§ MR. E. HARDCASTLE (Salford, N.)
asked Mr. Chancellor of Exchequer, Whether his attention has been drawn to the great inconvenience arising from the insufficient supply of small silver coin now in circulation; and, whether he will take into consideration the practicability of largely increasing the issue of shillings and sixpences, instead of adding to the already excessive supply of large coins, especially florins, by the issue of double florin pieces?
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Mr. GOSCHEN) (St. George's, Hanover Square)
The issue of shillings and sixpences can be largely increased at once if the public will but ask for them of their bankers. Employers of labour, tradesmen, and other persons constantly requiring change can at once get what they want, and will assist their customers by insisting on having as many shillings and sixpences as they require. The additional trouble of counting the smaller coins and of sorting appears to have acted as a deterrent to the free issue of shillings and sixpences; but there is no reason why it should be so. Silver coin is not issued by the Mint direct to the public, but is passed into circulation in England and Wales through banks. Every country banker has a banker who is his agent in London, and every London banker has an account at the Bank of England. If in any district there is a deficiency of silver coin, the bankers of the district are the first to find it out. They write to their London agents, who obtain what silver coin is required from the Bank of England, and send it to the country bankers. If there is a deficiency in London, the London bankers can, of course, 874 make direct application to the Bank of England for the amounts they themselves require. When the stock in the Bank of England becomes diminished, it makes application to the Mint, and supplies of coin of any denomination can be obtained. At the present moment there is a good supply of both shillings and sixpences awaiting issue, and perfectly ready to perform their duty. The following are the amounts of each coin held by the Mint and the Bank of England respectively:—Shillings.—In the Mint, £34,413 worth; in the Bank of England, £264,600 worth; total, £299,013 worth. Sixpences.—In the Mint, £31,004 worth; in the Bank of England, £10,900 worth; total, £41,904 worth. So that there are shillings of the value of nearly £300,000, or 6,000,000 pieces, and sixpences of the value of £42,000, or 1,680,000 pieces, ready for immediate issue. The existence of this large stock at the Bank of England is due to a part of these coins in circulation having been returned. It would seem, from the above figures, that the public should have no difficulty in obtaining as much coin of each denomination as they may require. It may be, however, that the practice of bankers not to sort the silver coin which they receive, but to pay it out again in bags containing certain amounts without reference to the denominations of the individual coins, may be an inconvenience to the public, who may, in this way, not receive the amounts of shillings and sixpences which they require. The remedy for this evil is, of course, in the hands of the public themselves, who should call upon their bankers to give them precisely the coins which they require; but communications will be at once made to the Chairman of the Committee of London Bankers, and to the President of the Country Bankers' Association, asking them to co-operate in meeting the legitimate wants of bank customers. With regard to the action of the Government, it is unnecessary to point out that in the case of a token coinage, like that of silver in this country, on the issue of which the State makes a large profit, and which cannot be used for payments of more than 40s., it is the imperative duty of the Government not to permit issues to be made in excess of the bonâ fide requirements of the public, lest the coins should become depreciated. It is obviously prudent, 875 therefore, that silver coin should only be issued through bankers, who are best able to judge what those requirements really are.
§ MR. DILLON (Mayo, B.)
inquired whether there was not an immense number of foreign silver pieces in circulation in the country?
§ MR. GOSCHEN
said, he did not think it was true that there was an immense number of foreign coins in circulation; but he had heard of the appearance of certain false coins, though not to any great extent. Of course, it was a matter that required to be carefully watched.