§ MR. WINGFIELD-DIGBY (Dorset, N.)
I beg to ask Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer what is the loss to the country on capital account through the recent depreciation of the Consols held on the Post Office Savings Bank Account; what has been the annual loss to the country during the last three years, as represented by the differenec of the income received from the investments in Consols on this account and the 2½ per cent. paid to depositors; and will he, in order to mitigate this loss to the nation at large and to equalise the benefit thus conferred on one section of the community, consider the desirability of advancing a portion of these funds to corporations, county councils, urban district councils, and landowners, by way of mortgage on the rates and land, on terminable annuities at 2½ per cent., plus an additional half per cent. to cover the sinking fund?
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
The last definite figures in my possession show that on 31st December, 1896, the capital account of the Post Office Savings Bank showed a surplus of £11,900,000. I do not think there has been any recent depreciation which would reduce this. The annual loss to the country in respect of Post Office Savings Banks income account is represented by the amounts which Parliament has been asked to vote. There was so voted in 1896 and 1897, £15,493, but in 1895 there was a surplus of £16,983; so that the three years show a net surplus of £1,490. Under the Act of last year advances are being freely made to local authorities on very reasonable terms, through the Local Loans Fund; and any fresh capital of that Fund required to be raised is being borrowed from the Savings Banks Fund.