This Bill is introduced with the object of amending the law relating to savings banks.
The five trustee savings banks in the State—Dublin, Cork, Waterford, Limerick and Monaghan—are very old institutions, all having been founded between 1816 and 1820, long before the Post Office Savings Bank was established. They have furnished and continue to furnish an excellent service for the small saver. While the trustee banks are private bodies and do not form part of the machinery of the State, nonetheless they have always been subject to State supervision, with legislative provision to determine the manner in which they should conduct their business.
The bulk of the Acts which govern them were passed in the early nineteenth century and the consolidating Act of 1863, with certain amending Acts, is still the governing statute.
The only change in the governing legislation made since the setting up of the State took place in the early 1940's. The Finance Acts of 1940 and 1942 provided that the Irish Trustee Savings Banks instead of, as formerly, investing their deposits with the British National Debate Commissioners should invest them in the same manner as deposits in the Post Office Savings Bank.
It will, therefore, be appreciated that the code of legislation under which the banks operate is now somewhat out of date in certain respects. Steps have already been taken in Britain to bring savings bank legislation into line with the needs of to-day and between 1920 and 1949 four amending Acts were passed, followed in 1954, by a consolidating measure.
We are, of course, aware of the desirability of consolidating in one Act the legislation dealing with savings banks and a comprehensive review of the position is, in fact, in hands; but, since the matter is very technical and complicated, examination will take some time.
The trustee savings banks have, however, drawn special attention to certain statutory restrictions which are unnecessary in present-day conditions and which hamper them in co-operating fully in the savings drive. The present short preliminary Bill has for its objective the removal of these out of date restrictions as soon as possible. As well, the Bill makes certain provisions in relation to the superannuation of the banks' staffs, designed to bring the pension terms to be given to these staffs as nearly as possible into line with those available to civil servants under the Superannuation Acts.
We intend to press ahead, in consultation with the banks, with the major job of revision and consolidation. If, however, it transpires that the number of amendments necessary in the law is considerable, as they well may be, the Oireachtas may find it more convenient to have the amendments in the form of a second preliminary Bill, so as to simplify their study of the final measure, which would then be a purely consolidating one.
Section 1 of the Bill is the interpretation clause.
Section 2 provides that deposits may be received and repaid by cheque or other negotiable instrument; that transactions of deposit and withdrawal may be carried out either during or outside normal banking hours and by post; and that where a group savings scheme is in operation, deposits may be collected by the bank at the place where the scheme is in operation, either during or outside normal banking hours and by one officer only, whether honorary or paid, of the bank. It is not envisaged that the banks will issue cheque books to their customers.
Section 3 enables the trustees of trustee savings banks to make and carry out pension schemes for their permanent whole-time staffs with terms which are, as far as possible, equivalent to those applicable to civil servants under the Superannuation Acts. At present, superannuation benefits are limited to those provided for civil servants under the Superannuation Act of 1859.
Section 4 relieves a bank from the obligation of printing its rules in every deposit book issued by it. Instead, a copy of the rules must be made available free of charge to any depositor who asks for them.
Section 5 removes the restrictions which now prevent a depositor from having more than one account in a trustee savings bank or in the Post Office Savings Bank, and from holding accounts in both a trustee savings bank and the Post Office Savings Bank. Power is also taken to amend the declarations required from intending depositors in both types of bank as these declarations at present contain a statement that the depositor has not an account in any other savings bank. It has been found that the prohibition on double accounts hampers group savings schemes since only persons who have no account already in another savings bank can participate in such schemes
Section 6 is the customary section dealing with the short title and citation of the Act.