Treasury Committee press notice no.19

Session 2006-07, 17 January 2007

New inquiry: Unclaimed assets within the financial system

The Treasury Select Committee has decided to undertake an inquiry into Unclaimed assets within the financial system. The Committee is particularly interested in receiving written evidence on-

»The definition, identification and collection of unclaimed assets;

»The distribution and use of unclaimed assets; and

»The possible relevance of schemes in other countries for putting unclaimed assets to productive use.

Written evidence should comply with the guidance in Note 1 to this press notice and, in particular, should reach the Committee by Tuesday 20 February at 12 noon. Those preparing written evidence should consider the further information about possible issues of interest set out below, but should not feel obliged to comment on all such issues.

The definition, identification and collection of unclaimed assets

In the 2005 Pre-Budget Report, the Government announced a scheme to invest unclaimed assets within the United Kingdom banking sector in community projects. This followed an agreement between the Government and the banking industry that the definition of an unclaimed asset should generally cover accounts where there has been no customer activity for a period of 15 years. In the context of the definition, identification and collection of unclaimed assets, the Committee will examine issues such as:

»The proposed definition of an unclaimed asset within the United Kingdom banking sector, and whether the scope of assets identified for inclusion within the scheme is appropriate;

»The scope for extension of the scheme, or for another scheme, relating to unclaimed assets held by other financial institutions, such as insurance companies and National Savings & Investments;

»Any potential estimates of the scale of unclaimed assets, using different criteria to define an unclaimed asset;

»Who should monitor the running of the collection scheme, and ensure that financial institutions identify, and provide for use, unclaimed assets;

»Whether the collection of unclaimed asset funds should be organisationally separate from its disbursement;

»Whether enough is being done to ensure that unclaimed assets will be reunited with their owners, especially after the assets have begun to be disbursed; and

»How unclaimed assets that have been disbursed can be reclaimed should their owner be found, and who should bear the final burden of repaying such monies owed.

The distribution and use of unclaimed assets

In November 2005, the Commission on Unclaimed Assets was established. This body made proposals about the possible distribution use of unclaimed assets when it published a consultation document entitled “A Social Investment Bank” in July 2006. In the context of the distribution and use of unclaimed assets, the Committee will examine issues such as:

»Whether the use of the unclaimed assets should be limited to certain aims, bodies or localities;

»What can be learnt from the distribution of funds from the National Lottery when setting up the body responsible for disbursing unclaimed assets;

»Whether and how such a body should be accountable to Parliament and Government;

»How appropriate is the proposal of the Commission for Unclaimed Assets for a ‘Social Investment Bank’, and whether there are more appropriate alternative models;

»Whether it was right for the Commission for Unclaimed Assets to discount the idea of using unclaimed assets to fund an endowment;

»Who should monitor the effectiveness of the use of unclaimed assets; and

»How the use of unclaimed assets might promote financial inclusion.

International comparisons

Countries including the USA, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand and Spain have legal frameworks in place for putting unclaimed assets to productive use. The Committee would particularly welcome written evidence that uses international comparisons to identify potential best practice.

1. Written evidence should be in Word or rich text format-not PDF format-and sent by e-mail to [email protected] The body of the e-mail must include a contact name, telephone number and postal address. The e-mail should also make clear who the submission is from. The deadline is Tuesday 20 February at 12.00 noon.
Submissions should address the terms of reference. They should be in the format of a self-contained memorandum and should be no more than 3,000 words in length. Paragraphs should be numbered for ease of reference, and the document must include an executive summary. Further guidance on the submission of evidence can be found at
Submissions should be original work, not previously published or circulated elsewhere. Once submitted, your submission becomes the property of the Committee and no public use should be made of it unless you have first obtained permission from the Clerk of the Committee. Please bear in mind that Committees are not able to investigate individual cases.
The Committee normally, though not always, chooses to publish the written evidence it receives, either by printing the evidence, publishing it on the internet or by making it publicly available through the Parliamentary Archives. If there is any information you believe to be sensitive you should highlight it and explain what harm you believe would result from its disclosure; the Committee will take this into account in deciding whether to publish or further disclose the evidence.
For data protection purposes, it would be helpful if individuals wishing to submit written evidence send their contact details in a covering letter. You should be aware that there may be circumstances in which the House of Commons will be required to communicate information to third parties on request, in order to comply with its obligations under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.