§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ * MR. GOSCHEN
In moving the Second Reading of this Bill I may observe that to deal with the restoration of the gold coinage comprehensively would involve many broad questions of controversy which would render it impossible to carry through such a measure in what remains of the Session. I therefore ask the House to assent to the comparatively small proposal now before it, the execution of which will supply invaluable experience and material on which to found a larger measure. Should the House assent to this measure the Government would not regard their so doing as an assent to the principle that the State should be recouped for the loss incurred by it on the light gold called in. The sovereigns and half-sovereigns of former reigns are to be withdrawn, and it is estimated that the value of the half-sovereigns of previous reigns now in circulation, and all of them light, is £150,000, the loss upon which would be £7,795, while the total estimated value of light sovereigns of former reigns now in circulation is £4,295,000. The total cost of the whole operation is estimated at about £80,000, but looking to the difficulty of reaching 1805 all the light gold in existence, I think that no larger sum than £50,000 will be required in the present financial year. If the House agrees to this proposal I shall next Session be prepared to take up the question of the light gold coinage, and it will then be my duty to explain the general principles on which Her Majesty's Government intend to proceed.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
§ MR. ATKINSON (Boston)
I am of opinion that the subject is hardly so difficult as the Chancellor of the Exchequer supposes, and I believe that if he had proposed a larger measure the House would have been enabled to have dealt with it to the advantage of the country. The country makes money by the issue of gold and silver coin, and therefore can well afford to bear the burden of replacing the light coins instead of throwing it upon the last holder. I trust that the right hon. Gentleman will see his way to deal with the whole subject comprehensively instead of by a balloon Bill of this kind. The right hon. Gentleman says the cost will be £50,000 for the financial year, but I would ask why should the whole of that sum fall upon one year. We must, however, be thankful for small mercies, and if this Bill be assented to we must hope that the subject will be dealt with in a future measure upon a broader basis.
§ * MR. W. P. SINCLAIR (Falkirk, &c.)
I am sure the commercial classes generally will be grateful to the Chancellor of the Exchequer for having introduced this measure, because, although it is but a small Bill, it establishes an important principle—namely, that of throwing the cost of renewing worn coinage upon the State. It certainly would be most unreasonable to make the last holder pay the cost of the previous wear and tear, and I regard the doctrine of this Bill as commercially sound. Did I rightly apprehend the Chancellor of the Exchequer to say that the value of the light half sovereigns of former reigns now in circulation is £157,000? I should have thought it was a much larger sum. I should strongly object to the suggestion of the last speaker that the cost of replacing the light coinage 1806 should be charged on a number of years. The charge is not a large one, and might reasonably be paid for within the year.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read a second time, and committed for to-morrow.