HC Deb 24 February 1880 vol 250 cc1297-9

asked the Postmaster General, Whether his attention has been directed to the case of Elizabeth Morpeth, a married woman, who last year out of her earnings deposited £76 in the Post Office Savings Bank at Manchester, and, through the negligence or violation of trust of the Post Office officials there, was not only deprived of £48 of that sum, by its payment to her husband without the order of court required by Law, but was also refused payment of the balance of £28 without appeal to the County Court; and, whether, as this and other similar cases have occurred under the loose wording of Rule 8 (Post Office Savings Banks) as to deposits of married women, such Rule can be so amended and explained as to make it clear that the Post Office authorities will give full effect to the provisions of "The Married Women's Property Act, 1870?"


My attention has been called to this matter. The facts are as follow:—The money (£76) was not all deposited last year—indeed, £30 is the largest sum which can be deposited in the Post Office Savings Bank in any one year by any one person. The sum of £60 odd was deposited by Mrs. Morpeth at various times before the passing of the Married Women's Property Act in 1870; but this amount had been reduced by withdrawals to £48 8s.1d.when the husband's claim to the money was made in October last. This balance was clearly the property of the husband by law; and as he, when advancing his claim to it, complied with all the requirements of the Department in such cases, even to the production of the depositor's deposit book, at the time when payment was made to him, the money was paid in accordance with the 9th clause of the Regulations framed for carrying out the provisions of the Post Office Savings Bank Act. There was no alternative. The husband also laid claim to the sums—£28 odd—placed to the credit of the account after the passing of the Act of 1870, but this claim was resisted by the Department; and it was left either to the husband or to the wife to establish a title to that portion of the money in accordance with Section 9 of the Married Women's Property Act, 1870, by application to one of the judicial authorities therein mentioned. The husband took no action in the matter; but the depositor—the wife—did apply to the Salford County Court, and obtained an order in her favour with costs against her husband, and payment was made to her forthwith. The correspondence was conducted entirely by the Department in London, and not through the Manchester Post Office; and there is no foundation whatever for the statement that the depositor has been "deprived" of her money "through the negligence or violation of trust of Post Office officials." I have no knowledge of any similar cases having occurred. Paragraph 8 ofThe Post Office Guidestates the substance of No. 9 of the Savings Bank Regulations dated the 13th of August, 1861, with an addition as regards the Married Women's Property Act, 1870. Possibly the reference to that Act might be more clearly expressed; but it does not appear that the paragraph, as it stands, has prevented the Act of 1870 from having the full effect which the Post Office authorities have always endeavoured to give it.