HC Deb 12 February 1813 vol 24 cc508-11
The Chancellor of the Exchequer

, in proposing the committal of the Local Tokens Bill, observed, that the period to which he proposed to extend the power for allowing the circulation of Local Tokens, he was induced, upon farther consideration, to abandon. That period was the 1st of October, but he now meant to fix upon the 5th of July, because parliament might in that case make farther arrangements, should an adequate supply of Bank Tokens happen not to be forthcoming, which appeared by no means probable. Indeed, he had every reason to expect that the Local Tokens might, without any public inconvenience, be wholly dispensed with, at even an earlier period than the 5th of July; such was the improved prospect of the currency. As to the animadversions upon his right hon. friend the Chancellor of the Irish Exchequer, in consequence of his allusion to the probable necessity of a different measure upon the subject for Ireland, he thought it necessary to say a few words. It was but candour in his right hon. friend to express the inclination of his mind, in order that, if the measure he at the time of the expression contemplated, should really become necessary, no member might be taken by surprise. For himself, he hoped and trusted that necessity would not call for any difference between the two countries, however differently circumstanced upon this subject. At all events, nothing practicable should be left undone to avoid such a necessity. Indeed, as far as he had the power of influencing the circulating medium, he had always been most studious to provide for the accommodation of Ireland, and he should ever continue to be so. In pursuance of this solicitude, which he felt in common with his colleagues, it was intended to send a large proportion of bullion to Ireland, sufficient, he hoped, for its wants; yet, if the supply should prove inadequate, his right hon. friend reserved the right of providing for the evil.

Sir John Newport

observed, that ministers seemed to think it necessary to hold an undefined proposition over Ireland, while there could be no doubt of its wants as to circulating medium, and while no assurance was given that a sufficient quantity of bullion would be provided by government for the supply of those wants. It was in consequence of these wants, that the Commercial Company of Waterford applied some time since to the Irish government, soliciting either an adequate supply of silver, or liberty to issue tokens themselves for the accommodation of business; but the application was unsuccessful, although he could assure the House that the distress occasioned, and especially among the poor peasantry, by the scarcity of silver, was most severe. Indeed, the peasant who brought his bacon or other articles to Waterford, was obliged to return home with a check as payment, and which he was but too likely to lose, or obliged perhaps to go to market again to get his check changed. Thus were these poor people, to whom any government should look with peculiar solicitude, exposed to serious inconvenience. But he hoped that his Majesty's government would take their case into consideration, and contrive to relieve their distress.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

repeated the intention of government to send to Ireland as large a supply of bullion as possible; sufficient he hoped to remedy the grievance complained of. But if that supply should be insufficient, it would be open to his right hon. friend the Chancellor of the Irish Exchequer, to bring forward the measure he had mentioned upon the subject of Local Tokens.

Lord A. Hamilton

asked upon what ground the Chancellor of the Exchequer calculated upon such an increased supply of bullion by the period he had proposed to insert in the Bill, and whether he had any plan for keeping his new tokens, when issued, in circulation? Was the right hon. gentleman aware how much of 1,700,000l. in tokens already issued by the Bank, remained in circulation, or had been withdrawn and melted down? He understood that a considerable quantity of tokens had been melted, and if such had been the fate of the Bank tokens already issued, what security could the right hon. gentleman present that the new issue would not meet the same fate if they were equal in intrinsic value? Then if the Bank tokens were likely to be thus withdrawn from circulation, the local tokens would still be necessary, and must be tolerated, if public accommodation were suited.

The House having resolved itself into the Committee,

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

, in reply to the observations of the noble lord, stated, that there was one simple fact upon which he grounded the calculations adverted to by the noble lord, namely, that the exchange had advanced 15 per cent. in our favour; and it was unnecessary to describe the consequence of such advance upon our supply, and the price of bullion. Care would, of course, be taken that the value of any tokens issued by the Bank, should keep pace with the market price of silver, and for such equality the public had no guarantee upon the mass of Local Tokens. As to the tokens already issued by the Bank, he believed the noble lord was misled respecting the number withdrawn from circulation. But any that had been withdrawn were most likely to return to circulation, when the new issue of Bank tokens should take place, and the competition of Local Tokens should be withdrawn.

Lord A. Hamilton

thought, that if the right hon. gentleman had no other reason to hope for an issue of silver, than the improvement of the exchange, the hope was a frail one.

Sir Robert Peel

said, he did not see any great inconvenience result from the Local Tokens, they were so inferior to the coin of the realm, that they were limited in circulation, and as soon as the Bank should issue silver to any great amount they would fall of themselves.

Mr. Whitbread

thought the 5th of July an inconvenient time, as in all probability the House would not then be sitting, and great inconvenience would ensue from withdrawing the Local Tokens, in case the Bank should not be prepared to make the expected issue. If, however, the Chancellor of the Exchequer would agree to bring the matter under consideration before parliament should be prorogued, he would refrain from moving an amendment.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

bowed assent, and the blanks were filled up with the 5th of July.