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National Savings

Volume 436: debated on Tuesday 15 April 1947

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Next after the Budget surplus, in the line of our defences against inflation, I put National Savings. This great Savings Movement of ours, solid, undramatic, typically British, has been a tremendous source of material and moral strength to this country for more than 30 years, under all Governments, in war and in peace, in all political situations. The National Savings Movement has achieved, under an all-party leadership—my right hon. Friend opposite and I spoke together, only last year, in the Albert Hall in support of it—a truly national character. The critics and the carpers have been few; here and there a stray political dingo has barked in the dusk; but the national caravan has moved on. Last year, the National Savings Movement—

Rather a graceless way of replying to the aid which was given to the right hon. Gentleman.

I am paying a tribute to the movement. Last year the movement accepted my challenge to raise £520 million of new money before 31st March last. I took them at their word, and wrote that figure into my Budget esti- mate. My confidence was not misplaced. They passed their target; indeed they raised substantially more than they had undertaken. In the last lap of the race, Scotland took the lead. They reached their target on 14th February. England and Wales followed oil 13th March. Finally, Northern Ireland, who, with great pluck, had set themselves a target of exceptional severity, got home in the last week of the financial year. The final total was more than £560 million. It was the result of hard and sustained effort by the Savings Movement. I wish today to pay my tribute, not for the first time, to the leaders and all the voluntary workers in the Movement, who have so patriotically devoted their time, energy, and enthusiasm to this work.

I am coming to the point which the hon. Gentleman has in mind. I must call upon the Savings Movement again in the coming year. We shall depend upon them, to a very considerable extent, to meet the Exchequer's need for new money. In particular, I would like to commend to them and to their voluntary workers, as a national object, the full support of the local authorities' housing programmes which seems to me to be a very good object, hardly to be surpassed in, importance for our people all over the country. So, once more I ask the National Savings Movement for another effort of continuous saving right through the financial year. I am glad to say that the leaders of the Movement have promised me that this effort will be forthcoming. They have pledged themselves—now I come to the point which the hon. Member for Orpington (Sir W. Smithers) has in mind—to find for the Exchequer a net increase in small savings of £366 million by 31st March next year, an average of £1 million a day net. I emphasise that this increase will be net. Hitherto, the figures for National Savings, as the hon. Member for Orpington knows, because he has asked Questions about them, have been published in a total which has been gross for Savings Certificates and Defence Bonds, but net for deposits in the Post Office and Trustee Saving Banks. This form of mixed presentation is of long standing. I inherited it from my predecessor, who used to authorise publication of statistics in this form. It was very reasonable in itself. But although most people have clearly understood it, nevertheless it has puzzled others. Some hon. Members have asked Questions about it from time to time, and some writers in the Press have not always clearly understood it. Therefore, to remove all grounds of misapprehension, we shall henceforth publish the net subscriptions. The target of net savings which I have mentioned, £366 million, compares with a net saving of 330 million last year. We had a gross saving last year of just over 560 million; but it was a net saving of £330 million when withdrawals are offset. As against that £330 million, we are aiming at £366 million this year. So we are aiming to do even better this year than we did last year.

I shall also propose—this is a small technical point—a Resolution to put the backing of the Consolidated Fund behind the deposits of the Savings Banks. That is a technical matter, which I shall explain in Committee. The effect will be to tidy up our accounts, and to give depositors even better security than they have at the present time. The more we can attract into National Savings money which might otherwise join in the chase for still scarcer goods, and so increase the inflationary pressure, the steadier will be our passage through this difficult transition. If you put money aside now, Major Milner—if you personally, and any others do so—there will be more to buy a few years hence.