MR. GIBSON BOWLES (Lynn Regis)
I beg to ask the Postmaster-General can ho say under what statutory authority the Registrar of Friendly Societies is empowered to inspect the accounts of depositors in the Post Office Savings Bank; under what conditions is this inspection made, and are the whole of the accounts of Savings Bank depositors open to this inspection; are there any other authorities or persons who are allowed to inspect Savings Bank deposit accounts; and, if so, who are they; and can he assure the House that in future these accounts will be regarded as secret and confidential, and will not be permitted by him to be inspected by any other person than the depositor; or, in the alternative, will he undertake that they shall be open to inspection 1206 by all creditors of the depositor, or other persons having pecuniary interest in the inspection.
Section 15 of the Savings Bank Act of 1844, which defines the powers with reference to Post Office Savings Bank matters which are now vested in the Chief Registrar of Friendly Societies, authorises the inspection of any book or books relating to the matters in dispute. With the exception of the Assistant Registrars in Edinburgh and Dublin, who act on behalf of the Chief Registrar, no other authorities or persons are allowed to inspect Savings Bank deposit accounts, unless under the order of the Judge of some competent Court. The statutory obligation to treat depositors' accounts as secret and confidential will be carefully observed in future, as it is now, and as it has been in the past. The hon. Member's alternative suggestion is incompatible with the observance of this obligation, and I do not propose to adopt it.