counter, should be responsible. The report of the inspectors ought to be forwarded by every post to the chief officer in London, and this would be a guarantee for the proper regulation of the funds. He might be told that such a measure would be a very expensive one; but he believed the difference between the 2l. 15s. paid to investors and the 3¼ per cent received by the Government from the Bank of England upon the 30,000,000l. invested there, would be amply sufficient to defray all the expenses of such an establishment as that the main features of which he had sketched out. If, however, the hon. Gentleman the Member for Kerry (Mr. H. Herbert) had understood the right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer as he (Mr. Reynolds) had done, the Government were prepared to bring in a Bill in the present Session with a view to remedy the evil complained of, and he would therefore advise the hon. Member to be satisfied with that promise, and not divide the House upon his Motion.
§ MR. POULETT SCROPE
said, there was no question of more real importance to the community of this country than the subject of savings banks, and it was most desirable that they should be put upon a sound foundation. After the pledge given by the right hon. Gentleman, he trusted the Government would facilitate the measure, so that the House would not at the end of the Session have to complain of any breach of the promise now made.
§ MR. SHARMAN CRAWFORD
said, that the constituency which he represented had been large sufferers from the present state of the law, and he felt deeply the neglect of the Government in not providing better security. For the last four years the Ministry had been promising an improvement in the system; but their promises had been violated, and the conse- 667 quence was, that the working classes felt they had been sacrificed by the Legislature. There never could be a safe measure brought in on the subject of savings banks as long as there was a divided responsibility; either the Government or the trustees must be made legally responsible. He, however, had no great confidence in the pledge now given by the right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer, and should support the Motion of his hon. Friend.
§ SIR HENRY WILLOUGHBY
hoped the Government would turn their attention to that which he considered to be one of the chief points requiring legislation—he alluded to the establishment of some real controlling body over these banks. He spoke with feelings of the greatest respect for the National Debt Commissioners; but they had not time to attend to the accounts of 600 banks, and the control ought to be placed under one head. He was glad to hear, from the statement of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that Mr. Tidd Pratt was without authority, because he had heard that that Gentleman had declared he had a Bill ready cut and dried, and it was impossible to calculate the mischief done by an unauthorised meddler going from one bank to another with a statement of that description. He hoped Mr. Tidd Pratt would be prevented from putting forth observations as though he was an authorised officer, qualified to speak on this subject.
§ MR. GRATTAN
said, he had very little confidence in any resolutions unless a Bill were introduced to deal with the subject. If the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer was unable to deal with it, let him transfer it to the hon. Gentleman the Member for the city of Dublin (Mr. Reynolds), who, though he might not bring the same amount of ability to the task as the right hon. Gentleman could, would bring great earnestness to the consideration of the question.
§ MR. DISRAELI
begged to thank the hon. Gentleman who had brought forward this Motion, for having introduced it to the notice of the House, and which he had done in such a way as thoroughly to engage its attention. He thought it should also be well understood that the subject brought before the consideration of hon. Members referred really to the whole question of savings banks throughout the kingdom, and not merely to those in Ireland, or to a few others; so that the importance 668 of the question could not well be exaggerated. When, too, the House remembered that there was no question in which the welfare of the working classes was really more mixed up, he was sure it would be felt that the hon. Member had only done his duty in bringing it before the House, and that in that course he would meet with general approbation. At the same time the hon. Gentleman must feel that in bringing forward a Resolution of this kind, though it was apparently entirely justified by circumstances, it could not really be supposed that the House would vote for it after having received from Her Majesty's Government a very frank assurance of their intention not only to legislate upon the subject, but to do so early in the present Session. Under these circumstances, he thought it would hardly be becoming of the hon. Member to call on the House to divide on this occasion. He understood to-night that Her Majesty's Government, notwithstanding the difficulty of this question—which he would not affect to deny, though he thought it the paramount duty of the Legislature to grapple with it—he understood that the Ministry were prepared to come forward early in the Session with a measure which would meet the entire question of savings banks throughout the whole of the United Kingdom; and the hon. Gentleman having elicited that pledge, could hardly feel it necessary for the House to divide.
§ MR. H. HERBERT
said, that after the pledge which had been given by the Government, it was not his intention to divide the House.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.