§ Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee, read.
§ Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Hylton.)
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I rather hoped that the Government would have seen that it was not necessary to take this Bill through all its stages in such a hurry. I do not mean that there was any pledge by my noble friend, but I understood him to hesitate a little yesterday, and unless he can show us that it is really necessary to pass the Bill surely it would be wiser to postpone it. I do not want to press him unduly.
§ LORD HYLTON
Since the discussion which took place yesterday I have been in communication with the Treasury, and they inform me that it is considered desirable that the Bill should become law at the earliest possible date. If your Lordships look at Clause 2, subsection (2), you will find that it provides that any Order made by the Treasury under this section may be varied from time to time as the Treasury think proper, and such rate as may be first fixed under this section shall be deemed to have been in operation as from the twentieth day of November, 1919. As I pointed out to the House yesterday, the savings bank half year begins on May 20 and it is very desirable that the accounts, which are affected by the increased allowance for management expenses, should be put on the new basis. Great confusion will arise if this small point is not settled. I do not pretend that the heavens will fall if the Bill is not passed through all its stages before Whitsuntide, but as there is no serious principle involved I hope that your Lordships will allow it to go through Committee stage and possibly through the other stages as well.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House in Committee accordingly.
§ [The EARL or DONOUGHMORE in the Chair.]
§ Clause 1:
§ Provision as to limits on savings banks deposits and on investment in Government stock.
§ 1.—(1) There shall, subject as hereinafter provided, be no limit on the amount which may be received by a savings bank authority front any person by way of deposit or on the amount, of 467 Government stock which may be credited by a savings bank authority to the account of any depositor, and all enactments imposing, or relating whether direetly or indirectly to, any such limit shall cease to have effect:
§ Provided that it shall be lawful for the Treasury at any time by order under this section to limit the amount which may be so received from any person whatsoever either in any one year or in the aggregate, or the amount of Government stock which may be so credited to any person whatsoever either in one year or in the aggregate.
§ (2) An order under this section—
- (a) may fix different limits as respects different classes of persons;
- (b) may provide that any limit fixed by the order shall have effect subject to any exceptions or exclusions specified in the order;
- (c) may contain special provisions with respect to depositors whose deposits at the date on which the order takes effect exceed the limit fixed by the order as regards deposits or in whose case the Government stock credited at that date exceeds the limit fixed by the order as regards Government stock:
- (d) may contain such consequential and supplemental provisions as appear to the Treasury to be necessary for giving full effect to the order:
- (e) may be revoked, extended or varied by a subsequent order:
- (f) shall have effect as if enacted in this Act.
§ (3) Before any order is made under this section, a draft thereof shall be laid before each House of Parliament for a period of not less than twenty-one days during the session of Parliament, and if either House before the expiration of that period presents an Address to His Majesty against the draft or any part thereof, no further proceedings shall be taken thereon, but without prejudice to the making of any new draft order.
§ (4) This section shall take effect as from the expiration of a period of six months after the termination of the present war.
§ LORD STUART OF WORTLEY moved to delete paragraph (a) of subsection (2) of Clause 1. The noble Lord said: I move this Amendment, as I led your Lordships to anticipate, in order to give the Government an opportunity of explaining what their intentions are with regard to allowing an unlimited amount of deposit by depositors. The conversation which has just taken place has reminded your Lordships that we are here parting with Parliamentary authority in order to vest that authority in departmental officers, subject only to the presentation of Papers to both Houses of Parliament to lie on the Table for twenty-one days. It is therefore rather important to know what are the intentions of the Departments concerned 468 as regards fixing different limits of deposit in savings banks in respect of different classses of persons. The difficulty we are under here is that we never know in legislation under the Defence of the Realm Act exactly what proposals are new and not based upon experience, and what are the subject of emergency legislation in which there is experience. I believe it has been the practice in the past to allow some philanthropic societies to have unlimited powers of deposit. That is a great privilege, and I want to know whether it has been the practice or is the intention to allow trade unions, for instance, to deposit not merely their provident funds but what may be called their "fighting funds" in savings banks. If you do that without limit you enable them possibly at some inconvenience to the Government, and at enormous advantage to themselves in the case of any contest in which they are about to engage, to withdraw their funds and make them available for campaign purposes without risk of any loss of capital. To put it mildly, if that takes place the Government will not be "keeping the ring" with impartiality in any coming contest between the employees and the employers, to whom no such privilege is given. I should like to know whether there is any such intention to discriminate in favour of such bodies in respect of unlimited right of deposit in savings banks.
Clause 1, page 1, lines 21 and 22, leave out ("may fix different limits as respects different classes of persons").—(Lord Stuart of Wortley.)
§ LORD HYLTON
Those of your Lordships who are acquainted, like the noble Lord, with the history and constitution of savings banks, and with savings bank legislation in this country, will be aware that the legislation up to the time of the war has gradually grown up through a number of Statutes, the net result of which was that there was a considerable limit on the amount that individuals and corporations, such as trades unions, might invest in savings banks. Under the war emergency legislation of the last few years these limitations were removed, and at present no limit is in existence on the amount which any individual or society may invest.
When peace is finally settled and the various war emergency measures cease to operate it is obvious that the old limitations on the amount of deposit will again operate unless some such measure as the 469 present Bill is passed into law. It has been found that the policy of allowing unlimited deposits in the savings banks during the last few years has on the whole been very satisfactory, and your Lordships may perhaps be interested to know that the difference, the additional difference, in the balances to the credit of depositors at the end of the war as compared with the beginning of the war amounts, I think, to about £69,000,000.
There has been no sudden run on the savings banks. It is rather a curious fact that at the outbreak of the war in 1914, by an Order in Council, I believe, all banks were closed for two days for obvious reasons, but while it was intended that savings banks should also be closed for the same obvious reasons, owing to some mistake they remained open but no untoward result such as might have been anticipated took place. The opinion of the Treasury and of the Bank of England is that no limit should be placed on the deposits in the savings banks, and it is for this purpose that this Bill has been introduced. At the same time the Government are of opinion that although the system has answered very well during the war it is advisable in this legislation, 470 which is to be of a permanent and not an emergency character, that they should retain power to enable them to reimpose limits if circumstances arise to make it desirable that limits should again be imposed. For that reason I am afraid I cannot accept the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 1 agreed to.
§ Remaining clauses agreed to.
§ Bill reported without amendment.
§ Then (Standing Order No. XXXIX having been suspended), Bill read 3a and passed.