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I am sure that the House will welcome the speech which we have just heard from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carmarthen (Sir A. Mond). His support of the point of view which has been pressed from this side of the House does, I think, constitute the complete case for the inquiry for which we have been asking. During the Committee stage I did endeavour to produce high financial authority for the statement that the figure of £260,000,000 which has been chosen was insufficient for our present purposes. I do not want to go over that ground again to-night, nor do I want to attempt to dogmatise with regard to the figure, but I do once more express the hope that the Government will see the desirability of having the most thorough-going inquiry into our central Bank. The point, however, that I want to submit to the Financial Secretary to the Treasury at this moment is with regard to a- matter which, though it may not be of major importance, is one of considerable importance to the poor people with whom I am associated.
As I understand it, under the existing arrangement which is being discontinued by this Bill, some thousands of Treasury notes are handed in to the Post Office owing to their mutilated condition, and claims in respect of mutilated and lost notes are dealt with by the Accountant-General's Department at the General Post Office. I am assured that many of these claims are dealt with on the basis of an ex gratia payment, and that such ex gratia payments are subsequently made under a Treasury Vote which I believe deals with Inland Revenue matters. It seems to be perfectly clear that most of these cases refer to what might be called losses on the part of very poor persons, who do not hold accounts with the joint stock banks, and whose only contact with the central Bank will be through the local post office. The point that I want to submit to the Financial Secretary is a simple one. In any case in which a poor man or woman is unfortunate enough to mutilate or lose a note in circumstances which to-day would lead to a complete refundment by the Accountant-General of the Post Office, is there any proposal to set up or continue such machinery as will place that poor person in a position of equality with the more fortunately placed man or woman who happens to be a customer of one of the joint stock banks, through which, presumably, future contact with the Bank of England will be made? I know that it does not amount to a large sum of money in the total, but I do think that, having regard to the poverty of the persons concerned, and to the great social advantages of the present arrangement, some steps should be taken to continue such an arrangement.