§ 2.51 p.m.
§ The Question was as follows:
§ To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will now make a Statement on the Report of the Page Committee which they received some weeks ago.
My Lords, the Government are considering the Report which covers a very wide and important field, and hope to be able to publish it shortly.
§ LORD HOY
My Lords, while expressing my thanks to the noble Earl for that reply, may I ask him whether he is aware of the disappointment that it will cause to Trustee Savings Banks? As the noble Earl knows, our Trustee Savings Bank is not only the biggest but the best in the world, and it is prevented from rendering services to its depositors in a way that it ought to be able to do. If the Page Committee have reported in favour of Trustee Savings Banks, will the noble Earl ask the Government to consider making a Statement with regard to them, without dealing with the rest of the question?
My Lords, it is my understanding that the Report hangs together and should be taken as a whole. I appreciate the noble Lord's interest in and share his appreciation of the Trustee Savings Banks, but it would probably be undesirable for the Government to make piecemeal and "bitty" Statements about this very important and comprehensive Report.
§ LORD HOY
My Lords, is the noble Earl aware that the Trustee Savings Banks represent at least one in five of the population of our country; that if people want loans for personal business purposes they are prevented from receiving them from these Banks, and that the Trustee Savings Banks have to act as guarantors to the 968 joint stock banks? Surely, in fairness, these Trustee Savings Banks, which have rendered such tremendous service to the country, ought to have at least equal rights in this respect.
My Lords, I think the noble Lord is trying to make me anticipate the Government's Statement on the Report. As I informed him in my original reply, the Report is receiving careful attention and it is the Government's intention to publish it in the reasonably near future.
§ LORD HOY
My Lords, may I put a final question to the noble Earl? The "near future" is a very elastic phrase which is used by all Governments, but the Trustee Savings Banks cannot formulate policy until they have the decision of the Government. I should be grateful if the noble Earl would be a little more specific about what the "near future" means, and I ask him to accept that the Trustee Savings Banks cannot do their job until they have the decision of the Government.
My Lords, I appreciate the noble Lord's legitimate concern about this matter, and I shall see that the point which he has put to me so forcibly is represented to my right honourable friend the Chancellor. But I cannot go beyond the definition of "in the near future", save to add that it really means in the reasonably near future.
§ LORD THOMAS
My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that the Page Report deals with some extraordinarily complex matters connected not only with finance but also with emotional factors; that the affairs of the National Savings Movement have never been brighter than they are to-day; that the relationship between the National Savings Movement and the Trustee Savings Bank has never been better functionally than it is to-day, and that any premature Report would be less desirable than one which has been completely and wholly considered?
My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for the question which he has put to me. It gives me an opportunity of saying, not for the first time, that I happen to share his views.