Select Committee on Treasury Minutes of Evidence


Examination of Witnesses (Questions 320 - 323)

TUESDAY 19 JUNE 2007

ED BALLS MP, MR CLIVE MAXWELL, MR PAUL JOHNSON AND MS SUE CATCHPOLE

  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.






 
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