§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ The FINANCIAL SECRETARY to the TREASURY (Mr. Baldwin)
I beg to move "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
Very few words are necessary at this stage. It will be within the knowledge of the House that under the existing Acts of Parliament the amounts that may be invested in savings banks are very strictly limited. The deposits have always been limited £50 in any one year, and to a total sum of £200. In the same way in respect to investments in Government stock the limit hitherto has been £200 worth in any one year, with a total limit of £500 value. During the War there was a Regulation made which 1463 removed the limit in respect to deposits. The Regulation ceases to have effect within six months after the end of the War. The purpose of this Bill is to withdraw all restrictions made in the Act which now governs savings banks and trustees savings banks in respect to the limits applicable to depositors and holders of stock. There has been such an increase throughout the country in the demands made upon the savings of thrifty people that I am sure the House will unanimously wish to support this Bill in regard to the matter dealt with in the first Clause.
§ Clause 2 makes provision to increase the allowance given to saving banks for their management. They have suffered in common with all other institutions owing to the increased cost of management, increased salaries, wages, and so forth, and this Clause is designed to meet the difficulty in which these banks find themselves. Clauses 3 to 6 deal with sundry Regulations which require bringing up to date, and which may very well be discussed and examined in Committee upstairs. They chiefly concern the Regulations of the Post Office Savings Bank. The matter has engaged the attention of the Postmaster-General, and such Amendments as the postal authorities feel to be desirable are here embodied. Clause 7 perhaps deserves a moment's notice, because in this Clause it is proposed to change the name of the War Savings Certificates to that of National Savings Certificates. There has been no movement during the War in this country which has met with greater success, or has done more good, than the movement for the purchase of War Savings Certificates. All those connected with that movement are most desirous that it should be continued in time of peace: that it should go on for the good of the country as it did in time of war. But it is obvious that the name is now out of date, and it is by the desire of those who are interested in this great movement that we propose to change the name, and propose that all legislation applicable to War Savings Certificates shall be applicable to certificates under the new name in the future. Clause 8 deals with the simplification of the transfer of the estates of deceased persons. I fancy that the House will agree that this is a Bill which should 1464 have a Second Reading. It contains no contentious matter that can arise on Second Reading, but it may well be carefully examined when it comes to Committee.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I desire to welcome this Bill which seems admirable in every way. In respect to Clause 7 I suppose we may assume that it is now the fixed policy of the Government to continue the issue of these National Savings Certificates and to encourage thrift in the very practical and successful way that has been adopted so far. There is one question I should like to ask. Clause 2, if I read it aright, tells us that money deposited in the Bank of England or the Bank of Ireland by trustees of savings banks only receives an annual interest from the Bank of England or the Bank of Ireland at a rate of not less than of £2 15s. per centum per annum, and not exceeding £2 17s. 6d. per centum per annum. The rate was fixed in 1888. At the present moment, as we all know, money is very dear—I mean in the way of the high rate of interest that a borrower has to pay to the bank on an overdraft of a loan—and it seems to me that the interest here proposed is rather too low. It would surely be more just to the poor people, who are mostly people of limited means, and who put their money into savings banks of this sort, that they should get a greater interest for it. The bank rate to-day is, I believe, 7 per cent., and there is talk of it going higher. Why, then, should depositors not be allowed more than the proposal suggests? A little explanation seems desirable from the Government. I hope it is not the case, but it seems to me that savings banks are being rather ungenerously treated by the Government in this matter by Act of Parliament. Perhaps this matter is one for Committee, but I wish it had been convenient for the hon. Gentleman to give us some explanation now. We all wish to encourage thrift, which is about the only hope of practically every country in the world to-day. Why should it not be encouraged by giving a rather higher rate of interest than suggested for the poor man's savings?
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read a Second time, and committed to a Standing Committee.