§ Order of the Day for the Third Reading read.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 3a.—(Lord Templemore.)
§ LORD ARNOLD
My Lords, I will not detain your Lordships more than a moment or two on the Third Reading of this Bill. I wish to say a few words about the astonishing state of things with regard to the savings banks which was revealed by the Government in reply to my question two days ago. It is not too much to say that the state of affairs then disclosed has come as a shock to the country. The Labour Party has urged throughout the debates on this Bill that the deposit rate of interest of 2½ per cent. given by the Post Office Savings Bank and the trustee savings banks is too low; and two days ago we learnt that because of this low rate the Government is making a profit of £3,734,000 on the Post Office Savings Bank and £917,000 on the trustee savings banks; that is a total profit of £4,651,000; and of this sum the Government is appropriating nearly £3,500,000 a year for the Exchequer.
398 I have to say, on behalf of the Labour Party, that we regard this as a wrong and indefensible state of things. It means that the Government is making a very large profit at the expense of, broadly speaking, the poorest members of the community and mostly women and children. This is a mean thing to do. It is unjust and it is not a small injustice, but it is a big injustice, because there are about ten million accounts in the Post Office Savings Bank and about two and a-half million in the trustee savings banks, a total of about twelve and a half million accounts. That means that more than a quarter of the whole population of the country is receiving this unfair treatment. I am authorised to say, on behalf of the Labour Party, that if we are returned to power this is a matter which the Labour Government will immediately go into, with a view to remedying this injustice and giving better and fairer terms to these twelve and a-half million depositors.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, I am not going to try to use your Lordships' House as a platform for electioneering propaganda. Therefore I do not propose to reply to the speech of the noble Lord, but will only say that I regret that he should try to degrade this House it; that way.
§ EARL DE LA WARR
My Lords, with regard to that observation I would remind the noble and learned Lord of what happened only about half an hour ago when the noble and learned Earl, Lord Birkenhead, treated this House not merely as an election platform but as a most vulgar hustings.
§ On Question, Bill read 3a, and passed.