HC Deb 29 June 1908 vol 191 cc357-9
MR. J. MACVEAGH (Down, S.)

I beg to ask Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he is aware that the unclaimed Government stock amounts to nearly £1,000,000 and unclaimed dividends on Government stock to £1,806,531; and whether, as the turnover in the banks is enormously greater than the turnover in Government stock, he will state on what grounds the Treasury officials have arrived at the calculation that the total receipts of the banks from similar sources in 200 years is only about £500,000.


I gave the precise figures for the unclaimed stock and the unclaimed dividend account in answer to a Question by the hon. Member on Tuesday last. With regard to the second part of the Question, I am afraid that the hon. Member has misapprehended the purport of an Answer given by me in the House on the 11th instant; £500,000 was the sum taken a few years ago to be the approximate amount of unclaimed balances in the hands of existing banks at that time. I have no means of estimating even approximately the amount of the unclaimed balances in the hands of the old-established private banks which have disappeared or have been absorbed, whose balances, together with the liabilities attaching to them, may have remained with the legal representatives of the banks which have disappeared.


Can the right hon. Gentleman now say what the Treasury officials estimate as the total amount of unclaimed balances now in the banks?


Speaking from memory, after perusing the estimates, there was one estimate of over £500,000 and another of over £750,000.


How could the Treasury possibly arrive at these figures having regard to the fact that the right hon. Gentleman has already informed the House that the banks refused to give any information?


Of course we have made some inquiries. I cannot state exactly what the sources of our information are, but we have made inquiries in proper quarters, and these are the estimates which have been furnished to us. We have made no recent inquiries.

MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN (Worcestershire, E.)

How long must the account be unoperated upon before it is classed as unclaimed?


I do not quite know what is the practice, but it is very well known and old-established. If the right hon. Gentleman desires, I will make inquiries.

MR. BOTTOMLEY (Hackney, S.)

Has the attention of the right hon. Gentleman been drawn to the statement in the public Press by a Member of the Institute of Bankers, that the unclaimed balances in six banks amount to several millions sterling; and, secondly, does the right hon. Gentleman not think that the best way to solve the whole of this problem is to induce his colleagues to give facilities for the passage of my Bill?


I would rather the hon. Gentleman addressed the second part of his Question to the Prime Minister. I have not seen the statement in the Press referred to, but if anyone can give me information to lead me to believe that these balances are anything approximating the figure estimated by my hon. friend, I shall be very pleased to make further inquiries.

MR. ALEXANDER CROSS (Glasgow, Camlachie)

Will the right hon. Gentleman extend his inquiries into the popular belief in the North that the great bulk of the premises occupied by the banks in Scotland have been erected by money out of unclaimed balances?


Has the right hon. Gentleman's attention been called to the statement made on behalf of the Post Office that the Post Office has obtained from unclaimed balances, and from postal orders not presented for payment, the amount which he alleged was obtained by all the banks in the country?

[No Answer was given.]


Does the right hon. Gentleman really think any inquiry of the bank can be effective unless backed by a statutory obligation?


That is a matter of opinion.