Select Committee on Treasury Eleventh Report


Purpose of our Report

1. At present, many assets are held in banks, building societies and other financial institutions, which have become disconnected from their owners for a sufficient length of time to become dormant. Wherever possible, those unclaimed assets should be re-united with their legal owners or those owners' heirs. Where this is not possible—and without prejudice to the rights and entitlements of legal owners—there is a case for those assets to be put to good use. In the 2005 Pre-Budget Report, the Government announced that it would work with the banking industry to design a scheme to allow money held in dormant accounts to be reinvested in society.[1] In this Report, we examine the Government's proposals and the approach it has chosen, and identify a range of issues that merit further thought before and during parliamentary consideration of the legislation which the Government proposes.

Conduct of our inquiry

2. On 17 January 2007, we announced our inquiry into unclaimed assets within the financial system and invited written evidence.[2] In February, we visited Dublin to learn about the operation of the Irish Dormant Accounts Act 2001 and subsequent legislation. In addition to written evidence which is published with this Report, we considered two consultation documents issued by the Treasury in March and May 2007, the first relating to the operation of the scheme and the second to how the funds released through the scheme might be spent.[3] In May and June we held three oral evidence sessions, taking evidence from Grant Thornton UK LLP, the Balance Foundation, Skipton Building Society, Charity Bank, the British Bankers' Association (BBA), the Building Societies Association (BSA), the Commission on Unclaimed Assets (CUA) and Ed Balls MP, the then Economic Secretary to the Treasury. We are most grateful to all those who assisted us in the course of our inquiry.

1   HM Treasury, 2005 Pre-Budget Report, para 5.80 Back

2   Committee website,  Back

3   HM Treasury, A UK Unclaimed Asset Scheme: a consultation, March 2007, and HM Treasury, Unclaimed assets distribution mechanism: a consultation, May 2007  Back

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