HC Deb 07 July 1881 vol 263 cc254-6

asked the First Lord of the Treasury, Whether any engagement has been made by the Government, or any authority conferred on the British representative at the Silver Conference in Paris, which goes beyond the use of silver as at present permitted by Law for purposes of currency; whether the Trea- sury have made any communication to the Directors of the Bank of England requiring or requesting them to hold in silver any part of their reserve for the due payment of notes; and, if so, what; whether the Government have authorised or concurred in any engagement by the Secretary of State for India, by which the free action of the Government of India, in dealing with silver for currency purposes, would be restrained; whether he will state if there is any intention on the part of the Government to alter in any degree whatever the standard upon which our present system of currency depends; whether, having regard to the fact that speculation in silver, by which much temporary disarrangement would be imported into operations of trade, is likely to arise during the sitting of the Conference, he will instruct the British Commissioner to hasten the decision as much as possible, so as to put an end to the intermediate state of uncertainty; and, whether he can lay upon the Table any Papers bearing upon the question?


1. No engagementh as been made by the Government, and no authority conferred on the British Representative at the Paris Conference, to alter the limits now imposed by law upon the use of silver as currency. 2. The Government were informed that an agreement might be possible between the silver-using Powers if, among other matters, the Bank of England would hold in the issue department part of its reserve in silver, and they communicated their information to the Bank, inviting the Bank Court to state its opinion upon such an exercise of the discretion entrusted to the Bank by the Act of 1844. The Court replied that it saw no reason why an assurance should not be conveyed to the Monetary Conference, if the Treasury thought it desirable, that the Bank, agreeably with the Act of 1844, will be always open to the purchase of silver, provided that the Mints of other countries return to such rules as would insure the conversion of gold into silver and silver into gold. The Treasury, noting the statement of the Bank that it saw no danger to the principle of the Act of 1844 in such an assurance, caused the Delegate of the United Kingdom at the Conference to be instructed to convey the assurance to the Conference. Mr. Fremantle informed the Conference accordingly at its meeting of yesterday. 3. The Secretary of State for India will state whether he has authorized the Delegate of India to convey any assurance to the Conference. 4. There is no intention on the part of the Government to alter the present Currency Law. 5. The Government could not undertake to make representations to the Conference as to its course of proceeding. 6. If the hon. Member will move for Papers, I will have such of them as explain the action of the Government presented.


The only engagement which the Representatives of the Government of India at the Monetary Conference have been authorized to make on behalf of that Government is that for a definite term of years it will undertake not to depart in any direction calculated to lower the value of silver from the existing practice of coining silver freely in the Indian Mints as legal tender throughout the Indian Dominions of Her Majesty. Such a declaration must, however, be conditional on the acceptance by a number of the principal States of an agreement binding them, in some manner or other, to open their Mints for a similar term to the coinage of silver as full legal tender in the proportion of 15½ of silver to 1 of gold, and the engagement on the part of India would be obligatory only so long as that agreement remained in force.

In reply to an hon. MEMBER,


said, he thought there would be no objection on the part of the Government to the publication of the proceedings at the Conference. He believed that a record of the transactions was being made; but it would be some time before it was completed. He should, perhaps, therefore, move that it be given as an unopposed Return. As the document would be so voluminous, he did not think it desirable to print it; but he would be able to place seine copies of it in the Library of the House.