Mr. Edward M. Taylor:
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what was the total net increase in National Savings in the financial year 1969–70; and what were the comparable increases in 1964–65 and 1959–60.
Provisional figures for the financial year 1969–70 show a decrease of £103 million in National Savings. In 1959–60 and 1964–65 there were increases of £378 million and £320 million respectively.
The answer is a little more sophisticated than that. We all recognised that in conditions of consumer restraint it was likely that savings would fall. In any case, there has been very sharp competition from other institutions which receive savings, and some of this flow has been desirable. There are fluctuations from year to year. But, for example, in 1951–54 there was a fall of over £130 million.
While the Minister may make excuses, I am sure that he will agree that there has been a sad decline in National Savings. Is it not time, rather than making marginal adjustments, to have a radical re-examination of the whole institution and machinery of National Savings particularly, for instance, the Department of National Savings with its 15,000 civil servants? Would not less bureaucracy mean a better deal for the small saver?
The hon. Gentleman makes a more thoughtful contribution to the question than some of his hon. Friends. Certainly we must examine the National Savings position from time to time. The House will know the proposal made by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor in his Budget Statement, which will be helpful.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that it seems rather hypocritical for some hon. Members opposite to stimulate unit trusts and at the same time attack him over National Savings?
Can I have a straight answer to this question please? Is it not a fact that when these bogus National Savings Certificates mature in seven years' time they are worth less than the original investment due to the fall in the value of money? Can I have a straight answer?