MR. D. O'CONNELL rose to move the following Resolution—
That this House will resolve into a Committee to consider an Address to Her Majesty, praying that She will be graciously pleased to extend the same measure of relief to the Depositors in the late Tralee and Killarney Savings Banks as has been already extended to the Depositors in the late Cuffe Street Savings Bank.
It was universally believed in Ireland that the savings banks had Government security; and it was notorious that the Government used their money and interfered in their management. He should be probably told that the Government had no legal responsibility, and this might be so, but he thought it clear that a moral responsibility attached to them. It would be quite impossible to paint the misery which had been occasioned by the failure of these banks, and he trusted that the decision of the House would give solace to many a heart and alleviate much of this misery.
§ VISCOUNT CASTLEROSSE
seconded the Motion. He trusted the Government would introduce a measure for amending the laws relating to savings banks, and that the disastrous consequences which ensued from these failures might never again occur. In that case there need be no further appeals to the bounty of Parliament, and, in yielding to this Motion, they would have no reason to fear that they were holding out any encouragement to fraud or mismanagement, or that they were establishing any dangerous precedent.
THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, if there were any statute of limitation against cases being brought be 773 fore the House, the hon. and gallant Gentleman would find an important obstacle in his path. This was by no means the first time that the present case had been submitted to the House. The events referred to took place, he believed, in 1848. In the following session of Parliament a Select Committee was appointed to inquire into the failures of the Tralee, the Killarney, and the Cuffe Street Savings Banks. The then Lord Mayor of Dublin and other Irish Members served upon that Committee, and, the subject having been most fully considered by them, they were unanimously of opinion that the peculiar circumstances attending the Cuffe Street bank justified the partial relief of the depositors; but a majority of the Committee were of opinion that no such reasons existed in the case of the Killarney and Tralee banks. In 1850, his right hon. Friend the present First Lord of the Admiralty (Sir Charles Wood) proposed a vote of £30,000 for the Cuffe Street savings bank, which, after a full debate, was carried by a considerable majority; but they decided not to recommend any Vote in favour of the other two banks. There was no ground whatever for maintaining that any legal responsibility devolved upon the Government for the default of the managers of the savings banks; and the only question was whether any moral responsibility rested upon the Government. That moral responsibilty was negatived by a competent Committee, composed of ten Members, who were by no means opposed to the reasonable claims of the depositors. It seemed to him, therefore, impossible that they could at this day go back from that decision, and reinvestigate a case which occurred seven years ago; still less was it possible to hold out any hope on the part of the Government that any Vote would be proposed in aid of these two banks. At the same time he fully admitted that the case of the depositors in those hanks was a very painful one, and he could only regret that it was impossible for him to offer anything more than that sympathy which such a case always excited.
§ MR. H. HERBERT
said, as the right hon. Gentleman had raised an objection to the Motion on the ground of its having been brought forward after so long a period had elapsed, he was prepared to give a reason why the question had not been mooted before. It was not from any acquiescence in the justice of the decision of 774 the Committee, but because year after year every successive Chancellor of the Exchequer had stated to the House the absolute necessity of legislating, with a view to the security of depositors in savings banks. Year after year Bills had been brought in, but had not been proceeded with; and year after year they were told that the Government would settle this question, involving, as it did, the interests of a large mass of the people of Ireland; and they then were told that the question would be raised as to the justice of compensating those who had lost their money in these savings banks. It was hardly fair, therefore, for his right hon. Friend, after that forbearance to turn round and tell them, that there was a Statute of Limitations against them because they had not pressed this question to an issue. The right hon. Gentleman had referred to the decision of the House when the question of compensation was brought before it; but what, after all the influence of the Government hostile to the Motion, was the majority against it? It was only rejected by a majority of seven. Up to 1844 the depositors had the security of the managers and trustees in the case of failure of these banks. About that time several savings banks failed, and in a debate in that House the unsound and unsatisfactory stute of the law was shown. The attention of the Government was called to this state of things, and what was the remedy adopted by the House? Why, an Act was passed which contained clauses entirely absolving the trustees and managers from all responsibility. He admitted that the Legislature acted wisely and justly in taking away the responsibility from the managers. He did not complain of that; but what he did complain of was, when the unsatisfactory state of things was proved which rendered legislation necessary, that no precaution was taken to secure the depositors against the loss which had since accrued. It was a too constant and too true complaint, that the interests of the rich and of gentlemen of high condition were considered, but the interest of the poor man was totally disregarded. Here he was left to lose the savings of a whole life without the slightest chance of redress. He defied them to say that he had at all exaggerated the present state of things. Poor men invested their savings under the belief of Government responsibility, and under the sanction of high names in their locality; and then found, 775 too late, that the whole system was, as far as they were concerned, a sham, and that there was no Government responsibility in the matter. As representing many poor persons, who, without any fault of their own, had been ruined by the failure of these banks, which they believed rested upon the responsibility of Government, he should support the Motion.
§ MR. FAGAN
corroborated the statement of the hon. Member for Kerry, that Government was thought to be responsible for the sums deposited in the savings banks. The depositors lodged their money under the impression that they had Government security for its safety; and the same obligation which had rested on the Government with regard to the Cuffe Street Savings Bank applied with equal force to this case.
§ MR. VANCE
said, he was not in Parliament at the time the arrangement was come to in the Cuffe Street case, but he knew that great discontent prevailed that the depositors were not paid in full. He moved as an Amendment that this House will resolve itself into Committee to consider an Address to the Crown, praying Her Majesty to extend a full measure of relief to the depositors of the Tralee and Killarney Savings Bank, and also to the depositors of the late Cuffe Street Savings Bank.
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out the words "the same," in order to insert the words "a full," instead thereof.
§ Question proposed, "That the words 'the same' stand part of the Question."
THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
regretted he could not assent either to the Motion or to the Amendment. In 1850, the claims of the unfortunate depositors in these three banks had been referred to a Select Committee of which the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Fagan) was a Member, which unanimously recommended the case of the depositors of the Cuffe Street Savings Bank to the favourable consideration of the Government, but reported that no case had been made out for the depositors in the other two banks. As a matter of compassion 10s. in the pound was awarded by Parliament to the depositors in the Cuffe Street Savings Bank. After full consideration by a Committee of the House, and a long debate in the House, he did not consider that he should be doing his duty if he proposed in Supply a Vote of £30,000 to make up the deficiencies in the Cuffe Street bank; £20,000 for the 776 Killarney bank, and a considerable sum for the Tralee bank. At the same time he wished to be understood to sympathise most fully with the unfortunate depositors.
§ MR. HANKEY
said, he could not vote for either the Motion or the Amendment, but still he thought the House had a right to ask the Government the reasons why they left this question of savings banks so long in abeyance. He should move the adjournment of the debate, because he thought they ought to have a more satisfactory answer from the Government, why the depositors in savings banks had been left so long unprotected.
§ Motion for adjournment of debate negatived.
§ After a few words from Mr. HENLEY, who said that a question so long settled, ought not to be re-opened,
§ The House divided:—Ayes 84: Noes 9: Majority 75.
§ Main Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 39: Noes 54: Majority 15.