HC Deb 12 August 1889 vol 339 cc1017-9
MR. HOWELL (Bethnal Green, N.E.)

I beg to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he will inform the House the total amount of the frauds at the Dorchester Savings Bank; the total amount of the separate surplus fund when the trustees decided to close the bank; and, whether any sums have been granted by the National Debt Commissioners to aid the trustees in making good the frauds, first, from the separate surplus fund, and, secondly, from the credit balance on the current account; also whether his attention has been called to the fact that the actuary of the Dorchester Savings Bank, from 1881 to 1888, wilfully and knowingly corcocted false balance sheets, in order to conceal the frauds of his predecessor; and that these false Returns were annually presented to this House; whether any steps are being taken to punish this actuary for such false Returns; and the reason why a public inquiry has not been instituted under the Act of 1887?


The balance on the general account of the Dorchester Savings Bank on the 18th of January, 1889, the date when notice of the intention of the trustees to close the bank was notified to the National Debt Commissioners, was £45,309 16s. 4d. The balance of the separate surplus fund at the same date was £2,356 16s. 2d. On the 10th instant the balance on the general account was £367 5s. 10d., and that of the separate surplus fund the same as before mentioned—namely, £2,356 16s. 2d. The National Debt Commissioners, with the concurrence of the Treasury, have informed the trustees that they will be prepared to allow the separate surplus to be applied towards payment of the depositors' claims upon condition of the trustees and managers entering into an undertaking to make good any balance of deficiency which may remain after payment of the separate surplus money. The Commissioners, at the same time, informed the trustees that they formally reserve any rights which they may possess to recover the amount of separate surplus advanced in the event of personal liability for the losses of the bank being eventually brought home to the trustees and managers, or any of them. A formal undertaking to the effect required by the Commissioners has been subscribed by a majority of the trustees and managers. In reply to the second question of the hon. Member, I have to say that the conduct of the actuary in returning false balance sheets was no doubt highly reprehensible, but as his object in doing so was to conceal and gradually make good the defalcations of a former actuary who was his relation, and as during the six years that he has been actuary he has reduced the deficiency to some extent, and has been guiltless of any defalcation himself, it seemed a harsh course to prosecute him. The question of a public inquiry under the Act of 1887 is still under consideration. But I am bound to point out to the hon. Member that such inquiries are very costly, and that unless it seems likely that an inquiry will reveal fresh facts of importance with regard to the particular bank, or add to the large stock of information as to the position of the trustee banks in general, which has already been brought to light by the Cardiff and Macclesfield inquiries, the Treasury would hardly be justified in sanctioning so great an expenditure of public money.


Have not numerous facts come under the right hon. Gentleman's notice, and the notice of the House, in which these false entries have been made, and yet the National Debt Commissioners have taken no notice of them?


As the hon. Gentleman is aware, a Committee sat upon this very subject, and the Commissioners are studying the Report of the Committee. I entirely appreciate the importance of the question, and the hon. Member will see that the Commissioners have pushed the inquiries with regard to the Cardiff and Macclesfield cases with every desire to bring every possible fact to light.


I hope the right hon. Gentleman will not forget that in the Macclesfield case the Report specially pointed to one offender who is in the Commission of the Peace.