The amendments put beyond doubt the meaning of paragraph 1(2), that the documents should be authenticated by the signature of one of the custodian trustees and of an officer of the bank authorised by the custodian trustees to act on their behalf.
The House, by this Bill, will be giving the Trustee Savings Banks movement a welcome push into open waters which will greatly benefit their depositors. I have been connected with the movement for more than 20 years as a depositor and a trustee. I am no longer a trustee—although I have not reached the magic age of 70—but I am still a depositor.
The movement has done an immense amount of good work. It has started many people on the road to saving. It has translated their hopes from small savings accounts to cheque accounts and begun to offer them the same services as the joint stock banks. The attitude of the staffs is perhaps more cosy because there is more time available.
The Treasury's blessing, which has been given to this freedom of the Trustee Savings Banks movement, has been long overdue but is extremely welcome.
I pay tribute again to Sir Harry Page for the work that his Committee did. I hope that the Bill will receive a Third Reading and will soon be on the statute book. A large amount of detailed planning has to be carried out in order that the amalgamations and the Central Board can be set up as early as possible.
I hope that the House will give the Bill a Third Reading.
I, too, wish the Trustee Savings Banks well. I hope that they grow substantially, as they plan, and that they will provide the public with a choice of comprehensive banking services.
As the House knows, I expressed my anxieties about the general question of supervision of the banking industry in this country during the Second Reading debate on the Bill, in Committee and during a debate on another Bill. I am sure that all those anxieties will be quietened by the Government's White Paper on this subject, which is to be published shortly. We shall then know how the Trustee Savings Banks will be supervised and how all the other banks will fit in neatly and dovetail together in a comprehensive system of supervision. I look forward greatly to the White Paper and the proposals contained in it.
I thank the Financial Secretary for the courteous and helpful way in which he has handled the Bill through all its stages. I have found it most interesting to serve on the Committee and to take part in the debate. I have been greatly helped by the replies and assistance that the Minister has given.
I shall intervene only briefly. I add my good wishes to the Bill.
I want to put the record straight on one or two small matters which occurred on Second Reading. I have been asked by Mr. Catt. the General Manager of the Central Trustee Savings Bank, to point out that the hon. Member for Thornaby (Mr. Wrigglesworth) and my hon. Friend the Member for Hampstead (Mr. Fins-berg) referred to
Mr. Catt, the then General Manager of the Trustee Savings Bank …
the new General Manager of the Central Bank …"—[Official Report, 17th February 1976; Vol. 905, c. 1221–28.]
respectively. Mr. Catt has been the General Manager of the Central Trustee Saving Bank since its operations began in May 1973. Therefore, both hon. Members referred to the same person. Mr. Catt is still in his post. I am sure that we all wish him well in the task that lies ahead of him.
The subject on which Mr. Catt was quoted on Second Reading concerned the commercial objectives of the Trustee Savings Banks. Reference was made to an interview which he gave to the Trustee Savings Bank Gazette which was published on 4th October 1974. He has told me that his remarks in that article were specifically designed to describe the future work of the Central Trustee Savings Bank and not the individual Trustee Savings Banks, for which the Central Trustee Savings Bank acts as a clearing house and the provider of other services. It is possible that some of the remarks in the Second Reading debate might be misinterpreted as applying to individual Trustee Savings Banks. Mr. Catt has asked me to say that that was not intended.
It is accepted that there could be a wider role, but because of the way in which Mr. Catt's remarks were expressed and the intepretation which was placed upon them by hon. Members it might be that some confusion remains. As no doubt the debate on Second Reading will be one of the points of reference for future discussion about the way in which the movement develops, it seemed right to take this opportunity to correct that possible misapprehension.
Finally, as my hon. Friend the Member for Hampstead (Mr. Finsberg) is in a sense a spokesman not only for the Opposition but also for the Trustee Savings Banks movement, as he so proudly and justifiably claimed, may I point out that there was one point besides North Staffordshire which was a matter of dispute in this otherwise very harmoniously debated Bill? That was the question of the relationship between the Central Board, and, therefore, the Central Trustee Savings Bank, and the constituent banks.
I will not recapitulate the issue in detail, but the Bill is not happily drafted to avoid some of the problems we encountered. For example, the very important Clause 1, which describes the powers of the Trustee Savings Bank Central
Board, is expressed in words which vary from "may give" and "may provide" to
shall give directions to the trustee savings banks ".
We spent time trying to clarify to what extent these were instructions and what freedom of action the individual banks would have if they did not wish to follow the requirements of the Central Board. It seemed that the only sanctions were that the services of the Central Trustee Savings Bank might be withdrawn from such banks. Indeed, the whole of the North Staffordshire part of the debate, so to speak, was in a sense an attempt to secure further clarification of what would be the position of a Trustee Savings Bank which might wish to deviate from the policies laid down from above. The Standing Committee received some assurances from the Financial Secretary to the effect that it was not the intention that there should be any compulsion, but as drafted the Bill leaves that possibility open.
I will not labour that point further, but it would not be proper for the Third Reading to pass without recording that the Committee was seriously worried about the way in which the relationship between the Central Board and the individual savings banks might operate in practice.
The Bill has been well received on both sides of the House, although there was a considerable amount of probing. If the Bill is given a Third Reading, the banks will be empowered to expand their services and to carry on, as the Bill rather quaintly puts it, banking services. The expectations of the hon. Member for Hampstead (Mr. Finsberg) and my hon. Friend the Member for Thornaby (Mr. Wrigglesworth) will be realised.
I ask the hon. Member for Hitchin (Mr. Stewart) to accept that there are limits to the extent to which we can forecast the future. We can give Trustee Savings Banks these much wider powers to extend their activities. Their success will be dependent largely upon their own efforts and the way in which they solve the problems of the relationship between the Central Trustee Savings Bank and the constituent Trustee Savings Banks.
Our discussions have in the main been constructive, although we have tended to concentrate on one bank to a rather surprising extent. I am pleased that we have allayed some of the serious doubts that have been raised about that bank. I hope that we shall be able to see the early establishment of the Central Board. It would ease the transfer of the TSBA and its subsidiaries and give the Central Board time to get its administrative structure implemented properly. I look forward to seeing this take place quickly.
I emphasise, however, that the early establishment of the Central Board is not an attempt to bring pressure on the North Staffordshire Trustee Savings Bank. We want to ensure that the amalgamation takes place in the interests of its depositors. That has been at the forefront of our minds on this matter.
I am sure that the House in its final consideration of the Bill will wish the Trustee Savings Banks well in their new role. I believe that they are well equipped to meet the new challenges which they will face and I look forward to their future success.