§ Mr. ALDEN
asked the President of the Board of Trade, with reference to the Birkbeck Bank litigation, whether his attention has been called to the speech of the Right Hon. Herbert Gladsone, as reported in Hansard, vol. 28 (4th Series), p. 408, that the Government had considered very carefully the question of exempting the Birkbeck Building Societies from the Building Societies Bill of 1894, which was then before Parliament, and had come to the conclusion that it would not be right to force them to become incorporated societies, and had therefore decided to insert a provision to enable the then well-known banking business to be continued; whether, at the time of this decision, the Government had notice that the bank was 1539W ultra vires and illegal, whether he can ascertain whether any such notice was ever given to the Governors of the Bank of England who have twice financially assisted this institution; whether the Board of Trade were aware of any illegality in the business of the Birkbeck Bank when the Official Receiver obtained the sanction of the Court to the distribution of 10s. in the £ to the depositors in priority to the shareholders; and whether he will take steps to have reviewed by the Court of Appeal the decision of Mr. Justice Neville that the business of the Birkbeck Bank was ultra vires and illegal, and that the 63,776 depositors had notice of such illegality?
I have read the speech referred to, and although at the time the speech was delivered the Government were aware of the business carried on by the Birkbeck Permanent Benefit Building Society, there had not then been any decision of the Courts that such business wasultra vires. I have no reason to think that any specific notice that the business was ultra vires was ever given to the Governors of the Bank of England. When the Official Receiver obtained the sanction of the Court to the distribution of 10s. in the £1 to the depositors, the Board of Trade were aware that questions might arise as to the priorities of the different classes interested, but the assets were sufficient to provide for this payment whatever the ultimate decision might be. The recent decision of Mr. Justice Neville was given on an application by the Official Receiver to determine the rights of the different classes, and as all classes were represented on the application, I do not propose to take steps to appeal from the decision. If the decision had been in favour of the depositors, they would only receive 6d. in the £1 on the amount of their claims more than they will receive in the present circumstances, but it is open to the representatives of any class who may not be satisfied with the decision to appeal.