HL Deb 22 December 1854 vol 136 cc789-90

moved for returns:—respecting deficiency Bills; Sales or Purchases of Stock by the Bank, or by the National Debt Commissioners; of Balances in the Exchequer; of Additions, or Reductions from the National Debt; and of Surplus Revenue certified to the National Debt Commissioners—from the 5th April, 1854, to the 5th January, 1855. The noble Lord said that the returns he now moved for were in continuation of papers which had already been laid before Parliament. They were explanatory of the state of the Public Debt, and of the operations which had taken place in relation to that branch of the public service.

In one of the morning papers of that day an opinion was attributed to himself which he wished entirely to disavow. It arose apparently from a misapprehension of what he had said on a former occasion with reference to the power given by the Exchequer Bonds bill to the Chancellor of the Exchequer of converting deposits in savings banks into Exchequer bills, and afterwards funding them. The article in question related to the subject of savings banks, and after referring to an opinion pronounced in the House of Commons, it attributed to a right hon. Gentleman there a statement that a measure which had been passed on the subject of savings banks had diminished the security of savings bank depositors, and it went on to state that he (Lord Monteagle) had in that House expressed a similar opinion, or that he had practically expressed an opinion that the interest of depositors in savings banks had been materially affected by the measure of the Government. Now not only had he not expressed any such opinion, but he had expressed all opinion directly the reverse. He was not aware he had used any words calculated to alarm the depositors in savings banks, and if he had done so it was entirely by inadvertence. What he stated, or what he meant to have stated, was, that he could not for a moment apprehend the probability of loss to the depositors of the money which had been invested, and that if there was a loss that loss would accrue to the State. The state of the law was this—the public acted as the banker of the persons who made those deposits. The depositors had a book in which their depo- sits were entered exactly such as their Lordships might have in which the moneys they paid to their bankers appeared, and the Government was responsible for those deposits. Whatever the Government might choose to do in relation to the investment of these funds was a matter for themselves to consider, and in no shape affected the depositors. The invariable usage had been to invest in the public securities. Accounts had been called for which showed that, at the price of the day, the amount of assets in the public securities was not equal to the amount of liabilities with which they were charged, but he must be very ignorant who imagined that the apparent deficiency, direct or indirect, affected the interest of the depositors, because the Savings Banks Act gave the depositors the full amount of principal and interest. The accounts of the savings banks were made up in November, and generally presented to Parliament in March or April. He suggested that they should be put into such a shape as that they could be presented when Parliament met after the recess.


said, there was no objection to the production of these returns. He was bound to state that his recollection of what passed in the House on the occasion referred to entirely coincided with the statement of the noble Lord. There was a great objection in principle to the practice that had been adopted by different Chancellors of the Exchequer of selling out stock belonging to the savings banks and purchasing Exchequer bills with it, and then funding the Exchequer bills, thereby adding to the public debt without coming to Parliament for express authority to do so. With regard to the accounts he would make inquiry whether they could be presented by the time Parliament met again.

Returns ordered to be laid before the House.

House adjourned till to-morrow.

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