§ 3.49 p.m.
§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ LORD MACKINTOSH OF HALIFAX
My Lords, this is a measure designed to improve the pensions and superannuation benefits for the staff of the trustee savings banks and their dependants. The Bill received unanimous support in another place, and I feel sure that it will receive similar sympathetic consideration by your Lordships. I gladly move the Second Reading of the Bill because of my close association with the trustee savings banks, both as chairman of the National Savings Committee and as a trustee of one of the largest of these banks for some twenty years.
There are eighty-four trustee savings banks in the United Kingdom, with total deposits amounting to approximately £1,100 million. They operate nearly 1,300 branches and employ a staff of some 5,500—mostly men, of whom, naturally, a great many are married and have dependants. At present the benefits payable to the employees of these banks and their inspection committee are regulated by the Trustees Savings Banks Act going back nearly thirty years. This means that any change in the benefits payable can be varied only by the passing of a new Act. This Bill, if passed, would eliminate the necessity of fresh trustee savings banks legislation for this purpose, as it is designed to give the Treasury power, by means of orders, to authorise the payment of new or altered benefits. The Bill provides that these benefits should correspond to, but not exceed, those which are currently payable to civil servants.
The second purpose of the Bill, and one which to my mind is well overdue, is to make provision for the widows and children and other dependants of employees of the banks who died while in the service of the bank, none of whom is covered by existing pensions schemes. In other words, trustee savings banks have no power at present to look after widows and orphans of their employees. This also would be done by Treasury order, and the benefits and other payments would be limited to the corresponding benefits payable to the dependants 161 of civil servants. Any such scheme, of course, would be contributory, in the same way as superannuation schemes applicable to civil servants. Your Lordships may know that the staffs of trustee savings banks are closely akin to, although not actually, civil servants, for the trustee savings banks are operated under the supervision of the National Debt Commissioners and the Treasury.
The absence of provision for the dependants of trustee savings bank employees who die in harness has brought great hardships, as at present the banks have no powers to make any substantial payments to widows or personal representatives of the deceased. The most they can do is to allocate one year's salary. I know personally of a distinguished servant of a trustee savings bank who died only last week before reaching pensionable age—at 58 years of age, as a matter of fact—and his family will suffer as a consequence of there being at present little or no provision for them. Many other examples could be quoted. The Bill gives power to apply to trustee savings banks not only existing Civil Service superannuation legislation but also any further legislation of this kind as it may occur. This flexible arrangement is in keeping with current practice and has the virtue of eliminating the need for further legislation if and when the superannuation provisions for civil servants come to be revised.
I would add that any orders made under this Bill will be subject to the annulment procedure of this House, so that they car be fully scrutinised before being finally approved. I would also point out that payment are made by the trustee savings banks out of their own funds, and therefore this Bill will not mean any charge whatever on public funds. The terms of the Bill are acceptable to the Treasury, the National Debt Commissioners, the Trustee Savings Banks' Association and their Inspection Committee and will give pleasure to the National Savings Committee, who work so closely with the trustee savings banks throughout the country. I am proud to have been given the task of piloting this small measure through your Lordships' House. It is the first Bill I have moved, and I doubt whether I shall ever move one that is at once more necessary and 162 more useful. I beg to move that the Bill be now read a second time.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Lord Mackintosh of Halifax.)
My Lords, perhaps it will be a good thing if I take this opportunity of stating the attitude of Her Majesty's Government towards this Bill, because they have not had such an opportunity in another place where, apart from a speech from the mover, the Bill went through without any debate. We approve most heartily the Bill and we think it more than appropriate that the noble Lord, Lord Mackintosh of Halifax, who draws in the savings, should be the man who looks after those who handle those savings. The National Savings Movement has been vital and is becoming more vital every day. We wish that the noble Lord would sometimes come and take part in our economic debates in order to give us some of the background information which he alone possesses about that Movement. I feel that I speak for the whole House in extending this public invitation, which I hope he will not be able to refuse.
§ LORD BURDEN
My Lords, like my noble friend Lord Mackintosh of Halifax, I have to declare an interest. Like him, I am a vice-president of the Trustee Savings Banks' Association, and I am also the chairman of a trustee savings bank. I am sure that every member of your Lordships' House will echo the sentiments of the noble Lord, Lord Hawke, in regard to my noble friend. He has done, and is doing, great work for the National Savings Movement, and the trustee savings banks work in harmony with that Movement.
So far as the Bill itself is concerned, its provisions have been so lucidly explained by the noble Lord that it is necessary to say little more. I am glad to hear from the noble Lord, Lord Hawke, that the Government approve the purposes of the Bill. From my own experience I know that it will put right some serious hardships, though unfortunately, in the nature of things, these provisions cannot be retrospective and cannot deal with some of the distressing cases of which we already know. I think it would be right to say here, on behalf of the Trustee Savings Banks' Association, how much we appreciate the ever-ready help given to the Association by the officials 163 of the Treasury and the National Debt Commissioners. It is not often that one has an opportunity of paying tribute to work of this kind, and I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Mackintosh of Halifax, will agree. I believe I can say that there is no opposition to the Bill on this side of the House, and I hope that it will have a speedy passage.
§ On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.