HC Deb 24 October 1916 vol 86 cc949-52

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) whether he will introduce legislation, if necessary, to prevent the Bank of England from informing solicitors in Scotland that payment of dividends instructed in notarial requests executed in due form according to the law of Scotland will be refused; and whether he is aware that the alternative document demanded or suggested by the Bank is one unknown to the law of Scotland and repugnant to ordinary reason in that it involves an absolutely impossible act, namely, the making of a signature by mark by a person physically incapable through paralysis of doing so; (2) whether he will introduce legislation, if necessary, to prevent the Bank of England from intimating to any parish council in Scotland that certain papers will not be recognised at the Bank unless executed under seal; whether he is aware that there is no requirement in Scots law that a parish council shall possess a seal; whether he can say what authority the Bank of England believes itself to possess to place such an obstacle in the way of a public body in Scotland desirous of subscribing to Government Loans; and whether he is aware that a certain school board in Scotland was deterred from investing certain funds in Government Stock by the particular action of the Bank now complained of; (3) whether he is satisfied that, notwithstanding sundry recent reforms, investors in Scotland have reason to press for much better facilities for the inscription, transfer, and general management of the Government Stocks in which they are being urged to invest; whether he can hold out a prospect of effecting further reforms on an early date, and in any case before the issue of the next War Loan; and whether allowances made to the Bank of England for handling public business are derived from Scottish as well as from English taxpayers; and (4) whether his attention has been drawn to the difficulties which beset trustees in Scotland anxious to invest in War Loan, etc.; whether he will endeavour to arrange with the Bank of England for a withdrawal of the requirements that a set of trustees numbering more than four shall not register more than four names, with the result that trustees who do not feel entitled to depart from the ordinary Scottish practice of full registration prefer not to take War Loan, notwithstanding the obvious convenience of this requirement to the bank and the explicit statement in the prospectus; whether, failing some such arrangement with the bank, he will introduce legislation, if necessary, enabling trustees to comply with the requirement and giving them indemnity against loss which might arise; whether he has seen the recent opinion given by an ex-law officer of the Crown upon this point, which describes the position in which this requirement places trustees in Scotland as very puzzling; whether he will introduce legislation to enable the bank to withdraw its objection to the registration of trustees as such in accordance with the usual practice in Scotland; and whether he is aware that in Scotland the registration of trust property in a private name is regarded as highly undesirable?


The difficulties which arise in connection with Government stocks from the differences between Scottish and English law are well-known to me. I have been for some time past, and am still considering, what steps can be taken to meet these and other difficulties of procedure which I am anxious to overcome. As the matter is one of great complexity I am not even now in a position to make any definite proposals, but I hope to be able to deal with the matter at no distant date.


Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the treatment of the Scottish Land Courts by the Bank of England is a breach of the treaty between Scotland and England, which is treated as a "scrap of paper"?


Small nationalities!

83 and 84. Mr. CURRIE

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) whether he has now had time to consider the practicability of relieving judicial factors in Scotland of their disability in connection with holdings of Indian and Colonial public stocks which involve the estates under their care in an expense of about £30, in order to obtain an administration order in England in addition to the title given them by the Supreme Court in Scotland; whether he can state what, if any, public interest is served by retaining this requirement, which is much resented in Scotland; whether legal expenses on this scale are exigible in respect of a trifling holding of, say, £50 of Dominion of Canada stock; whether any English holders of a like Colonial investment have legal charges on anything like this scale to face; and (2) whether he has now had an opportunity of considering memorials addressed more than a year ago to the Secretary of State for War and the Admiralty by the Faculty of Advocates and the leading commercial and professional bodies in Scotland, setting forth the hardship to which the estates of Scottish sailors and soldiers are exposed in respect that undrawn balances of Imperial pay lying at credit with Navy and Army agents in London are regarded as distinctively English estate, and thus as necessitating the expense of resealing Scottish confirmations in the English Probate Court; whether he is aware that the War Office, the Admiralty, and the India Office, which latter is concerned in a difficulty of the same kind in connection with certain Indian pension payments, have indicated that only the Treasury can deal with the matter; and whether he will consider the practicability of relieving the families of deceased sailors and soldiers of all ranks from these probate charges, on the ground that such pay is no more English estate than it is Scottish?


I may remind the hon. Member that I have already dealt with certain points which he has raised affecting Government stocks, which could be, and were, brought within the scope of a Finance Act. The points he now raises involve a wider issue and could only be dealt with in an Act to revise the general law of probate and transfer. Such a revision, I fear, cannot be undertaken at the present time. I understand that the difficulty as regards the estates of soldiers and sailors is in practice commonly met by the bankers concerned.