§ Order for Committee read.
§ Motion made and Question proposed,—"That the Speaker do now leave the Chair."
§ (Queen's Consent signified.)
§ MR. HANKEY
said, he wished, before the right hon. Gentleman left the Chair, to know whether the Chancellor of the Exchequer intended to ask the Committee to pass his Resolution that evening, and if so, whether he did not think it would be expedient to make a preliminary statement before going into Committee? His own opinion was that the passing of the Resolution, which affected very important interests, should be postponed till a future day, inasmuch as hon. Members had an opportunity of seeing the terms of it only that morning. The propositions of the Chancellor of the Exchequer might be right, or they might be wrong, but he wanted time to consider them maturely.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, he hoped the hon. Member would allow him to pursue what was the invariable practice upon such occasions—namely, to withhold his statement until the House had gone into Committee, when hon. Members would have the power of speaking as often as they pleased, and thus obtaining the fullest information on the subject before them.
§ SIR HENRY WILLOUGHBY
said, he should be glad to hear an explanation from the right hon. Gentleman before they proceeded further. He had not stated whether or not he intended to ask the Committee to pass his Resolution. It appeared to him that the House was placed in an extremely difficult situation as regarded the important principles involved in the Resolution of which the right hon. Gentleman had given notice. That Resolution was at once important and intricate, for it involved the whole question of Savings Banks. The House, however, had no information before it upon which the Resolution appeared to be founded, Hon. Members had not had an opportunity of seeing its terms until that day; they had been unable to take the opinion of competent authorities upon it, and yet they were called upon at once to go into Com- 191 mitttee on the Consolidated Fund, in order to afford the right hon. Gentleman the opportunity of moving his Resolutions. It was true that even if he passed his Resolution he must bring in a Bill upon the subject: but what was the meaning of being compelled- to proceed by Resolution unless the House was to have some safeguard in regard to making those financial changes. By passing the Resolution they would bind themselves to the declaration that it was expedient to deal at once with £36,000,000 of money, and to give power to the Commissioners of the Treasury to cancel and create stock as they pleased. They should recollect that they were about to deal seriously with the principles laid down by the 9th George IV., and to set some of them altogether aside. He thought therefore, the Chancellor of the Exchequer ought to give a clear explanation of his intentions on this subject. A similar Resolution was proposed in 1854. It was passed, and a Bill founded upon it was introduced. What was the fate of that measure? It was repudiated by the directors of almost every bank in the country, who prayed the House not to legislate without a preliminary inquiry, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer was eventually compelled to abandon his Bill. A Committee of that House had taken a great body of evidence on the subject, and had reported a number of Resolutions, but among those Resolutions he found none like the Resolution now proposed by the right hon. Gentleman. He thought that at least a week's notice should be given of such a Resolution, and that the House should not be suddenly called on to exchange and alter the entire nature of the securities of the savings banks.
§ MR. J. L. RICARDO
said, that though it might be inconvenient to take the Resolution that day, it was still more inconvenient for the House to enter upon a discussion of it before hearing the Chancellor of the Exchequer's explanation. He felt some interest in the subject, but he confessed that the Resolution, without explanation, was totally unintelligible to him, and he conceived he was only making a reasonable request if he asked the right hon. Gentleman, after explaining the meaning of the Resolution, to give the House an opportunity, on a subsequent day, of voting upon it.
§ MR. W. WILLIAMS
said, he wished the Chancellor of the Exchequer would add 192 to the present Resolution words affirming the expediency of repealing that Act of Parliament which gave to the Commissioners for the Reduction of the National Debt the power of chopping and changing the vast amount of savings-banks' money to Exchequer bills or 3 per cent Consols, just according to their opinion of the necessity of sustaining the money market. It was well known that a vast amount of money had been lost to the public by such transactions.
§ MR. SPOONER
remarked, that the most convenient course for the House to pursue, was to resolve into Committee, and hear the Chancellor of the Exchequer's explanation. Afterwards, if it should he deemed desirable, the decision on the Resolution might be postponed till some subsequent period.
§ COLONEL SYKES
said, he must maintain that in such a thin House as the present, and with some £36,000,000 of money at stake, hon. Members ought not to be called upon all at once to bind themselves, by passing a Resolution, embracing a variety of important points. The suggestion to hear the explanation now and to defer the decision to some future period, therefore, appeared to him reasonable.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Acts considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
I hope, notwithstanding what has been stated by some hon. Friends of mine as to the expediency of postponing the vote on the Resolution I am about to propose, the Committee will now come to some definite opinion with respect to it; and it is not for any purpose of my own, but for the advance of public business, that I wish to induce the Committee to adopt the Resolution to-night. I will briefly state the general objects of the proposition, and then the Committee will be in a better position to judge whether it would be desirable or not to pass the Resolution. It has been said, and truly said, that it is difficult to gather the meaning of the proposition from the Resolution, and the hon. Member for Evesham (Sir H. Willoughby) lamented that he had had only one day to consider it, though from a subsequent part of his speech it appeared that he had had five years to consider it, because he said that the present Resolution was the same in effect as one proposed by me five years ago. It must he obvious to 193 any one who takes the most cursory view of the matter, that it is difficult to frame a Resolution of this preliminary kind in a satisfactory manner. It is desirable to frame it so fully that it may cover in letter and spirit the whole of the objects requiring a preliminary Resolution; while at the same time it is impossible to make it completely explain a measure of this kind, which will be found not too easily understood when introduced with all the details in the shape of a Bill. A preliminary Resolution drawn up with the same detail as a Bill would obviously defeat the object intended, which is, that the principle of a measure should in every case be first discussed, and afterwards the provisions. The present Resolution has been drawn up by persons of experience, and I am not aware that it could be better drawn up for its purpose; but it is quite impossible to make it a satisfactory vehicle of conveying to the House any clear idea of the meaning of the measure, and if hon. Gentlemen are anxious—legitimately anxious—to obtain a clear idea of its meaning, the only way of doing so, beyond listening to the few words I have to state, is to adopt the Resolution and permit the Bill to be brought in; and then, when they have the Bill in their hands, and have read it a first and second time, and put it into Committee, they will know what are the objects of the measure, and in what manner it is proposed to attain them. The adoption of a Resolution like the present binds the Committee to no greater extent than the expression of an opinion that they think the general objects of the measure desirable, and are ready to consider in Committee upon the Bill the means by which they may be carried out. The hon. Member for Evesham, who takes a lively interest in the position of the depositors in savings banks and friendly societies, has frequently complained in this House that that position was unsatisfactory, declaring that their property has been impaired and diminished by the financial management of their funds in the hands of the Government. I, certainly, for one, hold that the depositors in those savings banks and friendly societies have an honourable claim on the public for the full and absolute restitution of every farthing placed, through the means of those banks and societies, in the hands of the Government, entirely irrespective of what might be the management or mismanagement of the funds, or what might be the literal conditions of the law. At the same 194 time, I must admit that, in point of mere dry law, the title of the savings banks, and, I believe, of some friendly societies, to the full restitution, principal and interest, of the money lodged in the coffers of the Government is, in part at least, and as the law now stands, an imperfect title. I think that is a state of things which calls for a remedy; and I propose to give, by the Bill to be founded on this Resolution, a perfect and absolute title to every friendly society and every savings bank to the whole sum which it may have placed in the hands of the Government, principal and interest, according to the stipulated terms. I ask the Committee to consider whether that is not a desirable object to attain; and then, if they think it be a desirable object, to allow me to lay before the House a measure calculated to give practical effect to it. Well, now, I come to the next point. I have not the slightest doubt that every hon. Member believes that every farthing of the funds which the Government receives from those parties ought to be held secure and harmless. But if the principle of the restitution of every farthing to those institutions is admitted, it is clear that the real debt of the State to savings banks and friendly societies is not to be measured by the amount of stock which the Commissioners hold, but by the amount that has been actually paid into their hands by those banks and societies. But, unfortunately, under the present law, the public official statement of the national obligations and the public liability in this particular is an untrue statement, because we owe to savings banks and friendly societies a very considerable sum which nowhere appears in the statement of the public debt. I may say that it is in round numbers about £2,000,000; and the second object of the Bill is, that instead of having a statement of the public debt untrue in that respect, we shall have, as each year comes round, a statement which shall be true, and shall represent the exact amount which we owe to those institutions. Another object I have in view, is to economise the management of those moneys; but the particular way in which I propose to do that I can hardly make intelligible on the face of the Resolution, and I would rather, for the present, defer entering into details on that part of the subject. The next and principal object I have in contemplation is to limit the powers which are now held over those moneys by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Somebody 195 said, in the course of the preliminary discussion, that my object was to get hold of £36,000,000 of money. It is rather more than that; it is £39,000,000. Get hold of £39,000,000! Why, I have got a most complete hold of it already. The hold of the Finance Minister over this money is a larger and more absolute power than is required for the public interest, and I ask the Committee to afford me the opportunity of limiting that power. That is another of the objects which I have in view. I should wish, however, to state the practically important point on which I desire to effect that limitation. The hon. Member for Lambeth (Mr. W. Williams) has said that it is in the power of the Commissioners of the National Debt—and that means it is virtually in the power of the Finance Minister—to convert Exchequer bills of particular descriptions which they may buy from the Government into stock, and thereby to create a new permanent National Debt without the consent of Parliament. That is perfectly true. I do not enter now into the question about the conversion of Exchequer bills, which form part of the regular Funded Debt. That is an entirely different matter. I speak of the conversion of what are termed deficiencies, and of what are termed Consolidated Fund and Ways and Means bills. These are means by which a temporary provision is made for the balances in the Exchequer. It is well known that by means of the conversion of those hills into stock it is in the power of the Minister of Finance, when there is a deficiency in the public revenue, to turn over that deficiency into permanent public debt. I proposed by this Bill entirely to abolish that power; and the last object I have in view is to bring the whole transactions of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, through the medium of the National Debt Commissioners, regularly and periodically, under the view of Parliament, It is requisite, in my opinion, that considerable powers should be left in the hands of the Finance Minister. Though I am rather sceptical as to all that has been said as to the ill uses to which those funds have been put, there have been occasions on which uses have boon made of these powers which I am not prepared to justify; very considerable discretion, however, must remain in the hands of the Finance Minister. It is for the public interest that it should be so; but there has been no adequate public provision made for bringing his proceedings regularly under the view of the House 196 of Commons. I propose to enact, for the first time, that the whole of his transactions shall he, at the commencement of every Session, submitted to the view of Parliament. Nor will I stop with the mere presentation of a return. A Committee of this House, appointed about three years ago on the subject of the public monies, by my right hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth (Sir Francis Baring) made, among other recommendations, a very valuable and judicious one, to the effect that the public accounts in the various Departments should regularly, at the commencement of every year, be submitted to a Committee, and that not an ordinary Select Committee, but one invoking in its constitution the aid and discretion of the highest authority in this House—namely, that of the Speaker himself. That is an admirable suggestion; and I do not consider this House, as the guardian of the public money, has discharged its duties, unless it reviews those accounts regularly from year to year, and sees how the Supplies have been appropriated. Looking forward to that review of the public accounts, I propose that you should extend it regularly from year to year to the management of those public monies which the Chancellor of the Exchequer holds in deposit. These are the general objects I propose to attain by the measure which, if permitted, I shall ask leave to introduce. On a former occasion, in December, 1854, when Parliament was summoned for the purpose of considering exclusively certain subjects connected with the war in the Crimea, I asked for leave to pass a Resolution of a similar character, in order that I might be enabled to introduce a Bill. Some hon. Member objected to passing a Resolution of the kind at that time; but the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire (Mr. Disraeli) rose in his place and said, it was evidently for the convenience of the House that that preliminary Resolution, which committed no one, should be disposed of in order to the plan being put into an intelligible form; and with the unanimous approval of the House that was done, and the Bill was printed. If the Committee is still of opinion, after what I have stated, that a postponement is desirable, I shall not offer any opposition. My wish, however, is to be permitted to pass now this Resolution to report it to the House, and then to bring in my Bill, which will be printed in three or four days, and there will be ample 197 time given to every Member to consider its provisions and understand its object before I ask the House to read it a second time.
That it is expedient to create a charge upon the Consolidated Fund of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland in respect of the sums due to Savings Banks and Friendly Societies, and to provide for the payment of interest thereon to the Commissioners for the Reduction of the National Debt; and also to make provision out of the said Consolidated Fund, or by Exchequer Bills or Exchequer Bonds, for any difference which may now or hereafter exist between the assets in the hands of the Commissioners for the Reduction of the National Debt in respect of Savings Banks and Friendly Societies, and the liabilities thereon, and for the interest on such Exchequer Bills or Exchequer Bonds; and also to authorise the cancelling of such amounts of the several capital stocks of annuities held by the said Commissioners for Savings Banks and Friendly Societies respectively as may appear to the Commissioners of Her Majesty's Treasury to be expedient, and for the creation of like amounts of capital stock bearing a lower rate of interest than the capital stocks so cancelled, and for paying the interest on the stock so created.
§ MR. H. HERBERT
said, he rose to express his satisfaction at the clear statement made by his right hon. Friend on this important subject. He regretted, however, that he had omitted to deal with one essential part of the question. On a former occasion, when bringing in a Bill on this subject, his right hon. Friend observed, that if it could be said that any public creditor lost a farthing the state of public finance could not be considered a satisfactory one. He now felt disappointed that his right hon. Friend did not propose to deal with the whole question. The mode in which the money of these institutions was managed before it got into the hands of the Commissioners for the reduction of the National Debt was in the most unsatisfactory condition. The depositors, however, ought to be protected from any loss on the amount they lodged with the Banks. It ought to be made impossible that there should be any loss prior to the money getting into the hands of the State. If this could not be done it was the duty of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to bring in a measure to sever altogether the apparent connection of the State with these Banks. There was just at present sufficient interference by the State with these Banks to give the public an idea that they had Government security, and if they imagined that they were entitled to every farthing that passed into the hands of the Government there ought to be some machinery to 198 protect the money of depositors before it got there. The Chancellor of the Exchequer came forward, and told the House and the country that he wished to bring in a measure for dealing with this matter. If it were beyond the power of the right hon. Gentleman to produce a really good measure which would remedy the present state of things, the Government should get rid of all connection with these banks. Formerly the Trustees and Managers were legally liable to the depositors, but in 1844 they were absolved from all responsibility for the moneys deposited. He did not complain of this, for it was unreasonable to make private individuals responsible for so largo an amount as the deposits of the savings banks; but surely their being absolved from that responsibility created a necessity for providing some other machinery by which depositors might be protected from loss before their money reached the State. He did not expect that his right hon. Friend would mix up this question of the losses of depositors with the one he had now introduced, but he might be permitted to express the hope that he had made up his mind to grapple with that important branch of the subject, and to put the money of depositors in such a position as to render loss to them impossible.
§ MR. AYRTON
said, that on reading the Resolution, he had found it rather obscure, and now that he had heard the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, he had been singularly disappointed with it, for he did not know much more than he did before. The object of going into Committee was to inform the House how, and in what manner, the Resolution on the table was to be carried out. But the right hon. Gentleman with great adroitness then said, that he could not make them understand what he wished to effect until they had seen the Bill. There was no alternative, therefore, but to accept the Resolution and wait patiently till the Bill was before the House. It was rather hard to be compelled to take so important a preliminary step in the dark; but if they had to do so he protested against being held responsible for anything whatever. As one of the savings-banks Committee he had gone into the matter very fully, but he had not arrived at the same conclusions as the Chancellor of the Exchequer with regard to the relations that existed between the Government and the savings banks. It seemed a very sound proposition to say that the savings bank should receive back the amount which 199 had been received by the State, but the right hon. Gentleman kept out of view an important phase of the question, which was this, that the moneys were paid to the Commissioners, who were charged with a special duty under a special Act of Parliament, and that they were to be invested in a particular manner for the benefit of savings banks. These investments were very different to the cash received by the Government. If, however, they had been fairly dealt with by the Government as trustees for depositors, instead of there having been a deficiency, there would have been a large surplus, or a sum of consols beyond the amount of cash received by the Government. It could not be denied that the duty undertaken by Government was not truly fulfilled. It would be found that a large amount of the invested money had been taken from time to time to make good the interest which the Government came under an obligation to pay, irrespective of the capital fund. The Government having, from time to time, applied the capital fund for the purpose of making good the interest, at last brought the savings-banks accounts into this position, that the deficiency was so large that the question was raised whether it could continue to pay even the rate of interest that would have been received had the capital account remained intact; so that the people who now invested were to be called on to receive a smaller rate of interest in order to make good the deficiencies of former years. How this state of things was to be remedied they had received no information; but he trusted the Bill to be brought in would be more satisfactory than the one introduced last Session, and which the Government were compelled to abandon. There was one remark of the Chancellor of the Exchequer that somewhat alarmed him, as he was afraid from its tenor that they were to have the continuance of a system that had entailed much inconvenience as well as much loss on this fund. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had intimated that it would still be necessary for him to exercise considerable power over this fund which ought to be held as a sacred deposit for the working classes. He could not conceive that there was any necessity for the Chancellor of the Exchequer exercising any such power; if it was necessary that he should operate in the market as a "bear" or "bull" he must say he did not think the funds of the savings banks were legitimate funds for that purpose. If such a power were necessary, let there be some 200 proper statute to sanction it. The present practice was productive of great inconvenience, and could not be defended on any principle. The Committee on Public Moneys were all agreed that for the time to come the administration of the savings-banks funds ought to be placed upon a solid basis, and that if the Chancellor of the Exchequer wanted resources for financial operations, he ought to come to the House and obtain them by some means which the House might distinctly sanction.
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
said, he doubted whether the Committee would discuss this subject to advantage until they saw the Bill. He would, therefore, merely say that the objects proposed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer seemed to be good, but whether the details were such as ought to meet with the approbation of the House they ought not to judge too hastily. He wished to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he proposed to deal with the other recommendations of the Public Moneys Committee. He understood him to propose that the administration of these funds should be subject to the control or audit of a Committee of that House, probably nominated by the Speaker. The Public Moneys Committee recommended a kind of appropriation audit, and that some check should be exercised upon the expenditure of the money that had once been voted. If he had rightly understood the right hon. Gentleman the recommendation of the Committee with regard to savings banks was only a portion of the suggestions made by them which the Chancellor of the Exchequer proposed to adopt.
§ SIR HENRY WILLOUGHBY
remarked that, having heard the ingenuous speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, he felt bound to say that, like the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Ayrton), he was not a bit the wiser for it. In 1854 he took exception to a financial Resolution thus suddenly produced. He understood the right hon. Gentleman to say that he had previously agreed to the same Resolution. Now it was one inconvenience of bringing forward these sudden Resolutions that he had not had time to refer to the Resolution to which the Chancellor of the Exchequer had alluded. But this portion of the present Resolution was, at least, entirely new:—And also to authorize the cancelling of such amounts of the several capital stocks of annuities held by the said Commissioners for Savings Banks and Friendly Societies respectively as may 201 appear to the Commissioners of Her Majesty's Treasury to be expedient, and for the creation of like amounts of capital stock bearing a lower rate of interest than the capital stocks so cancelled, and for paying the interest on the stock so created.This was not in the original Resolution, and it was very important. The Resolution of 1854 ended in nothing. A Bill was introduced making a certain proportion of the savings-banks money chargeable on the consolidated fund, and leaving the remaining third to be still dealt with by the Executive. He believed that what had occurred in 1854 would be repeated now. The trustees and managers objected then to the mode in which it was proposed to deal with their funds, and in like manner they would, he felt persuaded, resist the change now proposed, and entreat the House to adopt the recommendations of its own Committee. That Committee recommended that the investment of these funds should be treated as a bonâ fide trust, by Commissioners appointed under a law duly framed for the regulation of their proceedings, and that the saving banks should receive such interest for their money as the sums invested would bring. It appeared to him that the present Resolution struck at this principle, and only dealt with a single portion of the recommendation of the Savings Banks Committee. If, however, it should be the wish of the Committee to see the right hon. Gentleman's Bill he would not stand in the way of its introduction.
§ SIR FRANCIS BARING
said, he was glad to hear that the hon. Baronet would not press his objection to the passing of the Resolution. It was true that the Resolution was not a clear exposition of the whole subject. The Chancellor of the Exchequer was compelled by the rules of the House to frame a Resolution which covered all that part of the Bill affecting the Consolidated Fund. The House would not, however, be committed by the Resolution to carry out all the words of the Resolution in the details of the Bill, and hon. Members who objected to any portion of the Bill were equally at liberty to object to it, whether the Resolution were agreed to or not. The objects proposed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer appeared to him to be most beneficial and proper. No one could doubt that in point of equity the depositors in savings banks had a claim to every sixpence of capital and interest for the money which had been placed in the hands of the Government. He had sinned like other Chan- 202 cellors of the Exchequer, in exercising the power which he possessed over savings-bank moneys, but he did not hesitate to say it had been done before, and was perfectly legal, that Chancellors of the Exchequer, in so doing, exercised a power which ought not to have been placed in their bands. He had employed these moneys, and, as a financial operation, he was prepared to justify what he had done. He did not wish to fight the battle of 1841 over again. In a financial point of view he had made the best arrangement in his power; but looking at the matter in a constitutional light, it was a power which the Chancellor of the Exchequer ought to be deprived of, and he would vote for any measure that took it away.
§ MR. BARROW
said, he wished it to be understood that in not dividing against the Resolution he did not pledge himself to its details, or to imply that he was in favour of empowering the Treasury to alter the investment of the moneys deposited in the hands of the Commission. He differed however from the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Ayrton) in this, that he believed it to be a perfectly desirable and legitimate arrangement that banks should be provided in which the poorer classes might deposit their savings and receive a reasonable interest for their money, and as the amount of interest paid to them did not exceed the average interest on other loans, the tax-payers had no reason to complain. He hoped that the power of reducing the rate of interest proposed in the latter part of the Resolution did not imply any present intention of altering the present rate. He was anxious that the funds of the depositors in savings banks should be transmitted to the Government, to be employed for their benefit, and that depositors should be secured from loss by the institution of a bona fide Commission, but thought the Government should have no power of "stock-jobbing" with these moneys. He therefore felt bound to say that he acceded to the Resolution only with the full privilege of reserving any objections to any clause of the Bill which might carry out the purposes to which he objected.
§ MR. J. L. RICARDO
said, he believed they were all agreed that, whatever might be the shortcomings of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the depositors in the savings banks ought not to be the sufferers; that the accounts of these banks should be presented annually to the House, and that a Committee ought to be appointed to ex- 203 amine these accounts. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had not, however, been sufficiently explicit as to the functions he was himself to exercise in regard to the savings-hanks funds. If the right hon. Gentleman was to have any control over them whatever, it was quite certain that he would make them subservient to financial purposes, and what had been done before would be done again and again. The same objections would then arise as at present existed. When he read the Resolution, he felt he should be unable to speak upon it until he heard some explanation regarding it, and then having heard the explanation, he was still unable to give an opinion until he had seen the Bill. Neither was sufficiently intelligible. But so far as he had under-derstood the explanation as to the objects of the Bill, those objects were desirable achievements. He should, therefore, not oppose the Resolution. But he should like some description to be given of what the functions of the Chancellor of the Exchequer were to be.
§ COLONEL SYKES
said, that as the passing of the Resolution did not pledge any hon. Member to the details of the Bill he should withdraw his opposition. He should object to the Chancellor of the Exchequer having any power under the Bill to deal with the funds for the purpose of propping up the public credit. The whole question, moreover, could never be in a satisfactory position until the depositors at large were fully assured that their funds were properly secured in the transit from the Bank to the Commission.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER,
in reply, said he could assure his hon. Friend the Member for Kerry (Mr. H. Herbert) that he should be glad to have the opportunity of introducing a Bill for the better management of savings banks with a fair prospect of carrying it. He had not abandoned the hope of such a measure, and it was a subject that would receive his most anxious attention. With regard to the question of the hon. Baronet (Sir S. Northcote) as to the Report of the Public Moneys Committee, the saving-bank funds came not at all within their operations. Those funds were public monies on deposit, and in no way allied to the public money forming the revenue of the country, which alone formed the subject of that Committee's deliberations. He had, perhaps, been misunderstood in the allusion he made to that Committee, but what he meant to say was this—that the recommendations made by 204 that Committee were equally applicable to the savings-bank funds as to the revenue, and he proposed, therefore, that a Committee should be appointed to discharge the same functions with regard to those funds that the Public Moneys Committee did with regard to the revenue. He wished to relieve the mind of the hon. Member for Nottinghamshire from the apprehension that the Bill would empower the Government to alter the rate of interest paid to depositors in savings hanks. The two subjects were entirely distinct; and the rate of interest ought to be fixed in a Bill for the management of savings banks, because the depositors would then see in one view all that portion of the subject which concerned them. He quite admitted that the rate of interest ought not to be left in the discretion of the Government, except as the law might fix it. He had been asked to describe the functions of the Chancellor of the Exchequer under this Bill. He had not entered into that subject at large, because he took it for granted that it would appear from what he had said—namely, that those functions were to remain as they were, except that they were to be based on certain limitations and restrictions, It might be the opinion of some hon. Members that savings-banks funds should not be subject to the operation of any discretion on the part of the State as to the use to be mode of them. He differed from that proposition entirely. He believed, if such a course were adopted, it would be found injurious and detrimental both to the public interest and disadvantageous to the depositors themselves. In point of fact, the question was, whose ought those monies to be? They ought to be the monies of the public, and used for the public benefit, but held at call, and liable to be restored to those who were originally and ultimately entitled to them. If, then, they were to be used for the public, it would be absolutely impossible to exclude the Government from all discretion in the management of them. In the Bill he proposed to limit those powers that were considered principally objectionable, and to enlarge those to which the recommendations of the Committee should point. But these were matters of detail. Finally, however, he proposed to bring all those powers regularly and periodically under the strict review of a body acting for and to be appointed by the House of Commons, and in whom the House will have confidence. Such were the main 205 principles of the measure, but it was open to any hon. Member to propose any changes he might deem expedient.
§ Motion agreed to.
§ House resumed.
§ Resolution to be reported To-morrow.
§ House adjourned at Nine o'clock.