Examination of Witnesses (Questions 320
TUESDAY 19 JUNE 2007
MP, MR CLIVE
Q320 Chairman: Several submissions
have argued for a National Register, citing confusion and difficulty
(real or perceived) in using the current range of facilities for
searching for unclaimed assets. The Commission on Unclaimed Assets
have suggested how a low-cost, comprehensive interface could be
developed. Is there any merit in that?
Ed Balls: One never has a closed
mind on these matters. I am happy to listen to further consultations.
In evidence to you, Patrick Storey, the partner at Grant Thornton,
who as I understand it, had been advisers to the Irish, said,
about a central register: "It would be a nightmare, in my
view. It would be an administrative nightmare and a very costly
exercise and fraught with difficulties." I have to say that
our judgment, in discussion with the banks and the building societies,
is that Mr Storey is right, but I am not ruling it out.
Q321 Chairman: Could I say to you,
the same person said to us in evidence that legislative underpinning
was absolutely essential for a level playing field. So if you
are quoting him there I am quoting him back to you.
Ed Balls: Fair point.
Q322 Chairman: Your proposals imply
that each institution individually negotiates an agency agreement
with the Central Reclaim Fund, detailing the responsibilities
of each party. Again, how can a level playing field between institutions
be ensured with such a system?
Ed Balls: We, obviously, want
every institution to be active in reuniting its customers with
their accounts and transferring dormant accounts into the unclaimed
assets pot through the Reclaim Fund. We will use transparency
to try and make sure that people live up to their public commitments.
Q323 Chairman: As a Committee we
found this inquiry very interesting and I think we have got a
few novel things to put to you before the end of July.
Ed Balls: I look forward to it.
Chairman: Can I finish with that and
then go on to financial inclusion.