HC Deb 11 May 1866 vol 183 cc777-8

rose to ask the Government, Whether, having regard to the welfare and comfort of the labouring classes in agricultural districts, it is their intention to increase the number of Money Order Savings Banks, Annuity and Insurance Offices, now established in comparatively so small a proportion of the post towns of the United Kingdom? The noble Lord said, the value of those offices was fully admitted, and his object was to obtain an extension of the system, which had been found to work so well. According to the Postal Guide of April. 1866, there were something like 8,150 post offices in England and Wales, of which 2,000, or about one-fourth, had savings banks attached to them, one-eighth having insurance and annuity offices, and thirty-six being money offices only. In Scotland there were about 1,200 post offices, of which one-third had savings banks, about thirteen having money-order offices only, and, strange to say, although the Scotch people were notoriously provident and industrious, not a single annuity or insurance office was established in the country. In Ireland there were about 1,600 post offices, of which one-third had savings banks and five had money-Order offices only; but not one annuity office existed in Ireland. In the division of the county which he had the honour to represent there were about forty post offices outside of the metropolitan district. The population was scattered and agricultural, but twenty two out of the forty were neither savings banks, annuity, nor money-order offices, and only eighteen of the whole number were savings banks and annuity offices. It was universally admitted that it was desirable the poorer classes should be elevated, and in his opinion one of the best means to that end was the establishment of annuity and insurance offices and savings banks at post offices that provident habits might be encouraged. He was of opinion that those institutions were too few in number, and he trusted that in the absence of the Chancellor of the Exchequer one of the Secretaries to the Treasury would favour him with some information upon the subject; and he also expressed a hope that when the right hon. Gentleman next advocated the rights of the working classes he would consider the prayers of those who lived in the country, as well as of those who lived in the towns.