HC Deb 07 April 1891 vol 352 cc10-32

As amended, considered.

New Clause— (Section three of " The Post Office Savings Banks Act, 1874" (which relates to the presentation of accounts to Parliament) shall have effect as if the last day of July were therein substituted for the last day of April,) —(Mr. Jackson,)

—brought up, and read the first and second time.

(2.34.) DR. CLARK

I should like to have an explanation of the reasons which induce the Government to propose this clause. The general impression is that, owing to some bungling upon the part of the Postmaster General and an omission on the part of the officials of the Savings Banks, these accounts are not presented sufficiently early; and, further, that the office is undermanned. I should like to know whether this is the reason why the Treasury are anxious to have the time extended?


I have already explained the reason, but probably the hon. Gentleman was not in his place. The object of altering the date is to give a little more time for the presentation of the accounts than that prescribed by the Act. It has been found absolutely impossible to get the accounts sent in by the date named. There have also been difficulties in the past in meeting the increase of work owing to a want of accommodation. The proposed alteration will prevent future delay and inconvenience.

(3.36.) MR. HOWELL (Bethnal Green, N.E.)

Surely the last day of June ought to give time enough without going to the last day of July. At present the House of Commons is seldom able to get anything like a Return in time to enable them to discuss it in the current year, and they have sometimes to discuss the Returns when they are two years old instead of being only one year old at the very latest. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will consent to substitute the last day of June for the last day of July, and I beg to move an Amendment to that effect.

Amendment proposed, in line 3, to leave out the word " July," and insert the word " June."—{Mr. Howell.)

Question proposed, "That the word 'July ' stand part of the Clause."

(2.36.) MR. JACKSON

I hope the hon. Member will not press his Amendment. I do not think the question, whether the date should be June or July, is one of extreme importance, but we have taken the earliest date at which we think the Returns can be supplied. I will undertake that every effort shall be made to present the accounts within the month of June. That is our intention, but we have thought it right to give a little latitude. The date has been fixed after consultation with the authorities of the Savings Banks Department.

(2.37.) MR. CRAIG (Newcastle-upon-Tyne)

I feel it my duty to support the Amendment, because 1 think it most desirable that June should be substituted for July.

The House divided:—Ayes 77; Noes 45.—(Div. List, No. 116.)

Clause added.

(2.45.) SIR A. ROLLIT (Islington, S.)

I beg to move, in Clause 3, page 2, line 10, after "unnecessary," to insert "having regard to the then present and prospective reasonable requirements of the Bank. "The object of the Amendment is to define more clearly the word "unnecessary" when applied to expenditure. Under the measure as it stands the Committee of Inspection would be able to say what expenditure is or is not necessary. I acknowledge that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has done a great deal to meet the wishes of the banks; and 1 only ask him to go one step further, and to prevent the possibility of a doubt arising as to the interpretation of this clause. Suppose, for instance, new bank buildings are required. Some members of the Committee might look upon the expenditure as unnecessary for the requirements of the moment, but another view would be that the business was capable of development, and that proper care and regard should be had to the necessities of the future. I may mention a case in which considerable loss was sustained owing to the narrower view being taken by the National Debt Commissioners in their interpretation of the word "necessary." It was proposed to erect a new building for the Glasgow Savings Bank, and provision was made for an anticipated large increase of business. The National Debt Commissioners, however, said the trustees were looking too far forward, and a smaller building was decided upon and erected. This was in 1868; but the anticipated increase of business has since taken place, and it is now found necessary to make further provision, with the result that much will have been expended to little or no purpose. The object of this Amendment is to indicate clearly to the Inspection Committee that the narrow view of looking only at the requirements of the moment is not a correct view in relation, to the encouragement of thrift among the people. The introduction of these words can do no harm, and will merely make the matter clearer.

Amendment proposed, In page 2, line 10, after the word "unnecessary," to insert the words "having regard to the then present and prospective reasonable requirements of the bank." — {Sir Albert Rollit.) Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."

(2.47.) THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Mr. GOSCHEN, St. George's, Hanover Square)

I think the words proposed by my hon. Friend are really too wide, and altogether unnecessary. Undoubtedly the Inspection Committee would be taking a very narrow view of their duties if they neglected prospective requirements; but this is a matter that may be properly left to the discretion of the Committee, and I hope my hon. Friend will not divide the House. My hon. Friend seeks to open a door which might lead to some rather premature building operations. Very considerable concessions have been made, and I trust the clause will be allowed to remain unaltered.


There is, undoubtedly, a feeling amongst the trustees of savings banks that the terms of this clause are somewhat harsh, and I should have been glad if the Chancellor of the Exchequer could have seen his way to making some mitigation of this expression. At the same time, I wish to express my recognition of the manner in which he has met the representations made to him on behalf of those who are concerned with the Trustee Savings Banks; and though I could have wished that he could have seen his way to do something towards meeting this Amendment I should not myself be inclined to press it against his opposition.

(2.48.) MR. HOWELL

I am not desirous to prolong the discussion upon this Bill; but I am anxious that no loophole shall be left for actuaries, secretaries and others connected with savings banks to incur unnecessary expenditure such as has been incurred in the past. At the same time the Committee of Inspection will, under the clause, have sufficient power to define what is necessary in connection with these banks, and I think they would take into account the circumstances of a bank such as that at Glasgow, which the hon. Gentleman opposite has mentioned. What we have to guard against is the misuse of the money of the depositors; but 1 am afraid that what the hon. Gentleman has in his mind is not the interests of the depositors, but the view of the actuaries and managers. I want the Bill to be made as stringent as possible, in order to prevent such a misuse of the funds of the depositors as has been brought to light by inquiries upstairs and outside this House. I hope the Government will stand firm and resist every kind of Amendment that may be brought forward to give additional powers to actuaries and other officers to expend money. I shall certainly oppose this Amendment.

MR. BARTLEY (Islington, N.)

I would press the Government to adhere to the wording of the Bill. The proposed Amendment is quite unnecessary, and would afford a loophole for improper expenditure, which it is most important to prevent.


I will not press the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

(2.50.) Amendment proposed, In Clause i, page 3, line 27, to leave out all after "Bank," to end of clause, and insert "and in respect of money invested in the names of the National Debt Commissioners may be deducted by those Commissioners from the interest payable to the Trustees of the Bank on the money so invested, and in respect of money otherwise invested shall be paid by the Trustees of the Bank on the requisition of the said Commissioners."—{Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer.)

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."

(2.53.) SIR A. ROLLIT

I quite agree that an Amendment in this clause is necessary, in order that the whole of the invested funds may bear a proportion of the expense; but I would suggest that the words should not be introduced where they are proposed to be inserted, but after the word "Commissioners," in line 28. If not, the effect will be greatly to increase the levy. It is properly proposed to extend the area of contribution, but it is a different matter to make a much larger sum available for expenditure.

Question put, and negatived.

Question, "That those words be there inserted," put, and agreed to.

On Clause 5, which is as follows:— If on any Report by the Committee of Inspection or any of its officers any question arises as to what constitute the necessary expenses attending,' the management of a Trustee Savings Bank within the meaning of Section 2 of the Trustee Savings Banks Act, 1863, the decision of the National Debt Commissioners on the question shall be final.

(2.56.) SIR A. ROLLIT said

I have given notice of my intention to move the omission of Clause 5, but the banks think the Amendment which the Chancellor of the Exchequer proposes to move will fairly meet the merits of the case. It recognises the obligation to Trustees and others who voluntarily undertake duties which are to encourage thrift among the people; but, on the other hand, the interests of the depositors must not be disregarded. Nothing can be more destructive to thrift than for the poor to find that their savings have disappeared owing to fraud. It is, therefore, desirable that there should be a due audit and inspection of the accounts. At the same time, the banks strongly object to being under a control which may unduly limit their operations. It is now felt by the banks that the Chancellor's and my own Amendments on this section reconcile these points and are conceived in a proper spirit, and do justice to the banks on the one hand and the depositors on the other.

(3.0.) Amendment proposed, in Clause 5, page 3, line 31, to leave out from "Committee" to "officers," in line 32, inclusive, and insert "Inspection Com mittee."—(The Chancellor of the Exchequer.)

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."


I am strongly averse to the introduction of anything which, although ostensibly for the protection of the depositors, will really give a latitude to the banks themselves. I feel bound to say that during the five years I have been a Member of the House the banks have never displayed any anxiety to protect the money of the depositors, but have had more regard for their own interests as officials of the banks.

(3.1.) DR. CLARK

I hope that my hon. Friend will give way upon this point. The decision will not be left to the officers of the bank, but to the National Debt Commissioners.


I would suggest that the words should run: "If on any Report by the Inspection Committee either of its own members or of its own officers."

(3.2.) MR. GOSCHEN

This is not a question of a Report from the officers to the Committee of Inspection, but rather one of whether the officers may communicate with the National Debt Commissioners without such a Report.

MR. SHAW LEFEVRE (Bradford' Central)

I regard the Amendment as one of considerable importance. It enables the officers to go direct to the National Debt Commissioners, and it also enables the Commissioners to override the decision of the Inspection Committee.

(3.4.) SIR A. ROLLIT

I have already indicated that I have a strong objection to the words as they stand. The Committee of Inspection is to be representative and independent, and it will rest with them as a matter of duty to properly embody and formulate any Report presented to them by their officers, and to forward it to the National Debt Commissioners, if they consider the terms of any such Report justify them in adopting or forwarding it.

Question put, and negatived.

Question, " That the words ' Inspection Committee' be there inserted," put, and agreed to.

(3.5.) MR. GOSCHEN

I now beg to move the omission of Sub-section 2 of Clause 5, which is— The National Debt Commissioners shall have power to determine what expenses may be deducted by the trustees or managers of a Trustee Savings Bank, in pursuance of Section 29 of the Trustee Savings Banks Act, 1863. I am anxious to remove any cause of friction, and thus to secure the smooth working of the Bill. I should not have consented to this omission had it not been for the fact that at an earlier stage of the Bill the Government accepted words from the opposite side of the House which will safeguard the interests of the depositors in providing that no application to the National Debt Commissioners for any payment out of the surplus fund shall be entertained unless sanctioned by the Inspection Committee. That will be sufficient to check any abuses, and I think that it substantially meets the necessities of the case. Some hon. Members may think that I have given way too much, but I was anxious to remove any possible objection, and to secure that the saving banks should be worked in the best manner possible.

Question proposed, "That Sub-section 2 stand part of the Clause."

(3.6.) MR. HOWELL

I am unwilling to take any action in opposition to the right hon. Gentleman if he thinks that he has secured the safety of these banks. Like him, I am anxious that all friction should be avoided, as far as is practicable, between the National Debt Commissioners, the Inspection Committee, and the depositors. My only anxiety has been to ensure the safety of the banks; and it is because I know that the right hon. Gentleman and the Government have at heart the securing of the depositors in that perfect safety which the Act of Parliament was intended to give them, that I rely upon the assurance he has given in regard to this clause. At the same time, I regret to see the sub-section omitted from the Bill, because I think that it constituted another element of safety in regard to the conduct of these banks. I shall not oppose the omission of the subsection.

(3.9.) DR. CLARK

In giving up this clause the Government have struck out the most valuable part of the Bill, because it was one which enabled some restriction to be maintained on the expenses which are charged. The Trustees will now be able to draw upon a special fund, and in that way unnecessary expenditure may be incurred. I do not see why the National Debt Commissioners, who are responsible for all losses, should not have power to determine what expenses may or may not be incurred by banks in carrying on their business. It is not really banking business at all. They merely take in the savings of the people, and do not lend them out again as other banks do. The money is invested under special restrictions. I will not put the House to the trouble of a Division, but I cannot help expressing my regret that the Government has withdrawn the subsection.


I differ from the hon. Member, and entirely agree in the omission of the sub-section, which I look upon as dangerous, and opposed to the principle of the Bill. The object is not to give to the National Debt Commissioners or the Government full control over the banks, but to interpose between the Government and the banks an independent Committee who should practically have control. As the matter now stands the Inspection Committee will be an independent authority in coming to a conclusion that there has been unnecessary expenditure, and there is to be no independent authority or power on the part of the National Debt Commissioners to direct the banks to enter into any expenditure which may be deemed undesirable.

Question put, and negatived.

(3.12.) MR. STANLEY LEIGHTON (Shropshire, Oswestry)

I have an addition to propose to Clause 5— That where a Trustee Savings Bank has, to the satisfaction of the National Debt Commissioners, carried out the law, the trustees and managers of such bank shall be absolved from all responsibility in reference to part transactions of the bank.


I do not think that the words suggested by the hon. Member can properly be regarded as an amendment of the clause. They are, rather, a new clause altogether.


The object of my Amendment is to give effect to the audit, and I submit, as a point of order, that that is relevant as an amendment of the clause.


I do not think that it is pertinent to the clause.

Clause 7 (Office of Trustee to be vacated for non-attendance at meetings.)

Amendment proposed, In page 4, line 17, after " vacant," to leav out from " and," to " reappointed," in line 19, inclusive, and insert, " And he shall not, unless he has in the meantime explained to the satisfaction of the Inspection Committee his absence or the non-performance of his duties be eligible for re-appointment until the expiration of one year from the end of that period.'"—[Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer.)

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."

(3.15.) MR. HOWELL

I am sorry that the right hon. Gentleman has not made a further concession. What does the Amendment mean? Does it mean that a man in Cardiff, if he happens to live near the bank, may sign a cheque or two during the 12 months, and that that fact will constitute him a manager and trustee, capable of looking after the bank? Surely the managers and trustees ought to be required to put in an appearance now and then in order to see that the business of the bank is properly conducted. I fancy that this is simply a method whereby a man's name may be kept on the list of trustees and managers. He may reside at a distance, and yet be able to do some little act as an apology for the due performance of his duties. These banks were established to receive the savings of the poorer classes; and managers and trustees have been placed over the officials of the banks for a specific purpose. My view is that they fail to perform their duty if they do not attend as often as is practicable in order to see that the law is fully carried out. What can be the object of keeping the name of a man upon the list of managers and trustees unless he is prepared to do his duty? In all other instances if a trustee neglects his duty he has to pay the penalty. When the law of 1863 was discussed the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian, owing to pressure from without, established the Post Office Savings Banks as a protest against the action of the trustees and managers of the ordinary savings banks. From all time the trustees have endeavoured to shirk their duty, and here we have another stepping-stone that will enable them to continue in the same course. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will stand firm by the Bill as it is, and if a trustee cannot attend to his duties, let his name be dropped out of the list.

(3.20.) MR. GOSCHEN

We fully recognise the principle that if one of these trustees has not attended to his duties he is not to remain a trustee. The whole modification now proposed lies in the words "unless he has, in the meantime, explained to the satisfaction of the Inspection Committee his absence or the nonperformance of his duties." All that is done is to give to the Inspection Committee power to ascertain whether a satisfactory explanation can be given. I have introduced the general amendment into the existing law in deference to the public wish, that if a man does not attend in the course of a year he shall be ineligible for re-appointment; but there may be circumstances, such as illness or otherwise, which may have prevented him from attending, and, in that case, he ought to be re-eligible.


I think the hon. Member for Bethnal Green (Mr. Howell) dwelt somewhat too strongly upon the failure of trustees and managers to perform their duty. There have been such cases in the past, and the whole object of the Bill is to limit them in future. Trustees and managers have on the other hand done much for the people, and in the case of numberless banks, they have devoted an infinite amount of time to the discharge of their offices. Under their care and supervision there has grown up a means of saving which but for them would have been altogether impossible. There are other duties to perform of a routine character besides attending meetings, and in connection with them they sacrifice a large amount of time. On the other hand, there are only one or two meetings in the course of the year, and it may happen that one of these gentlemen who may have done good service in other respects, may, from illness, have been unable to attend such meetings. All that is asked is that persons who have done so much for these banks shall be eligible for re-appointment if they can give a satisfactory explanation of the reason of the nonperformance of certain their duties.

(3.23.) DR. CLARK

This is another attempt to whittle down the value of this Bill. As the clause originally stood, if a trustee did not attend a single meeting he would be disqualified. That proposal was modified by allowing him to remain if he had signed cheques or performed any duty during the 12 months. It is now proposed further to modify the clause by providing that a trustee who has not attended a meeting or signed a cheque shall remain, if the Inspection Committee are satisfied that his reasons for the nonperformance of his duties are satisfactory.


It is not to rest with the trustee, but with the Inspection Committee.


I think that if a trustee does not attend for a year, and performs no functions, he ought to retire. He can rejoin the bank afterwards. I am afraid that the Amendments the Government are inserting in the Bill will make the measure useless, as far as its original intention is concerned.


I cannot agree that the Amendment will render the Bill useless. It is one of a most limited character, and I cannot see that any possible harm can arise from adopting it. I can imagine cases in which a trustee is unable to attend to his duties for a year, but in regard to which he may satisfactorily explain the reason of his absence.

(3.25.) MR. BARTLEY

I think it is highly important that we should give the Inspection Committee a discretionary power.

MR. LENG (Dundee)

I am of opinion that we ought to keep in view the desirability of not deterring gentlemen of influence and business habits from becoming trustees of savings banks. It does not seem to me that any real objection has been brought to bear against the Amendment. It simply gives an opportunity to a trustee to explain, to the satisfaction of the Inspection Committee, the cause of his absence and of the non-performance of his duties. It is quite conceivable that a trustee may be prevented by accidental causes from being able to perform his duty, and he ought not to be shut out from all opportunity of giving a satisfactory explanation. I am afraid that we are indulging in a little hypercriticism; and when the responsible Government are endeavouring to avoid possible friction I think they ought to receive more support.

(3.27.) MR. COURTNEY (Cornwall, Bodmin)

I am not quite clear that the words proposed to be inserted will carry out exactly what the Chancellor of the Exchequer means. My doubt turns on the words "in the meantime." If in the course of 12 months the trustee has not attended or performed his duties the office is to become vacant, unless "in the meantime" he has given a satisfactory explanation to the Inspection Committee. Now, I submit that the words "in the meantime" would cause that office to terminate until a re-appointment took place. I presume it is intended that if the trustee makes a satisfactory explanation during the 12 months he is to be eligible, otherwise, according to the natural interpretation of the words "in the meantime," there must be a vacancy in the office, and he must at some subsequent time be reappointed. Moreover, the vacancy must be notified to the National Debt Commissioners. I would suggest that the words should be "unless he has during that period."

(3.30.) MR. GOSCHEN

was understood to say he would look into the matter, and have any defect rectified in another place.

Question put, and negatived.

Question, "That those words be there inserted," put, and agreed to.

MR. C. S. PARKER (Perth)

I beg. to move the Amendment which stands in my name.

Amendment proposed, In Clause 10, page 5, line 2, at end, to insert "Provided that nothing in this sub-section shall prevent the continuance of special investments in behalf of any person who is already a depositor under section sixteen of the Trustee Savings Bank Act, 1863."—(Mr. C. S. Parker.)

Question proposed, " That those words be there inserted."


I accept the Amendment.


Will this Amendment permit the continuance of special investments? Some of the special investments take the form of mortgages, and there are persons who think it is desirable they should cease. Are we to understand these mortgages I are to be allowed to continue?


Perhaps as the Mover of the Amendment I may be allowed to reply to the right hon. Gentleman. This is a proviso to the subsection only, and, therefore, it leaves operative all the other sub-sections, and amongst them that which prevents the continuance of investments in land. There are a large number of my constituents who have at present special investments not amounting to .£50, and all I ask is that we should not disturb that existing state of things. It is a small affair, and I am grateful to the Government for accepting an Amendment which will beneficially affect a large number of the working classes in the City and County of Perth.

Question put, and agreed to.

(3.46.) MR. HOWELL

I hoped I might induce the House to make some little advance in regard to the amount which might be deposited in these banks. While desiring to increase the stability of these banks I have always recognised the fact that there is a growing disposition on the part of many depositors to increase their little savings, and I believe the limit as fixed many years ago is now too small. The Government of 1882, I think, actually carried a Bill in this House for the purpose of increasing the limit, and increasing it beyond what I propose. Surely we ought not to go back on what was proposed at that time. We ought to afford greater instead of fewer facilities for thrift among the working classes. This does not merely affect Trustee Savings Banks, but also the Post Office. In my opinion, Trustee Savings Banks will be immensely benefited. Supposing they always do their duty, if you give them a larger margin in order to meet the expenses, many of them that cannot now be said to be in a state of absolute solvency would be able to put themselves in a position of solvency. It cannot be said the amount of interest is any obstacle to this increase, because the interest is now reduced to a minimum. The great objection to any increase comes from the poor bankers. Surely the Government need have no fear of danger if the working classes had an opportunity of investing £60 instead of £30 in any one year. There is a very peculiar state of things at present. If a man owing to any cause draws out £60 at the earlier part of a year he is unable to re-invest a similar amount during the year: no trustee or Post Office Savings Bank could receive more than £30, and that is supposed to be an encouragement of thrift. The poor bankers of the country will not undertake to receive the small sums deposited in Post Office and Trustees Savings Banks, or, if they do, instead of giving interest they charge something for keeping the account. I find some gentlemen do not object to the increase in the total deposit from £150 to £200 if the extra £50 is interest. Why should the increase not be capital if a man has it? I am sorry to have to refer to the fact that the Chancellor of the Exchequer seems to be terribly afraid that the Government of the country would be placed in some difficulty if it had an enormous number of millions sterling belonging to the working classes placed at its disposal. I fail to understand the danger of such a state of things, indeed I think it is a state of things much to be hoped for. If the House will not accept the whole of my proposal, I hope they will permit a man to deposit in any one year 60 instead of £30. At any rate, I appeal to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who has shown some sympathy in this matter, whether provision cannot be made whereby a man who draws out, owing to some accidental circumstances over which he has no control, £50 or £60 in a year, may, if he is able to do so, re-invest in the course of the same year a like amount. I do not see how this would be a disadvantage to the banking interest of the country. I think we should really be increasing the clients of the bank. Any man who had £300 or £400 would, no doubt, feel himself man enough to apply to a commercial bank where he could possibly be better served for general commercial purposes than he could by the savings bank or the Post Office. I beg to move the Amendment which stands in my name.

Amendment proposed, In page 6, line 7, to leave out the words "two hundred pounds," and insert the words in any one year the sum of sixty pounds, and not exceeding in the whole, inclusive of interest, the sum of four hundred pounds." — (Mr. Howell.)

Question proposed, "That the words ' two hundred pounds' stand part of the Bill."


As to the total deposit I do not think the suggestion of my hon. Friend is of very great importance, considering that now after the £200 has been deposited it is open to invest £300 through the Post Office or savings banks in Consols or other security. But the proposal as to the amount which may be deposited in any one year appears to me to be very important. Many of those, including the late Mr. Fawcett, who were connected in past times with the Post Office, have come to the conclusion that the annual minimum ought to be increased. I can see no possible objection to the proposal, and I trust the Chancellor of the Exchequer will see his way to yield on that point. I believe that officers of the savings bank not unfrequently point out to depositors a way in which they may evade this special provision. They tell intending depositors they have already deposited the amount allowed, but they may deposit another £30 in the name of the wife or of one of the children. I know cases in which persons have withdrawn .£40 or £50, and desired to re-invest it in the same year, but have not been allowed to do so. The point raised by my hon. Friend does not affect the private banks or the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and, therefore, I hope the Chancellor of the Exchequer will give way.

(3.40.) SIR A. ROLLIT

I hope the Chancellor of the Exchequer will favourably consider the Amendment. The practice does exist of investing money in the names of various members of a family. I do not regard that as an evasion. On the contrary, I know it is frequently a mode of inducing the younger members of a family to commence being depositors. There was a time when probably the limitation was justifiable, because when savings banks were instituted the State gave bonuses for thrift. But for some time that rule has ceased to exist with the successive reductions of interest, and the State is now practically the "gainer. In view of the immensely increased earnings of the people, is it not right that the facilities for saving should be increased? Our duty is to cultivate that habit of saving which these banks are intended to foster; and, according to the reports of the banks, the largest savings are those which have been of long and gradual accumulation. I hope that facilities will be afforded for the increase of the amounts of deposits. Mr. Lyulph Stanley, a severe critic, in the evidence he gave before the Committee, said, "I shall be glad to see the limit raised to £300." And he said also, in answer to another question, " I should not call £300 a very high maximum." The maximum proposed by the hon. Member opposite is something more than that; but it is, I think, a very moderate limit, having regard to the change of conditions that has taken place. One argument with regard to the bankers has, I think, been answered by themselves, because I remember the hon. Baronet the Member for the University of London (Sir J. Lubbock) saying that the savings banks were of advantage to them. The savings banks in Rochdale were the pioneers of the cooperative movement in that town, and there is no other town which presents the co-operative movement in a more successful aspect. I believe that in the end the bankers will gain as much as the community by the raising of the maximum.

(3.52.) MR. GOSCHEN

": The hon. Gentleman has divided his Amendment into two parts, one dealing with the increase of the permanent maximum, and the other with the increase of the maximum of the year. Let me first remark that if the position of the working man in regard to the amount that may be saved is different from what it was 30 or 40 years ago, the facilities for investment are far greater. I can understand the evidence given by officials of the Post Office and others in this matter. The more business the Post Office transacts, the better satisfied the officials are; they are very ambitious to extend its transactions. As Chan- cellor of the Exchequer, I am bound to say that, although it is an advantage that there should be these deposits in the banks of the State, and that large numbers of the working classes should be interested in the stability of the State, there are limits to the amount which ought to be held by the Government. The Post Office holds now £110,000,000 of deposits, and an advance from £200 to £400 would be very large, and might attract to the Post Office people who cannot be considered to belong to the working classes at all. I am bound to say that the terms given by the State of 2 1/2 per cent. are higher than it would be right to grant to persons other than those in whose thrift the State is specially interested. To extend the limit would be very costly. We have given very handsome terms, but these terms ought to be strictly limited to the classes for whom they are intended. With regard to the annual deposit, I shall be prepared to consider whether a sub-section cannot be introduced in another place to provide that in hard cases of sudden withdrawal the depositor shall ha allowed, as has been suggested by the right hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. Shaw Lefevre), to replace the amount withdrawn. Bat a current account cannot be kept on the terms we are now granting in regard to these deposits. As the House has been reminded by the right hon. Gentleman, the deposits can be invested in Stock at 2£ per cent. On the whole, as Chancellor of the Exchequer, I am adverse to any measure which would largely increase the already gigantic amount standing to the credit of depositors in the hands of the National Debt Commissioners, and on which the Government is bound to pay large interest.


I will adopt the view of the right hon. Gentleman.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment proposed, to leave out the words "two hundred pounds," and insert the words "in any one year the sum of sixty pounds."—(Mr. Howell.)

Question proposed, "That the words 'two hundred pounds' stand part of the Bill."


I wish, Mr. Speaker, to ask whether you can put the Amendment in two parts so as to raise the two questions? If you would first put the part up to the words " in any one year a sum of £60," and that is agreed to, the House can afterwards divide on the second part.


Does the hon. Member for Bethnal Green withdraw his Amendment?


If it will facilitate matters I shall be glad to do so. I wish the Chancellor of the Exchequer would go a little further, though I admit he has endeavoured to meet me to some extent. But I ask leave to withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment proposed, in page 6, line 7, after the words "two hundred pounds," to insert the words " but may receive in any one year the sum of sixty pounds."—(Mr. Shaw Lefevre.)

Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."

(4.3.) MR.WINTERBOTHAM (Gloucester,Cirencester)

I think the Chancellor of the Exchequer carried the House with him in his argument on the aggregate amount to be allowed to stand in any one name, but I did not hear from the right hon. Gentleman any argument to sustain the objection to allowing a depositor to attain more quickly this maximum amount. When a man is in good work and receiving good wages it is quite possible he may be able to attain this desirable limit of £200 in a shorter time than the yearly amount provided now will allow, and I cannot see how the State would be damnified by his so doing. I should be glad if the right hon. Gentleman could see his way to allowing the aggregate amount to be reached at the rate of £60 a year. There are many mechanics who when in full work earn from £2 to £5 a week, and are quite able to put by 25s. a week, and in three years, or a little more, could accumulate £200. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will recognise this.

(4.5.) MR. GOSCHEN

I am sorry I do not find myself able to meet hon. Gentlemen on this point. In a case where a man is so fortunate as to save more than this amount, it is open to him to invest his money in Consols where there is not the same limitation. My objection is that by carrying the limit beyond that laid down you increase the operation of the savings banks for a large class for whom these facilities were never intended. These banks are intended for the encouragement of thrift among the working classes. If a man has more savings to invest than £30 in one year, then it is open to him to invest in Consols where he gets larger interest with quite as good security as the savings banks.

(4.6.) SIR G. TREVELYAN (Glasgow, Bridgeton)

I do not think the Chancellor of the Exchequer quite meets the case of the working man who uses the machinery of the savings banks for investment. There are classes of working men whose gains in the year vary almost as much as the profits of traders. Fishermen, for instance, may have much larger gains at one time than at another, and to these men, who are accustomed to use the savings banks for their savings, it will be a difficult operation to go through the form of investment in the funds.


But the machinery is provided by the Post Office Savings Banks, and by this a man can invest the smallest amount, and the whole thing is arranged for him at a trivial charge.


The right hon. Gentleman's Amendment follows after the "two hundred pounds?"


Yes, Sir; it is better to retain those words, and then I propose the insertion of the words.

(4.11.) MR. MOWBRAY (Lancashire, Prestwich)

I think, Sir, the difficulty found in putting the Amendment shows the inconvenience of raising the question in this manner. As has been pointed out, this clause refers to the limit of the aggregate amount which I understand the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford does not desire to increase beyond the amount provided for in the Bill. But I venture to think that if we are now going to alter the sub-section of a clause which deals with the aggregate amount in order to deal with another point, that is the amount of annual investment, we shall get into great confusion. It will be necessary, if we insert the Amendment in this shape, to make an alteration in the Preamble to the clause, and to make an alteration in the Schedule with regard to the repeal of the existing section of the Act of 1863. I think the difficulty we are under shows that it will be wiser to accept the suggestion of the Chancellor of the Exchequer that this question should be left over in order that it may be raised in a manner in which it can be satisfactorily dealt with in another place, and with the intention of meeting as far as possible the object the hon. Member for Bethnal Green (Mr. Howell) has in view.

(4.8.) MR. BARTLEY

No one can accuse me of not wishing to promote thrift among the working classes if I oppose the Amendment; but candidly I must say I think it would be unwise to allow Post Office and trustee banks to increase this amount. People who desire to invest larger amounts may, as the Chancellor of the Exchequer says, avail themselves of Consols or other stock where they have good security. A man and his wife are allowed to invest £400, and where there are five members of his family, the family can invest £1,000, which is independent of all fluctuations incident to the financial position of the country. I think the State has done all that can reasonably be expected, and, beyond this, I think investments should be subject to the ordinary fluctuations of commerce. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will not consent to this change being made. To do so will alter the object of the Bill materially. It forms no part of the Bill, the object of which is to make savings banks safer and prevent some of the difficulties they have fallen into, and we shall be travelling outside the lines of the Bill if we insert this Amendment.

(4.10.) The House divided:—Ayes 74; Noes 113.—(Div. List, No. 117.)

Other Amendments made.


I hope the House will now agree to take the Third Reading.

Motion made, and Question proposed, " That the Bill be now read the third time."


I offer no objection to that; but I think we may now ask the names of the Commissioners who are to be appointed under the Bill.


I have already stated the names.

(4.23.) MR. HOWELL

I quite agree to the Third Reading being taken now, and I am very glad the Bill has reached that stage. But may I remind the right hon. Gentleman there is still his promise that in another place an attempt shall be made to insert a provision whereby a depositor who makes a withdrawal may make up the amount of such withdrawal in the course of the year. I hope this will be provided for.

(4.24.) MR. LENG

I desire to emphasise this appeal of my hon. Friend. I know that among the depositors in the bank with which I am connected there is a very strong desire on this point that the limit of £30 should be plus the replacing of the amount that may be drawn out to meet the needs that may arise in families resulting from death, or marriage, or the starting of a son or daughter in life. It is a great convenience to draw out £10 or £20 to meet such emergencies; bu a depositor might well be allowed to replace such amount as the year goes on.


I will do my best, and I have no doubt I shall be able to devise some sub-section to meet the point.

(4.25.) DR. CLARK

I hope the other House will adopt the recommendation of the right hon. Gentleman. I raise no objection to the Third Reading, though I think we do not want these trustee savings banks at all. We shall have the two systems of trustee banks and Post Office banks in competition. I know we are trying to get rid of the notion that the State is security for depositors; but the popular belief is, and will be, that the Government are security. Now that we have the Post Office Savings Bank system, I do not think that these trustee banks are required. I make an exception in such cases as the Glasgow Bank, which performs very useful func- tions; but, economically, there is an inconvenience, and even danger in all the small savings being drawn away to the central towns.

(4.26.) SIR A. ROLLIT

I cordially support the Third Reading, and take the opportunity of thanking the Chancellor of the Exchequer for the courteous consideration he has given to the suggestions which have been made on either side of the House. I join in the hope that the point in reference to withdrawals will be satisfactorily dealt with in another place, and I hope the question I raised on the contribution clause will not be overlooked, for the maximum of expenditure is greatly raised by the clause as amended by the Chancellor of the Exchequer.


I heartily support the Third Reading. It is highly probable that the tendency of the Bill will be to displace the smaller savings banks in country districts, while it will not interfere with the larger banks which do useful work in Glasgow, Edinburgh, and elsewhere. The progress in the towns I have mentioned shows there is room for these larger banks as well as for the Post Office banks. Since 1861 the increase in the annual deposits in the trustee banks in Glasgow and Edinburgh has been from £1,000,000 to £3,600,000, and during the same time the increase in the Post Office banks has been £190,000. These figures show the utility of the banks I have mentioned, and the effect of the Bill will not, I trust, be to interfere with the progress of these large banks, though probably it will be to reduce the number of smaller banks, not carried on to such advantage.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill read the third time, and passed.