HC Deb 22 November 1966 vol 736 cc1131-2
26. Mr. Alan Lee Williams

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in view of the importance of national savings in the present economic difficulties, if he will set up an inquiry into the work and structure of the National Savings Movement, and include in its terms of reference the possibility of handing over the work of national savings to the new Public Corporation which is to be responsible for the work of the General Post Office.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. James Callaghan)

I do not think that a specific inquiry into the work of the National Savings movement is called for. My right hon. Friend the Postmaster-General made a statement on 15th November about the future of the Post Office Savings Department.

Mr. Williams

Would my right hon. Friend agree that the great bulk of national saving is done through trustee savings banks and the General Post Office? Is there any need to have a separate Government Department employing many people responsible for national savings? Should not my right hon. Friend be encouraging the voluntary element?

Mr. Callaghan

The National Savings Movement is largely a voluntary element, and I think that it commands widespread praise for the ability with which it has adapted itself to changing conditions. I do not think that my hon. Friend would cast any aspersions on the work which it is doing.

Sir C. Osborne

Would the right hon. Gentleman agree that the best way in which he can help the National Savings Movement would be to tie repayment to the cost of living and so offset the evil effects of inflation on savers?

Mr. Callaghan

No, that would be a quite wrong thing to do. Our object as a nation should be to overcome inflation and not relate increasing payments to the possibility of it.

38. Mr. William Hamilton

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he is satisfied with the current rate of savings; and if he will make a statement on future policy.

Mr. Callaghan

The general level of savings in the first half of the year remains high. As I attach great importance to this I am always ready to consider ways of increasing the flow.

Mr. Hamilton

Is my right hon. Friend satisfied that all sources of small savings are being tapped and that the institution of a State public unit trust would not tap this source, which is probably quite large?

Mr. Callaghan

The question of a State unit trust has been frequently considered, and by the National Savings Movement, and I understand that views about its efficacy are changing. I am ready to keep it under consideration, but I would not want to reach a final conclusion or, it now. There is evidence that small savings are forthcoming to a large extent through the medium of National Savings and also the Post Office savings investment accounts.

Captain W. Elliot

Would not the Chancellor agree that even if current savings are high they are very much lower than they were? Does he not think that urgent action should be taken to rectify this?

Mr. Callaghan

I am not sure about that. I do not think that they have fallen away very much. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Let us wait and see. My own recollection is that national savings are keeping up quite as well as they have been over recent years.

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