§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ THE POSTMASTER GENERAL (Mr. RAIKES) (Cambridge University)
In moving the second reading of this Bill I do not intend to detain the House for I many minutes. The matter has been very fully discussed in the public Press and "elsewhere" in the course of the last week or so—in fact, ever since the Bill was introduced; and yesterday my right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Treasury (Mr. W. H. Smith) made an important announcement with regard to the course the Government intend to 343 take when this Bill gets into Committee, a course which, I understand, is likely to remove many of the objections felt in some parts of the House to the Bill as it was originally introduced. It may be desirable, further, that I should say that this Bill, which is, I think, a very modest one, does not attempt to deal with the question in anything like so ambitious a spirit as characterized some of its predecessors. In the first place, it was addressed to three main points. The first of these was a power which it was proposed to give to depositors in Post Office Savings Banks to deposit a larger sum than £30 annually. That is to say, it was proposed to raise the limits that the existing law fixes for such deposits from £30 to £50. But it was not proposed at any time to increase the total amount which a depositor in the Post Office Savings Bank could have there beyond the sum of £150, which is the existing limit. Further, a certain amount of misconception appears to have arisen upon this point, and a great many gentlemen connected with the banking interest in the country appear to have become much agitated on the subject; they believed that there was under the provision in this Bill some probability that the total deposit of £150 might be indefinitely exceeded. It was also suggested, equally without any sufficient ground, that this Bill contained a provision by which the rule which restricts a depositor at the present time to having only one account at a Post Office Savings Bank might be evaded; and it was suggested, or at least alleged, that under this Bill it would be possible for a depositor to have a multiplicity of these accounts. There was no foundation for that suggestion. I only mention it to show how much misunderstanding has arisen in the country in regard to the provisions of this measure. I dare say some blame attached to the Post Office owing to the form in which the Bill has been drafted not being sufficiently clear. But I have met the opponents of the measure in what I think they admit to be a fair spirit by promising them that, although the Bill does not contain the things they object to, I will make it clear that no such intention existed by introducing words. But hon. Gentlemen still continne to object to the provision, which the Bill undoubtedly did 344 originally contain, that the limit to an annual deposit should be raised from £30 to £50; and as I consider their opposition was not very well founded, and not likely to advance the interests even of those who were the most active in fomenting it, I should have been prepared to ask the House to accept that clause as part of the Bill as far as the original opposition was concerned, because there can be no doubt that even if such a provision was not very largely availed of by the working classes, yet the fact that it had been made a part of the law of the land would have encouraged and stimulated habits of thrift. I believe that at the present time there are very few subjects so largely talked about as the promotion of thrift amongst the working classes. If that clause had been pressed it would have given the House an opportunity of putting the subject to a test as to how far the expressions of sympathy with thrift amongst the working classes which we have heard are genuine and sincere amongst hon. Members. But before the Bill reached this stage we have been confronted with another difficulty. We have to remember that there are not only the Post Office Savings Banks, but other savings banks, which are generally known as Trustee Savings Banks. Those Trustee Savings Banks do a great amount of business, and are in a great many cases extremely well managed, and they come to us with apparently a fair show of reason and ask that we should not give to the Post Office Savings Banks privileges and advantages which were denied to them. That appeared, on the face of it, to be a very reasonable demand. It is quite true that in drawing up this Bill I had reference entirely to those savings banks which were under the control of the Post Office, and that I limited the measure of reform which I introduced in the first instance to those particular institutions. But I could not deny that there was a good deal of force in the contention of those gentlemen who represented Trustee Savings Banks when they claimed for those banks at least fair play in conducting their business in friendly rivalry with the savings banks administered by the Post Office. Well, we have considered their objections, and we are inclined to think that, as regards other clauses of the Bill, there is sufficient 345 ground for admitting them to the equality which they claim. But considerable difficulty was felt with regard to giving them the advantage of this 1st clause. Savings Banks which are managed by Trustees give a larger interest than that given by the Post Office Savings Banks. They are allowed to give £2 15s. as against the £2 10s. which is all that the Post Office has to offer. And then, while the amount of the deposits in any particular year in the Post Office Savings Banks would not be very largely increased by the extension of the limit, it is possible that a considerable addition might be made to the deposits in any particular year with the Trustee Savings Banks, and this might very fairly have been hold to create a new financial aspect in the consideration of the question. There was certainly some additional force to be given to the objection raised by some financiers on the subject of the State receiving savings bank deposits at all if there were, as there might, perhaps, be in this instance, a very large addition to the sums deposited, seeing that in time of financial difficulty or embarrassment the Government might be called upon to repay these deposits. Under these circumstances, Her Majesty's Government have come to the conclusion that it is better on this occasion not to persevere with this particular clause; but, at the same time, I think that the matter is one which clearly must stand over for further consideration, not of course during the present Session, but in some future Session, having regard to the frequent attempts which have been made to legislate upon this question in previous years. I may mention that the late Government only two or three years ago introduced a Bill by which it was proposed not merely to increase the annual deposit, but to increase the total deposit, and also to give greater facilities for the multiplication of accounts. Therefore it is exceedingly probable that future Sessions will not pass without some attempt being made to deal with this subject in a larger manner than. I have attempted to deal with it during the present Session, and those hon. Gentlemen who have been active in their opposition to the present moderate and tentative scheme may at some future time have reason to regret that they did not settle the matter when they could do so in a very easy and a very humble manner However that 346 may be, that part of the scheme is now definitely abandoned by the Government. The two other main provisions which it is intended to press upon the consideration of the House are these. One is contained in Clause 3 of the Bill as it now stands, and gives power to the Postmaster General for the time being to make regulations with regard to the conduct of the business of the banks. I understand that there is a very great demand for greater elasticity in the banks in the interests of the working class depositors. I will only refer to two particular matters as showing the necessity for the change. At the present time, if it is desirable to transfer a deposit—deposits such as are frequently held by friendly societies, and other bodies of that kind—from one account to another it is absolutely necessary to take out all the sum that is deposited, and to close the account so far as that is concerned, and then to open a fresh account in order to deposit in it the sum that is to be transferred. The inconvenience of this system to the working classes is considerable, and I am informed that it even extends to physical inconvenience, where it may be required to transfer an account—say from Liverpool to Rugby. The Secretary may have to take the cash, accompanied by one or two members of his committee, who may have to take the money properly deposited, and take it from one post office to another. In this way great trouble and inconvenience is incurred in the case of working men, who have the right to look to the Legislature for facilities in the way of saving, and who have a right to object to hindrances being placed in their path in connection with such a matter. Another question deserving consideration is the question of nomination. Under the existing law the depositor in a savings bank is allowed to deposit £100 in the shape of a nomination—that is to say, he may nominate a person who is to receive it at his death. The Postmaster General on the death of the depositor can pay over the £100 to the nominee without further trouble, and without the necessity for a will or any other legal formality. But, as the law now stands, if there should happen to be an accumulation of interest, and that £100 has exceeded the limit and maximum of £100, the nomination becomes void, and instead of the depositor's 347 nomination being carried out in favour of any particular person whom he wished to Dominate the money falls into his general estate, and has to be administered under the general law. It is now proposed, in the event of such a sum being slightly increased in such a manner, that it shall be competent for the Postmaster General to frame regulations in order to give effect to the wishes of the depositor. Those are two of the points upon which it is proposed to give to the Post Office power of making regulations. But exception has been taken to the fact that though these regulations are to be laid before Parliament that is the only requirement contained in the Bill as it stands, and I promised the hon. Member for the South-Western Division of Middlesex (Mr. Dixon-Hartland) that words should be introduced which should make it necessary that every such regulation should lie on the Table of the House for a certain time before becoming effective, and that opportunity should be given to Members in cither House of Parliament to take the sense of Parliament before they become law. There is another small provision as to the Government annuities. At the present time, any person may purchase a Government annuity for himself through the Post Office; but it is proposed now to extend that principle so as to enable persons to purchase annuities for the benefit of the person designated, and to transfer such annuities at least for the period until they become payable. It has been thought that those annuities may be purchased for old servants. Well, a person may desire to purchase an annuity for an old servant, but may wish to keep power over it so as to make payment of it dependent upon the good conduct of the recipient. I am told that in the case of Colleges it is thought desirable that provision should be made in this way for old servants, and I am sure we shall all be glad to give such institutions the advantage of the ready method of benefiting their old employés in this way. The only other provision is that with which the hon. Member for North Islington (Mr. Bartley) has been so honourably associated—that is the proposal to enable a smaller sum than £10 to be invested in the public funds through the medium of the Post Offices. At the present time the working man can deposit a sum exceeding 348 £10 through the Post Office in the funds, but he cannot deposit a less sum than £10. I should think there is no point on which there has been such a general consensus of opinion as there is upon this. All of us wish to see the working classes of this country save money and deposit it in the public funds. The result of this system, especially in Prance, has been extremely encouraging, and there is no doubt that at the time of great national embarrassment in Prance the working classes came forward with their savings in the most astonishing manner, and really enabled the country to tide ever an enormous difficulty at the time when the ordinary methods of credit were difficult of application, and, if largely availed of, would have made the position of the country even more embarrassing than it was. I do not know that we shall rapidly induce the working classes of this country to make very large contributions to the public funds in this way; but, at all events, I do not think it a wise thing to deny them the opportunity, and what this Bill aims at amongst other things is to give to the working classes the opportunity of depositing sums of less than £10 in the public funds under such regulations as the Postmaster General may from time to time think desirable. I have only one other thing to say, and that is with reference to the manner in which it is proposed to give Trustee Savings Banks the same advantages as the Bill originally proposed to give the Post Office Savings Banks alone. I apologize to the House for having at this late hour spoken so long as I have done. If the Bill had come on somewhat earlier I should have been prepared to give a somewhat fuller sketch of its provisions than I have. I hope, however, I have said enough to show to the whole of the House that the Bill has been framed with a desire of benefiting the working classes of the country. I should have been glad if I had been able to introduce a more comprehensive measure; but I cannot help thinking that the House will be unwilling to lose the opportunity to pass even such a Bill as this, having regard to the objects to which it is directed, and the machinery by which it is hoped to carry out these objects.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. Raikes.)349
§ MR. SHAW LEFEVRE (Bradford, Central)
I rise to express regret that the Government should have given way to the opposition, and should have agreed to withdraw the first and most important clause of the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman has correctly said that it is a very modest proposal—a much more modest proposal than those which have been brought forward by his Predecessors in Office. I cannot but think that there has been much misapprehension on this matter. The sole object of that proposal was to increase the limit of money which might be deposited in the Post Office Savings Banks from £30 to £50. It was not intended, as I understand it, to increase the limit of the maximum amount which any person might deposit in the savings banks. Limited in that way it appears to me that the proposal would have been an exceedingly wise one. It would have been a great encouragement to thrift on the part of a large number of persons in this country, and I believe it was eminently worthy of the consideration of this House. I cannot but think that if the right hon. Gentleman had pressed his proposal he would have obtained general supporters for it in quarters, perhaps, where he does not expect it, and would have been able to defeat the opposition which, to my mind, is of a somewhat interested character. I do not know whether it would be possible for any private Member to raise the question, notwithstanding the decision the Government have arrived at. I do not know whether it would be possible for a private Member to press the Government on, and try and induce them to agree to the clause they have abandoned. Under any circumstances, I trust that the clause is only abandoned for this year, and that next year we shall have the proposal made again. I am not impressed with the argument as to treating the private savings banks on grounds of equality. At the present moment, and after the question that has been raised, I do not, at all events, think it would be wise at this moment to extend to them this power, and I think the right hon. Gentleman is wise in restricting it to Post Office Savings Banks. With regard to the other proposals of the right hon. Gentleman, I have no objection to make to them, although I do not quite understand the arrangement 350 with, regard to the assignment of annuities which he has alluded to; but, no doubt, when we come to the clause in Committee he will explain this point more fully. Finally, I think no one will doubt that there is wisdom underlying the proposal to enable depositors to invest sums of less than £10 in the Government Funds.
§ MR. BARTLEY (Islington, N.)
I have heard with great pleasure the determination of the Government to give increased facilities to depositors in the Post Office Savings Bank for purchasing small portions of Government Stock. We are now all agreed that it is a great social and economical advantage that the mass of the people should become possessors of Consols. It is only a few years since this scheme has been understood by the people. I remember the time when persons were ignorant of the very meaning of the word Consols. When the National Penny Bank, in 1875, commenced selling small portions, we had persons come in and ask whether Consols were a special sort of coals, or something to eat; but since then Government Stock to the extent of no loss a sum than £2,500,000 sterling has been purchased by some 30,000 depositors in the Post Office Savings Bank, and the system has shown itself to be one of the most effective means by which the general well-being of the poorer classes may be promoted. With regard to the £50 limit of deposits, I regret extremely that the Government have been frightened by the shadow of the bankers, and I beg to give Notice that in Committee I shall move that the clause in the Bill which deals with this subject, and which the Government propose to withdraw, be retained in the Bill. I can see no reason why the clause should be given up. In my opinion, the Post Office Savings Banks have been of great advantage to the bankers, because, although the former have collected £50,000,000, the latter have never been in so prosperous a condition as they are now. The fact is clear that the more you promote thrift and habits of economy among the poorer classes, by enabling them to make small investments, the better it is for the bankers and the community at large; and I have no hesitation in saying that many hundreds of people who now have accounts with bankers began by saving in the Post 351 Office Savings Banks. In this way I am sure that millions of money have rolled into the coffers of the bankers; and there never was, in my opinion, a more short-sighted policy on the part of the bankers than that of opposing this proposal of the Government, for, under this clause, the maximum deposit would he reached in three instead of five years, and therefore the depositors would be so much sooner ready to deal with the ordinary banks. This is a question affecting the working classes, whose thrift and well-being we should, particularly in these times, endeavour to promote. With regard to the Trustee Savings Banks, it is, of course, reasonable and proper that they should have similar facilities to those proposed in this Bill; but as regards the question of the £50 limit, I think they stand in a totally different position from that of the Post Office Savings Banks. The latter were really established because the Trustee Savings Banks were not considered so sound and satisfactory as they ought to be; a good many of them had come to grief, and it was in consequence of that that the establishment of Post Office Savings Banks took place. I know that those which now remain are thoroughly good; but the fact is as I have stated it. It was expected that the establishment of the Post Office Savings Banks would shut up all the Trustee Savings Banks; but that has not been found to be the case; on the contrary, the establishment of the Post Office Savings Banks has made those of the Trustee Savings Banks that were sound more prosperous than ever, and the same will continue to be the result with the ordinary banks, as I have endeavoured to show. It must be understood that the liability of the Trustees of the Trustee Savings Banks depends on their voluntary transactions. There is no law which enforces the legal management of these institutions; there is a heavy responsibility on the Trustees, and the question is whether we should increase it in the way that has been proposed. I hope the Government will consider the question as to the £50 limit in the Post Office Savings Banks an open question, and not a Government one, and then I am sure that if a Division is taken on the question of the limit of £50 hon. Members on both sides of the House will approach, the question with open 352 minds. This is not a Party question, and it is one which I think ought to be voted upon by hon. Members solely on the merits of the case. Although we are proud of the savings banks holding £100,000,000, this sum is only, after all, what is spent on alcohol in 40 weeks; and I believe that if you can increase these facilities for thrift among the people, making such institutions as Savings Banks rivals with the public-house which now stands at the corner of every street, you will build up the well-being of the people to a greater extent than you can by many a more pretentious Act of Parliament.
§ MR. HOWELL (Bethnal Green, N.E.)
I wish to express my regret that the 1st clause is not to remain in the Bill. The concession that is made by the right hon. Gentleman to the thrifty portion of the working classes is so small that I am not at a loss to under stand how it is that any body of men in the country should have thought it worth while to trouble themselves about it. It seems to me useless to lecture men about thrift, and then deny them the means of exercising it. It has been said that there is no demand for the extension of the limit. I think, if hon. Members will study the Returns issued from time to time to the House, they will gather that there is an absolute necessity for extending the limit, because there are somewhere about 137,000 depositors of £30 each in the Post Office Savings Banks, and it is reasonable to suppose that many of these would have exceeded this amount if the circumstances of the case had not boon against them. The present arrangement is chargeable with this absurdity—that if a man manages to get £30 in the bank in the early part of the year, and through sickness has to withdraw £20, he cannot make the amount up to £30 again during the whole remaining portion of the year. A more absurd restriction was never introduced, and therefore I hope the Government will see their way to retain the 1st clause in the Bill. I have had addressed to me a great number of letters in favour of extending the limit, but not one against extension. I am afraid the Government is placed, however, in a rather awkward position, for they seem to have been beset by the bankers on one hand and by the Trustee Banks on the 353 other. With regard to the bankers, I leave their absurdity to be dealt with by the public by-and-bye; but with regard to the Trustee Savings Banks, I think the Government have acted wisely in not applying to them the provision contained in the 1st clause under existing circumstances. This is Dot the time to go into the question of the constitution and management of these banks; but I could bring before the House some sad facts in connection with them over and above those which I have already brought forward in a series of Questions from February last up to the present. There are some useful things in the Bill, and among them is the concession with regard to the transfer of money. I am glad the Government have made the first step, and I hope we may be able to deal with this matter more completely hereafter. I do not yet like the notion of extending the same facilities to Trustee Banks as are proposed for Post Office Banks, and I shall have to look over the regulations before I can give my consent to them. I wish the Government could now see their way to test the feeling of the House with regard to the 1st clause; but but if it is felt that the pressure is too strong for them to maintain their position with regard to this part of the Bill, I should like them to leave the question to be dealt with by both sides of the House, and then I believe we shall be able to decide it satisfactorily. My wish is that, in the interest of the working classes, the Government will stand firmly on their Bill.
§ MR. MACLURE (Lancashire, S.E., Stretford)
I must dissent at once from some of the remarks of the hon. Member for the North-East Division of Bethnal Green (Mr. Howell), and, at the same time, point out that the Trustee Savings Banks are the pioneers of thrift in this country. I cannot but express my regret that one who professes to represent the working classes, as the hon. Member does, should not have launched into this discussion as the apologist of the Trustee Banks. I must thank most heartily the right Gentleman the Postmaster General (Mr. Raikes) for the full consideration he has given to the representations made to him by the Trustee Savings Banks. I shall withdraw my Amendment; but I at once disclaim the arguments which have been 354 used by hon. Gentlemen opposite, and at the proper time I shall give an explanation of them. I do not object to the limit being raised to £50, provided that the provision extends equally to Trustee Savings Banks. Put any restrictions you like as to examination of accounts, or anything of that kind; but I do not see why such valuable institutions as Trustee Savings Banks should be denied the same privileges as the Post Office.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Mr. GOSCHEN) (St. George's, Hanover Square)
I should like to be permitted to make a few remarks in reply to some observations made in the course of the debate. I, in common with many hon. Members of this House, much regret the opposition which the bankers have made to the 1st clause of this Bill, and I think there was a great deal of force in the observations which fell from my hon. Friend the Member for North Islington (Mr. Bartley), that the encroachments of Post Office Savings Banks and also of Trustee Savings Banks would not diminish the custom of banks, but would tend to create a class who might afterwards be a banking class. I can assure the House that the surrender of the 1st clause is not owing to the Memorial signed by 50 hon. Members which has been forwarded to the Government, but in consequence of the difficulty which has arisen in connection with Trustee Savings Banks to which the hon. Gentleman the Member for the Stretford Division of Lancashire (Mr. Maclure) has alluded. A very large and influential representative deputation from the Trustee Savings Banks came to the Treasury, and urged in the strongest way upon us the inexpediency, from their point of view of giving facilities to the Post Office Savings Banks which were not to be given pari passu to themselves. I do not entirely accept their argument, on account of several circumstances which have already been pointed out. They do not offer the same absolute security as Post Office Savings Banks, and they give a higher rate of interest. But, at the same time, when we saw these gentlemen, representing large institutions throughout the whole of the country, directing their energies against the 1st clause of this Bill, unless it was extended to them, a course we did not see our way to adopt, 355 we thought it was impossible to press at this period of the Session the 1st clause of this Bill in the face of that opposition, added to the other opposition which otherwise we should not have felt called upon to yield to. That is the reason which has led to the course we have adopted; and with reference to the request that this matter should be treated as an open question, I think I must remind the House that when the Government say, in order to secure the second reading of a Bill, that they surrender a part of the Bill, they must maintain that declaration. It would not be fair for the Government, after having stated upon the second reading that they will agree to the omission of Clause 1 to use their endeavours at subsequent stages to get the clause reinstated. I hope it may not be the case, as it has been alleged, that by sacrificing this clause we are arresting the progress of thrift. I should very much like depositors to be able to increase their annual deposits to £50. It is asserted that the increase from £30 to £50 in the deposits might possibly stand in the way of that investment by depositors which nearly every Member in the House considers a better mode of investment—namely, in Consols for themselves. There is a certain danger in the increased aggregate, not from the point of view of the banker, but from the point of finance. I trust that if there is disappointment in regard to the refusal of the increase, there will be some satisfaction at the opportunity of largely increased investments in Consols. We had a difficulty in refusing the suggestion of the Trustee Savings Banks that the same facilities should be extended to them as were to be given to Post Office Savings Banks. They claimed, and this is certainly an important point, that at the present time you can change an account from a Trustee Savings Bank to the Post Office, and vice versâ, without any trouble whatever; whereas, if Trustee Savings Banks were placed on a different footing, there would arise a difficulty in regard to these transfers which have hitherto taken place without difficulty.
§ MR. DWTER GRAY (Dublin, St. Stephen's Green)
We are accustomed to announcements of alteration of policy on the part of the Government. Sometimes they are made by the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of 356 the Treasury (Mr. W. H. Smith), and sometimes, as now, by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Goschen). I am not in any way identified with the banking interest; but I am very gratified at the announcement that Clause 1 is to be abandoned, because, whether the clause would be a benefit to England or not, I hold it would be most injurious to Ireland. Either the clause would have no effect at all, or it would increase the amounts of deposits. If it increased the amounts of deposits, it would increase them at the expense of some Irish method of investment. The money would be diverted either from Irish banks or from other sources of investment in Ireland to London, and that would be an injury and an impoverishment of the entire community. Now, having received full notice both from the right hon. Gentleman the present Postmaster General (Mr. Raikes), and also from the right hon. Gentleman the late Postmaster General (Mr. Shaw Lefevre), that this clause is only postponed, and not abandoned, I trust the Irish Members and the Irish public will be warned, and will take care that when the proposal comes on again in an enlarged and, therefore, in a more formidable form, they are prepared for some better organized opposition to it. It is extremely easy for us to show that, while we have no objection to any reasonable method of encouraging thrift, we have the strongest objection to devices which, will deplete whatever poor resources Ireland at present possesses by transferring them to a greater or less extent to England. I wonder the right hon. Gentleman the Postmaster General made any allusion at all to Clause 2, because the effective portion of Clause 2 is the same as to the increase differently proposed to be made by Clause 1. As I understand the case, it removes the restriction of the total accumulation, which was, I believe, £200. While it is not permissible under the law as it stands, or as it will stand even if this Bill passes, that a single depositor should have more than £150 upon actual direct deposit, it is permissible it should accumulate by another means if he leaves the interest undrawn. The same argument which induced the right hon. Gentleman the Postmaster General to abandon Clause 1 ought to induce him to leave the law with regard to the 357 total amount of the accumulation unchanged, pending the introduction of his more ambitious scheme next year. I should like to call the attention of the right hon. Gentleman the Postmaster General to one matter. While I think the restriction of the total amount of deposits most necessary, and while it must be enforced by some sanction, I think the present method of enforcement, and the present punishment inflicted for its breach, is most cruel; and I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he will consider the propriety of introducing some clause, cither in his regulations, or, if necessary, in this Bill, by which some lesser punishment will be inflicted upon a depositor who has wrongfully opened two accounts and exceeded the limit of investment. I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether, instead of confiscating the entire amount invested in such cases, it would be sufficient to confiscate say, 10 per cent, or something of that kind? I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman the Postmaster General is prepared to reconsider the question raised on both sides of the House as to what reason there is for restricting in any one year the deposits to £30. If a man deposits £30 at the beginning of the year, and he has some necessity for drawing it out, you restrict him from depositing at all during the remainder of the year? If you are inclined to encourage thrift without interfering with the ordinary banking of the country, why not remove that difficulty? Why not permit a man, if he has some necessity for drawing money out of the bank, to put it back again whenever he has the money? Such, a state of things does not prevail in respect to ordinary banks in which a man invests, draws out, and reinvests millions in the course of a year. I would be most delighted to vote with the right hon. Gentleman the Postmaster General for the removal of this very ridiculous restriction. If, however, the increasing of the total limit is proceeded with it will certainly meet with my strongest opposition, because it can only have the effect of taking away deposits from Irish banks which must be used for the encouragement of Irish industry and Irish trade.
§ MR. RAIKES
As regards the question of forfeiture, it is questionable how far the Postmaster General has discre- 358 tion at the present time. I have ventured to exercise some discretion in more than one instance. The question of allowing a man to reinvest in the course of the same year up to the maximum of £30 has formed matter for very careful consideration on the part of the Government, and I admit there is a great deal to be said for it. But, at the same time, it cannot be forgotten that if you treat deposits in savings banks as current accounts, and not as deposit accounts, you put them on an entirely new footing. It is quite clear that when the Government pays so large an amount as 2½ per cent upon deposits that must be paid on a deposit account and not on a current account. The Government is certainly not inclined to take up this knotty question upon the present Bill. There is, no doubt, a great deal of weight in what the hon. Gentleman the Member for the St. Stephen's Green Division of Dublin (Mr. Dwyer Gray) has said with regard to Ireland. I understand that smaller sums are deposited in private banks in Ireland than in private banks in England, and therefore there is more force in what is called the banker's opposition in regard to Ireland than in regard to England, As to raising the accumulated deposit above £200, the Government have, after weighing the various arguments which have been addressed to the point, come to the conclusion that this is a proper and legitimate limit to the power of deposit.
The right hon. Gentleman is rather exceeding the limits of the indulgence accorded to him.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read a second time, and committed for Tuesday next.