HC Deb 28 February 1912 vol 34 cc1443-6

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding £42,666, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1912, for making good the Net Loss on Transactions connected with the raising of Money for the various Treasury Chests Abroad in the year 1910–11."


I presume that on this Supplementary Estimate we cannot discuss the details of the original Estimate. As I understand it, the amount now asked is for the year ending 31st March, 1911, and relates to Treasury Chest operations carried on in various places abroad. I should like to know from the Secretary to the Treasury the amount of the transactions carried on under the provisions of the Treasury Chest Fund. I should also like to know whether money has been paid out of the Treasury Chest Fund for other than the supply of Treasury Chests abroad. I should like further to know the rates of exchange or premiums paid for the transfer of money under the provisions of the fund. May I ask also the amount of capital involved in the fund—that is to say, the amount of money which the Government carries in the fund, and which practically represents the money with which it carries on its banking operations? Unless the replies to these questions disclose something very different from what appears in the Estimate, I think the Committee will say that we are justified in opposing the Vote. The loss of £42,666 is a considerable increase on the amount for the preceding twelve months. It is a considerable sum to pay in connection with these financial operations. Only a short time ago a former Secretary to the Treasury stated, in reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich (Mr. Hamilton Benn), that the total operations in exchange amounted to nearly £500,000. It seems to me that £42,666 is a very large amount to pay for such a small amount in exchange, and when the capital involved in these banking operations is considered I am sure the Committee will not be prepared to allow the Vote to pass without further discussion. If I can get further information from the hon. Gentleman, no doubt I will be able to understand the Vote somewhat better, but at present I am entirely confused as to what it means.


I can explain, I think, to the satisfaction of the hon. Gentleman what the loss is. It is entirely due to the loss on the Treasury Chest at Hong-Kong, and that is owing to the official difference between the value of the dollar we have to pay at Hong Kong and the exchange on Treasury Chest Bills. The system under which we act was laid down by the late Lord Goschen, and it has always been followed since, namely, that the rate should be calculated on the price of silver in London a quarter before the money was to be paid. Sometimes we get from year to year advantages from that, and at other times we get disadvantages. This year, owing to the rise in the price of silver, which has continued almost consistently, we have lost, and owing to that rise we have been paying the Army and Navy more than we should otherwise have done to the extent of the sum of £42,666.


The hon. Gentleman has not answered the other questions I asked. I realise that there may be some loss on the value of the dollar at Hong Kong, but, on the other hand, as will be found from the Report, the receipts at Hong Kong were in excess of the expenditure. I also asked if the fund had been used for any other purpose than supplying Treasury Chests abroad. In addition I asked what amount of capital is involved and invested in the Treasury Chest Fund so-called. If I cannot get the information now, I will raise the whole question on the Report stage.

Question put, and agreed to.