§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Motion made and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time.
§ SIR HENRY WILLOUGHBY
said, he hoped the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer would not proceed with this Bill in the absence of several hon. Members who were interested in the discussions on the Bill, but who had left the House not believing that there was any chance of the second reading being moved that evening. The question was an unfortunate one involving as it did the sum of £43,000,000 of money, while many savings banks objected to the measure. Perceiving by a gesture of the right hon. Gentleman, however, that he meant to press the second reading, he (Sir Henry Willoughby) begged to move the adjournment of the debate on the second reading.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
observed that when the House was in Committee he made a full statement of the nature of the Bill; and in accordance with the pledge then given, he had allowed it to remain for several weeks in the hands of hon. Members before he had placed a notice of the second reading on the paper. Not having had the slightest reason to suppose that the proposed legislation was really deemed objectionable, he felt bound to persevere, knowing, as every hon. Gentleman must know, the difficulty he should otherwise have, in the pressure of business, to find opportunities for carrying forward a Bill of this kind. The hon. Baronet (Sir Henry Willoughby) said, that some savings banks had objections to the Bill. Why, savings banks could have nothing to say against it; for what it proposed was that every depositor in a savings bank should have an absolute legal title against the State—as absolute as that possessed by the holder of Three per Cents. The hon. Baronet himself had often complained that the depositors in savings banks had not that security. If this Bill passed they would have it by as strong a title as it was in the wit of man to devise. If the hon. Baronet wished him to again explain all the 2271 provisions of the Bill he would repeat what he had stated when introducing it.
§ MR. GREGSON
said, he took as great an interest in savings banks and friendly societies as the hon. Baronet could do; and he regarded the measure as one of great importance to the interests of the depositors in those institutions. He hoped the Bill was to be read a second time, and the discussion taken on the Speaker's leaving the chair.
§ COLONEL SYKES
said, it was expected that a great political question would occupy the greater part of the night, and that the Customs Committee would take up the remainder; and under these circumstances he put it to the right hon. Gentleman whether it was fair in the then state of the House to proceed with the second reading? The Bill was a most important one and reserved an objectionable power to the Chancellor of the Exchequer which he, in common with other hon. Members, had always opposed.
§ MR. J. L. RICARDO
said, he would appeal to the Chancellor of the Exchequer to postpone the Motion. He could not see that under its provisions the functions of the Chancellor of the Exchequer were much less powerful than they were under the present arrangement. He had himself asked several questions on this subject, and he understood that the Chancellor of the Exchequer promised to explain the provisions of the Bill fully on the second reading. He had no idea that the Bill would be discussed that night, and he had been in communication with several other Members, who agreed with him that the discussion should be taken when due notice had been given, and when all were prepared for it.
§ MR. AYRTON
said, that he confessed he had understood the right hon. Gentleman to promise an explanation of the measure on the second reading. He (Mr. Ayrton) had moved for some Returns which he thought necessary to demonstrate the operation of the existing system. These had not yet been produced, and he felt it impossible to go into the discussion without them. The House was entirely taken by surprise, this Bill having come on when the whole evening was expected to be occupied with a great debate. The measure was most important both in its principle and in the application of it. They were to begin a new system—the Chancellor of the Exchequer was to sit before a great hook, on which he was to inscribe debts against the nation, and what 2272 the effect might be it was extremely difficult to foretell. He objected to going on now with the second reading of the Bill, unless the Chancellor of the Exchequer stated it to be a matter of paramount necessity. If, however, he gave that assurance, he would offer no impediment, although he considered the plan of taking discussions on going into Committee, as a rule, very objectionable.
§ LORD ROBERT CECIL
said, he very much doubted whether, if notice were given, a fuller House could be got together than was then assembled. If Bills were not read a second time after notice given, the business of the House must come to a stand-still; and Governments had often been justly blamed for not pushing through their measures when they had the opportunity.
§ MR. W. WILLIAMS
thought that the subject ought to undergo a full discussion, and as the Chancellor of the Exchequer had offered an opportunity for its consideration at a future stage, it might be as well taken then.
§ MR. BENTINCK
said, he could not agree with the noble Lord the Member for Stamford, and he thought the second reading ought not to be taken that evening. The House was quite taken by surprise, in consequence of the rapidity with which they had gone through the various articles in the Customs Acts Resolutions during the half-hour that Members were absent at dinner. He begged to give notice that it was his intention, in the course of the evening, to ask the right hon. Gentleman when it was his intention to bring up the Report on the Customs Acts.
§ MR. LONGFIELD
remarked, that he did not wish to obstruct the progress of the measure, but he thought it would give more satisfaction if it were brought forward after due notice.
§ MR. EDWIN JAMES
said, he thought this Bill extremely important. Many thousands were interested in it, and it was a little unfair to proceed with it after the notice given by the noble Lord at the head of the Government, to move "That the other Orders of the Day be postponed until after the notice of Motion for an Address to Her Majesty on the subject of the Commercial Treaty with France."
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, he must protest against the course taken by hon. Gentlemen on this matter. He was quite ready at that mo- 2273 ment to explain the provisions of the Bill, and he hoped that this stage would be allowed to pass.
§ Motion made, and Question, "That the Debate be now adjourned," put, and negatived.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, it would, perhaps, be agreeable to some hon. Members that he should state the general objects of the Bill. They were of such a character that he did not expect any opposition to the second reading. He could conceive it possible that there might be some difference of opinion on some points in the clauses, and he quite agreed that great attention ought to be paid to the Bill when in Committee. But those who spoke of the enormous powers conferred on the Executive Government by the measure, should bear in mind that, if the Bill dropped, the Executive Government would retain their present powers intact, and that by passing the measure they would impose material limitations and restrictions on the powers which the Executive Government now possessed. The hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Ayrton) said, the Chancellor of the Exchequer was going to write clown obligations against the public in a book, and was greatly alarmed at the consequences which might ensue. The Chancellor of the Exchequer was only taking power to write down against the public a debt for which the State was already, partly in law, and partly in honour and equity, entirely liable. The present law authorized certain institutions called savings banks, acting to a great extent under voluntary and independent management, to receive the monies of those who were disposed to place them in their custody, with conditions as to interest and as to time and amounts of deposit and withdrawal, which were fixed in a certain degree by law, and in some points left to discretion. The law likewise presumed that these institutions would forward the monies which they received to an institution in London, where they passed into the immediate custody of the Government, The House would observe then, that the savings banks constituted an intermediate body between the Government and the depositor, and it was essential to keep that distinction in view, because the subject divided itself into two great departments, one which related to the conditions upon which the savings banks were constituted, and on which they received the money of depositors; the other 2274 which related to the receipt of monies from the savings banks by the Government, and the manner in which the Government managed the monies while they retained them in their custody until they restored them in answer to the calls of the savings banks. With the first of these departments the present Bill had nothing whatever to do. The government and management of savings banks, the responsibility or irresponsibility of the trustees or their officers, and the security which the depositor should, might, or did enjoy, constituted a subject well demanding the attention of the House; and he confessed it was a great disappointment to him to find that the Committee appointed a short time ago for the purpose of investigating the subject of savings banks paid no attention to the constitution or management of savings banks, or to the relations between them and the depositors, but confined their inquiry mainly to the management of the monies by the Government, which was, in point of fact, a great question of State policy, and absolutely distinct from that of the management of the banks themselves, when once they had complied with the conditions which were necessary to give an absolute title to the depositor for everything which had been received by the savings banks. The great principle advocated by the Committee and the first principle contained in this Bill was a substitution of a real and correct statement of that portion of the National Debt, which represented those monies, in lien of an uncertain and untrue statement. At present the system was this,—The Commissioners for the Reduction of the National Debt, who received the funds of savings' banks and friendly societies, invested those funds in Government securities, retaining such balances as they pleased. But from various causes, some of them political causes, some relating directly to the interests of savings banks, the money value of stocks held by the Commissioners, added to the cash in their hands, did not represent a sum precisely equal to the obligations. Their assets, in point of fact, were not equal to their liabilities. It was very much disputed as to what cause or what class of causes the deficiency was to be attributed. Those who had had the financial management considered, and he thought rightly considered, that it was mainly owing to the nature of the terms on which the monies were received. A fixed rate of interest was allowed by the State to the savings 2275 banks. It followed that when the funds were high and the rate of interest generally low there was great disposition to invest in savings hanks, because then the fixed rate of interest offered to depositors something better than they were likely to obtain elsewhere; but when the Funds were low the case was exactly opposite. There was a great inducement for depositors to call for money, and sales of stock must take place to satisfy those calls. Therefore, the normal operation of the system was that the Commissioners were buyers of stock when the market was high, and sellers when the market was low. That was an obvious cause, and he believed the main cause, of the difference which existed between assets and liabilities. But, on the other hand, these funds were also made subservient to great public objects. At times, when financial operations of the utmost benefit and advantage to the public were in prospect, the purchases made on account of the nation through the medium of these funds greatly facilitated those operations. The examination of these proceedings was a matter of great consequence to the House, but had nothing to do with the security of the savings-banks depositors. However well the Government managed, and whatever profit they might make, it was admitted that the depositors had no claim to a single farthing. On the other hand, if the Government made ducks and drakes of £20,000,000 out of £40,000,000, the moral obligation existed for the restoration, entire and scathless, of the monies which the State had received. Therefore the financial part of the question was not a part in which the depositors were interested, and, to his mind, nothing could be more mischievous to the depositors than to pretend they had any concern in it, because it would recognize a liability in respect of it in them which they had not at present. At present there was no liability on the part of the depositors. They were entitled to say, "We have a fixed definite contract with you, and we do not expect or desire to claim anything beyond that contract." The management, however, was a matter of great importance to the public and one of the consequences of the mode of investment up to the present time had been that there was no correct statement of the liabilities of the State. At the present moment there was a difference of somewhat more than £2,000,000 between the sums of which the Commissioners stood 2276 possessed—if they realized all the stock they held—and the sums for which they were liable to different savings banks. The mode in which they proposed to manage the finances in future was, as the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Ayrton) truly said, by opening a great book, in which would be written the sums themselves, with a provision for the rectification of the account from year to year. Instead of holding that vast amount of stock, with its varied and fluctuating value, they would cancel a great part of it, and in lieu of it enter in a book, which would contain the State deposit account No. 1, the capital sum. From time to time, when the accounts were nearly balanced, that capital sum would be so regulated as to represent as nearly as possible the total amount of the real obligations of the State to the savings banks and friendly societies instead of their being unaware of what was the actual amount of their engagements, and, in fact, supposing it to be a couple of millions less than it was. That was the explanation of the 1st and 2nd clauses of the Bill. The 3rd clause was framed on the principle of maintaining the annual charge somewhere about what it was now, and when construed in connection with a subsequent clause it provided that a limited portion of the stock should be held as dead—stock not liable to bear interest. The principle on which this would be done was exactly analogous to that on which they now regulated by law the unclaimed dividends on the National Debt. The arrangement proposed by the Bill was to convert into that actual statement of capital liabilities the greater part of the stock now held by the Commissioners for the Reduction of the National Debt, but at the same time to retain in their hands such a portion as might be sufficient to meet any probable, and perhaps any possible, amount of calls. The abstract possibility of calls which might go beyond the limit was, indeed, provided for by certain parts of the Bill, which gave powers for the reconversion of the State deposit account into marketable securities in case of need. Practically, however, they might treat that as a contingency to be almost put out of view. The general rule would be that about three-fourths of the liabilities would be hereafter represented by means of the sum inscribed in the State deposit account, and the other part would be held in stock, in various securities, and in cash. And this was the first 2277 important restriction applied by the Bill to the powers of the Executive Government. At present the powers of the Executive were entirely uncontrolled with reference to the whole of these stocks. For the future they would be applicable only to about one-fourth part of these stocks—that was to say, to the portion of the assets of the Commissioners which would be ordinarily held in these securities, and not to the portion represented by the State deposit account, for that account could not be diminished by any act of the Commissioners, or of the Executive Government, except for the purpose of meeting absolute calls when they came from the creditor, that was, from the savings banks, and after all other means of meeting those calls should have been exhausted. The 5th clause provided another most import- and limitation of the powers of the Executive—namely, that deficiency Exchequer bills, and Ways and Means Exchequer bills, might not be funded by the Commissioners for the Reduction of the National Debt, The House will remember that at present, whenever there was a deficiency in the public revenue, or, indeed, whenever there was a deficiency in the sum applicable to meet consolidated fund charges for the coming quarter, it was in the power of the Executive to supply that deficiency by means, not of the revenue of the current year, nor of the funds which Parliament when appealed to should provide, but by means of money obtained from the savings banks and friendly societies. Indeed, even when the revenue of the year was amply sufficient for the purposes of the State, still, from the peculiar arrangements of the quarterly charges on the Consolidated Fund, and from the power which the Government necessarily held to cause an issue of deficiency bills to meet the excess of those charges, it was now positively practicable for the Executive, from quarter to quarter, to issue deficiency bills, and subsequently convert them into part of the permanent debt of the country without obtaining the consent of Parliament. That power was entirely cut away by the fifth clause of this Bill. It was another question whether it was necessary that the Chancellor of the Exchequer should possess the power of converting Exchequer bills into stock. He was not prepared to say that this power ought to be done away with, or whether it would be proper to limit it, but he did not wish to preclude the discussion of it in Committee. He 2278 came next to a set of provisions in which, following not the details, but the principles of the Report of the Committee on Savings Banks, the Bill gave a larger liberty of investment for these funds than had heretofore existed. Hitherto the investments had been entirely confined to the Parliamentary stocks of this country, to Exchequer bills and Exchequer bonds. It would, of course, be very exceptionable to give any large latitude of investment to the Commissioners for the Reduction of the National Debt, provided they were to exercise any judgment on the sufficiency of the securities, dependent on their own choice only, and not limited by Parliament. Parliament ought to define very rigidly the space within which they should have the power of selecting investments. The limitations expressed in this Bill were therefore very strictly defined. It was proposed to leave them entitled, as they now were, to invest in any Parliamentary stock or security—that was, in any instrument issued by the authority of Parliament, and chargeable directly on the revenues of the country, whether by way of supply service or on the Consolidated Fund. But besides these there were other Parliamentary liabilities. There were certain guaranteed stocks with respect to which the ultimate liability of Parliament was just as full and entire as with respect to the stocks of this country. There were stocks, for example, like the Proprietary Stock of the East India Company, with regard to which a certain amount of guarantee had been provided by the Legislature. The Bill proposed, therefore, that the power of investment now possessed by the Commissioners should be so far enlarged as to include that description of security. The effect of that would be, that they would in no respect go beyond stocks with reference to which Parliament had made a special provision to secure them; and at the same time they would be enabled, as to a certain portion of their assets, to get a better interest and manage their funds more profitably for the country than heretofore. They would not, however, go beyond a certain amount, especially in a given time. He would take the Canada guaranteed loan of a million and a half for the sake of illustration, although a considerable portion of that was now provided for. It was not at all desirable, where a third party was the debtor, and the Parliament of England only backed him with a State guarantee, that the Commissioners for the reduction of the National 2279 Debt should acquire such a proportion of that stock as to become themselves the principal creditors. Parliament would then be placed in a false position. The Bill, therefore, proposed to limit the proportion of any stock of that character which the Commissioners might hold, as well as to limit absolutely the amount they might in any of these cases invest. It might be that other limitations would be suggested in Committee. Those he had specified were at any rate sound in principle, and would, he hoped, be taken as indications of the spirit in which the Bill had been framed. The Bill also contained other powers, enabling the Commissioners to make exchanges of securities under certain circumstances; but these could be better explained in Committee. Suffice it to say, that one of the objects of that exchange was to give the Commissioners the power of from time to time buying up certain stocks, of which the quantity was so very small in the market that they did not form a convenient medium of investment. The eighth and ninth clauses of the Bill related to the balancing of the whole of the accounts on the 29th of November, so as to represent the real amount of the liabilities of the State to parties. In the eleventh clause provision was made for giving to savings banks and friendly societies an absolute title in the funds vested under this Act in the Commissioners for the Reduction of the National Debt; and it was intended likewise to provide, in the case of the failure of those securities, that they should have a claim on other funds of the State. He might mention that the general effect of the measure would be to create very considerable public economy. He could not say precisely to what extent that economy would go, because he did not know yet what the Commissioners would find it practicable and advisable to do in the way of varying their investments; but various sources of economy would he opened up. At present, for instance, the Commissioners were holders of some £40,000,000 of stock, out of which they proposed to cancel £31,000,000; and the law fixed £300 per million payable to the Bank of England for the management of the National Debt. That arrangement was a very reasonable one as long as the different portions of the property that constituted the debt were continually undergoing transfer from hand to hand; but now that the State had itself become the possessor of a vast sum, nearly the whole of which remained en- 2280 tirely without involving any cost or trouble in transfer or management in any form whatever, the bargain required revision. The change which was now proposed would therefore effect a saving on that account of between £9,000 and £10,000 a year; and over and above that he expected the Commissioners would realize a considerably better income from whatever investments they might make under the authority of the Bill in funds guaranteed by Parliament, though not regular Government stock. There would be no sudden or wholesale alterations, but in the course of two or three years the effect of the Bill would be to secure a permanent saving to the country of not less than £40,000 or £50,000 a year. He ought also to mention that, in addition to the forms of investment he had mentioned, the Bill gave power to the Commissioners to invest money for the purposes of the Exchequer Loan Fund. He did not intend in submitting that provision to ask the House at that moment to give effect to any practical proposal on the subject. The power would remain dormant till the House had the opportunity of considering whether it was really desirable we should go on advancing money out of the Exchequer to the Exchequer Loan Fund Commissioners for the purpose of enabling them to lend it to various parties in the country, or whether it would not be better to transfer that function altogether to the Commissioners for the Reduction of the National Debt, who would then have a new and profitable mode of investment open to them. He did not mean to throw any disparagement on the Exchequer Loan Fund Commission, which had proved a very useful institution, and had worked exceedingly well. But it was certainly a question to be considered, whether a State heavily indebted as we were, and holders of means of that kind continually falling in, ought not to use a portion of those means to carry on useful works, in preference to advancing money for that purpose from a fund which had to be raised by taxation. A Bill would have to be brought in to provide for such advances, for the receipt of the money by the Exchequer Loan Fund, and for its management, and the question could then be fully discussed. These were the principal provisions of the present measure, which he hoped would meet with the favourable consideration of the House, both on that occasion and in Committee.
said, he did not rise to offer any opposition to the second reading 2281 of the Bill. As far as he understood the measure, its chief aim apppeared to be to make such arrangements as would prevent £30,000,000 of the savings banks funds from being jobbed—he did not use the word offensively—for the purposes of Government at particular times. It was the general opinion that if that object could be gained without inconvenience it would be most desirable. He thought, however, that some of the provisions of the Bill would require great consideration in Committee. There was no doubt that legislation on this subject was necessary, inasmuch as the Government were pledged to pay to those depositors every farthing of their money which passed into their hands. The simpler the accounts were kept the better for all parties concerned. There was, no doubt, an impression abroad—whether ill or well founded he could not say—that great losses had been sustained by the improper treatment of the funds by those persons who had immediate control over them. These were the only observations which struck him as necessary to make on the present occasion. He hoped they would go into Committee at such a time as would allow the matter to be fully discussed, as they had all one interest in getting this question put on a sound and satisfactory footing. It was a matter on which no party feelings could have place as all must be anxious to do the best they could to promote the welfare of these most useful and valuable institutions.
§ MR. AYRTON
said, that the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had not done complete justice to the Committee which sat upon this subject when he said that it had been chiefly employed in considering the transactions of the Commissioners for the Reduction of the National Debt; because that Committee had also made a full inquiry into the proceedings of the savings banks throughout the country, and their relations to the Commissioners, and had made a report thereupon. The assertion that this Bill would give great security to the savings banks might lead to misapprehension, by giving rise to the opinion that such security did not now exist, which, as far as the capital was concerned, would certainly be erroneous. The real question at issue was, what was to be done when the funds in the hands of the Commissioners were insufficient to pay the claims of the banks for interest? It was felt that, whilst that was the case, the Chancellor of the Exchequer 2282 would come down to the House and propose the reduction of the interest, so that, in point of fact, the loss on all the dealings with the funds that had taken place would in the end fall on the depositors. At pre -sent the capital funds belonging to depositors in the hands of the Government was deficient about £4,000,000. That deficiency had arisen from three causes. The first was, that at the outset the House of Commons authorized the Commissioners of the National Debt to pay the savings banks a very high rate of interest, higher, in fact, than the funds yielded immediately after the Act was passed. The ordinary rate of interest subsequently declined, and there had been every year an increasing deficit accumulating at compound interest. He estimated the loss from that source alone at £3,000,000. The second cause of the deficit arose from the practice of buying at a high rate when money was abundant and when the investments in savings banks were considerable, and of selling at a much lower rate when there was a disposition on the part of depositors suddenly to withdraw their deposits. The loss on that account had not been frequent, but had occurred only on two or three occasions. Its amount was not clearly ascertained, but it could not be less than £100,000. The third cause of the deficit was the mode in which successive Chancellors of the Exchequer had dealt with the funds belonging to savings banks for the purpose of sustaining the credit of the country. He did not blame them for the manner in which they had used those funds, but the objection was that all the profits and advantages went to the nation at large, while all the loss was placed to the debit of the special account of the savings banks with the Commissioners for the Reduction of the National Debt. There was still another cause of the deficit. The Commissioners, in order to pay the very high rate of interest which Parliament had allowed to depositors, had purchased 3½ per cent stock to a large amount, for which they had paid 10 per cent more than they would have for 3 per cent Consols, but in course of time the 3½ per cent stock was reduced to 3 per cent, and now it bore the same value as Consols. They had gained in the rate of interest, for a certain time, but in the end a deficiency of 10 per cent had been created on all the 3½ per cent stock so purchased. All these causes combined had occasioned a gap in the capital of about £4,000,000, and the result was that at the 2283 present moment the funds belonging to savings banks produced £100,000 a year less than the interest annually paid to depositors. No Chancellor of the Exchequer had ever frankly come to the House and said—This is a loss which we must incur every year, and which should be provided year by year; but it had been added to the National Debt. This was a most injurious state of affairs. Mr. Hume had brought this matter before the House, and the Minister had twice met him by proposing a reduction of the interest, and he had no doubt the present Chancellor of the Exchequer, with his persuasive eloquence, might induce Parliament to authorize a further reduction. But the right hon. Gentleman, instead of doing that, bad drawn up the Bill now before the House. What was the object of that Bill? It dealt in a very circuitous mode with a simple subject. It proposed that the Chancellor of the Exchequer should sit before a great book, and open an account No. 1, in which the first entry was to be a liability of the nation to the extent of £31,000,000. He did not know whether No. 1 was to be followed by No. 2 and a series of accounts, but certainly this provision of the Bill shadowed out a system which ought to receive the careful consideration of the House. The object which the Chancellor of the Exchequer had in view was to save £300 a year, paid to the Bank of England per million of stock for doing nothing at all; but what was there to prevent the right hon. Gentleman, instead of erecting the cumbersome and ominous system indicated by the present Bill, making the simple intimation to the Bank that it should no longer receive £300 per annum for keeping the account of each million of the capital fund of £31,000,000, which stood in the name of the Commissioners for the Reduction of the National Debt, and with respect to which no transfer or transactions of any kind ever took place? But it was said that the Bill gave improved powers of investment. It seemed to him, however, that those powers were exceedingly small. They were confined to a small part of the balance of the fund after deducting £31,000,000, and would give so small an additional interest to the Commissioners that he doubted whether it was worth while embarrassing the account with the responsibilities of the varied investments suggested by the Bill. What the Committee proposed was that a very large proportion of the entire fund, 2284 instead of being invested at 3 per cent, should be invested in securities, which for all practical purposes were as good as Consols, at the rate of 4 per cent, thus making it possible that the interest of the whole investments might be sufficient to meet the annual charge of the savings banks. He hoped the Chancellor of the Exchequer would give this point his renewed consideration, enlarge the field of investment, and so practically carry out the intentions of the Committee. It was said that very much was to be effected by the Bill for the safety of the depositors, but he could not discover that it placed them in a better situation than before, for he ventured to insist that the country already was absolutely pledged to make good the whole of their funds. On the other hand, there were certain funds of individual savings banks—the gains and savings which constituted a guarantee to make good deficiencies by losses and frauds—which were put in considerable jeopardy by the Bill. Then there was the power still remaining in the hands of the Chancellor of the Exchequer of dealing with the funds. The Committee were of opinion that that power should not be left entirely with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, but that some persons should be joined with him in order to guarantee that the funds were not hastily and inconsiderately dealt with. If this power were given to the Chancellor of the Exchequer it should be given on definite principles, so that he should use the funds for the benefit of the savings banks alone, and not for the benefit of the nation by sustaining in the market this or that security. It was evident that these several points did require looking into by the Government, and he hoped that when the Bill was next before them, some attempt would be made to elucidate the difficulties that he had felt it his duty briefly to notice.
§ MR. HANKEY
said, he was not aware that the Bill would have come on for discussion that night, but he should certainly not like to give a silent vote in approbation of a measure which appeared to him fraught with great mischief. It contained all the objectionable features of the former Bill, though there was a great deal of merit in some of the new provisions. The clauses, however, which gave to the Chancellor of the Exchequer power over a very large amount of stock, enabling him to increase the amount of funded debt by conversion of unfunded debt without applying to 2285 Parliament, were clauses which ought never to be inserted in a Bill of this kind. At the same time he approved that part of the measure which permitted the Chancellor of the Exchequer to cancel certain parts of the debt; but it was a dangerous thing to give that functionary the power of propping up in the market one description of security by selling stock at one time and buying stock at another. At a future stage he should point out how, in his opinion, the objectionable features of the Bill could be removed.
§ Main Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read 2°, and committed for Monday next.