HC Deb 10 March 1870 vol 199 cc1726-30

Bill considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)

Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.

Clause 3 (Standard of Coins. 56 G. III. c. 68. ss. 4, 11).

MR. CRAWFORD moved the insertion, at the commencement of the clause, in order to show the principle on which the weight of this coinage was based, of the following:— Whereas it was provided by the Act fifty-six George the Third, chapter sixty-eight, that the gold coin of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland should hold such weight and fineness as were prescribed in the then existing Mini Indenture (that is to say): that every pound weight troy should be in value forty-six pounds fourteen shillings and sixpence (being after the rate of one thousand eight hundred and sixty-nine sovereigns to every forty pounds troy weight), and in fineness twenty-two carats of fine gold, and two carats of alloy; and, further, that silver coins should be of a standard fineness of eleven ounces two pennyweights of fine silver, and eighteen penny weights of alloy; and in weight after the rate of sixty-six shillings to every pound troy; Be it enacted, That First Schedule, line 3, after "standard weight," in second column, insert— After the rates of one thousand eight hundred and sixty-nine sovereigns to every forty pounds troy weight of gold, and sixty-six shillings to every pound troy weight of silver. He understood that the Amendment was not opposed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The object of the Amendment was to give a reason for the enactment of the weight of the sovereign, which was that it happened to be the first integral number of sovereigns that could be made of a certain integral weight—namely, forty pounds troy of gold.


said, the reason was that 1,869 sovereigns weighed forty pounds troy. He was not sure, however, that if the division of forty pounds by 1,869 were carried out the result would be, not 123–274 grains, but above that a recurring decimal. However, he agreed to the Amendment.

Amendment agreed to.

Clause added to the Bill.

Clauses 4 to 6, inclusive, agreed to.

Clause 7 (Defacing light gold coin. 14 G. III. c. 70. s. 7. See also 56 G. III. c. 68. s. 7).


asked whether it was possible to carry out the penalty which it was proposed to inflict under that section? It was necessary to retain the clause, otherwise it would be impossible for the Bank of England to deface the light coin which passed into that establishment; but why should they seek practically to impose on every member of the community a penalty not exceeding £5, if he knowingly accepted from any person a sovereign of light weight? In all the ordinary transactions of life it could not be expected that people would test the sovereign. He begged to move the omission, in Clause 7, page 3, of all the words after "denomination."


joined in the appeal to the Chancellor of the Exchequer that some relief should be given on the score of this clause, which would be utterly impracticable in the ordinary operations of business. If the right hon. Gentleman could spare time to spend an hour in one of the banking-houses of the City some day between three and four o'clock he would see how impossible it would be to carry it out. He regretted he had not had an opportunity of communicating with the right hon. Gentleman since this morning, when he had been able to gather the opinions of several persons much interested in the question, that he might suggest the omission of the clause as it stood, in order to bring up another on the Report which would leave the requirement of defacing the gold, as at present, in the hands of the Bank of England. If the clause were passed, bankers and others could but humbly submit, but great inconvenience would arise.


said, the object of this Act was not to make a perfect code, but to get all the laws on the subject into one single Act, in the hope that on such a foundation a better code might be built hereafter. As the law stood now, anyone receiving a light coin, whether knowing that it was light or not, was guilty of a misdemeanour. What he proposed to do was to impose a slight penalty, instead of making it a misdemeanour.


said, the duty of that House was not humbly to submit, but earnestly to protest against such a course on the part of the Chancellor of the Exchequer.


said, he hoped the Chancellor of the Exchequer would give way. It would be most inconvenient to require the public to keep a weighing machine and a pair of scissors in order to comply with the requirements of the clause.


said, he did not understand why, if the Bank of England undertook to clip light sovereigns, private banks should not do so. If private banks were allowed to pass on the light sovereigns without clipping them, the object of the Bill would never be attained.


pointed out that a Government Department, the Post Office, was one of the worst customers the Bank of England had. It habitually passed on its light sovereigns to the Bank, which, in consequence, sustained an annual loss of £400 by the Department.


said, there was hardly a private bank that had not an account with the Bank of England, whose officials weighed the sovereigns paid in, and if a private bank happened to pay in light coin it had to suffer the penalty.


said, he hoped the Chancellor of the Exchequer would pay great attention to the observations that had been made by the hon. Baronet the Member for Maidstone (Sir John Lubbock) in reference to the inconvenience now suffered by the public by reason of the defective state of the law.

An hon. MEMBER

thought that the loss entailed by the deterioration of currency should be sustained by the country and not thrown upon individuals.


regarded the last proposition as a somewhat dangerous one, and one that had very little to do with the subject under discussion. The law as it stood was, in his opinion, right. The owner of a light coin ought to bear the loss.


said, he thought it would be a very great hardship to call upon Scotland, which had no sovereigns in circulation, to contribute a portion of her taxes to meet the loss entailed by the deterioration of the coinage. He thought such a proposition, if made, would cause the merchants of England to turn their attention to the desirability of having a small note currency.


admitted that the question was by no means an easy one to settle, and thought the House would do wisely to keep the law in its present state. The question was a very large one, and he held an opinion upon it different, perhaps, from any that had been expressed. He thought they ought to calculate the life of a sovereign, which was, he believed, about eighteen years, and that the State should, after the lapse of that period, withdraw all such coins from circulation, the State not to be responsible for any deterioration within the stipulated number of years. Such a course would have the effect of limiting the amount of light money.

Clause added to the Bill.

Clauses 8 to 10, inclusive, added.

Clause 11 (Regulations by proclamation).


said, the clause proposed to give power To direct that coins coined in any foreign country shall be current, and be a legal tender, at such rates, up to such amounts, and in such portion of Her Majesty's dominions as may be specified in the proclamation. Now, he had consulted a number of legal authorities and found that the Crown had no power to cause foreign money to be current in this country except with a certain proviso, and he therefore thought the clause should be struck out of the Bill.


said, he would consider the matter, and refer to it again on the Report.


thought the powers proposed to be conferred on the Treasury were too great, and moved an Amendment to sub-section 10, confining the powers of the Treasury in regulating "matters relative to the coinage and the Mint" to matters "within the present prerogative of the Crown."

Amendment agreed to.

Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 12 to 15, inclusive, agreed to.

Clause 16 (Custody, &c. of standard trial plates. See 29 & 30 Vic. c. 82. s. 13).


called attention to an omission in the clause, which provided for the testing of the weights to be used in testing, but said nothing of the scales, which also required seeing to very carefully. It was found highly necessary to pay attention to this matter in the Bank of England. The omission could easily be rectified on the Report.

Clause agreed to.

Remaining clauses agreed to.

House resumed.

Bill reported; as amended, to be considered To-morrow.