§ Considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ [Mr. CALDWELL (Lanarkshire, Mid.) in the Chair.]
§ Clause 1:
§ MR. BOWLES
said the clause enabled the Public Trustee to open accounts in the name and in the interest of persons for whom he was appointed to act as trustee, but he was not to be subject to the regulations which governed the ordinary depositor in this bank. It was really important that the Committee should understand what they 1721 were doing in authorising the Public Trustee to make investments without being subject to the ordinary regulations. It appeared to him that a special exemption of this sort could hardly properly be made. He found that at 31st December, 1907, taking the securities of the Post Office Savings Bank at that date, and making no allowance for depreciation, there was an absolute deficiency of no less than £15,000,000. It was proposed to empower the Public Trustee to invest the moneys committed to his charge in a bank which, judged by any ordinary bank standard, was utterly insolvent. The only effect would be that the national indebtedness would be increased. Why on earth should it be considered necessary by the Government to put a special inducement in the way of the Public Trustee to invest cash in this particular savings bank, unless it was that the enormous deposits of the people all over the country might be used by successive Governments of the day? That would have the effect of increasing the national indebtedness at the rate of £2,000,000 or £3,000,000 a year. That was a very doubtful thing to do in the interest of the general taxpayers, or in the interest of the mainly misguided people who had been led by the House, and might be further led, to put their affairs in the hands of the Public Trustee. He thought the Committee should have some explanation of the clause.
THE POSTMASTER-GENERAL (Mr. SYDNEY BUXTON (Tower Hamlets,) Poplar
I think the hon. Gentleman is unduly alarmed on this subject, because the proceedings under this Bill will have behind them the whole credit of the nation. Therefore, the hon. Gentleman may rest assured that the depositor to whom he has alluded is perfectly secure. As regards the estates, I do not think the comparatively small amounts that will come under the cognisance or control of the Public Trustee in connection with the provisions of this Bill will add appreciably to the responsibilities of the State. The Public Trustee will only be able to deal under this Bill with quite small estates. It was clearly understood when the original Act was passed creating this Public Trustee that he should not 1722 remove estates from the banks which were the ordinary banks of the estates, but should treat the banks in accordance with the ordinary customs of the banking system of this country as private trustees would do. One of the classes of estate dealt with under the Bill is the very small estate which has no banking account and in regard to which, therefore, there is no reason why the deposit should not be made in the Post Office Savings Bank. The Public Trustee, I may point out, is absolutely limited in regard to all these transactions, because, while he is able to open a series of separate accounts for the estates that come under his control, in the case of no estate can he go beyond £200 as a whole—which is the limit for other depositors—nor can he deposit more than £50 in one year, which again is the present limit for ordinary deposits in the Post Office Savings Bank. Therefore, I can assure the hon. Gentleman that his fears are without a scrap of foundation.
§ Clause agreed to.
§ Bill reported, without Amendment; and read the third time, and passed.